From September 20 to 23 a fact-finding mission went to Colombia that included Judge Baltasar Garzón, who is handling the case against Pinochet in Spain, and Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington, D.C. Other members included former U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Frankel, former chairman of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights; human rights attorneys Frank LaRue and Francisco Soberón, of Guatemala and Peru, respectively; and Father Luis Pérez Aguirre, of the Servicio de Paz y Justicia of Uruguay.
The mission met with Colombian human rights groups, United Nations representatives, the Public Prosecutor, the Procurador General, the Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo), as well as the vicepresident, minister of interior, deputy foreign minister, and members of the Colombian Congress, including the Human Rights Committee of the Senate. Addressing a press conference September 23, the morning after President Andrés Pastrana returned from a 3-day trip to New York and Washington to drum up support for his Plan Colombia, the delegation stated its opposition to any more aid to prosecute the drug war until there is respect for human rights.
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights had given its annual human rights award to four Colombian human rights activists in November 1998 (see Colombia Update, Vol. 10, Nos. 3&4), and since has continued to seek ways of supporting its laureates and the human rights community in general to carry on their work.
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