COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT NOT GIVING THE WHOLE STORY SAYS AMNESTY: HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND CIVILIANS STILL UNDER THREAT
As EU leaders and members of the European Parliament prepare to welcome the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to Brussels and Strasbourg today and tomorrow, Amnesty International urges the EU to refrain from supporting policies that risk exacerbating the human rights crisis in the country.
Despite the Colombian government’s claim that its “democratic security policy” is working and that killings and kidnappings have decreased, Amnesty International has received information that in several conflict zones killings and “disappearances” are on the increase.
Only five days ago, Amnesty International sent out an international alert over death threats, apparently from army-backed paramilitaries, against prominent Colombian trade unionists from the Teacher’s Association of Arauca (Asociacion de Educadores de Arauca).
“This visit by the Colombian President may be used to seek additional EU support for the Colombian government’s security policy, especially for the way in which it is demobilizing paramilitary groups. But the EU should look more closely at what is actually happening”, Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office said. “The demobilization process is seriously flawed. The Colombian government is providing the means for members of paramilitary groups to re-emerge under a new legal guise. They are effectively being ‘recycled’ into private security firms, or into other structures set up by the government, without having to account for their role in human rights violations.”
“The current policies of the Colombian government have failed to secure a substantive improvement of the human rights situation because they allow perpetrators to escape punishment and human rights violations to continue. These policies threaten to deny victims and their families their right to truth, justice and overall reparations.”
“The Colombian government claims that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has dramatically decreased due to the government’s policies. But these claims do not take into account the fact that much displacement is currently hidden by a tendency of intra-urban displacement and there are reports that many people trying to flee their homes are being physically prevented from doing so by the security forces,” he said. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 4 February characterized Colombia as the worst humanitarian situation after the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, with two to three million people displaced and nearly 300.000 more who have fled abroad.
Human rights activists are under increasing threat making it doubly difficult for them to actually document human rights violations. Amnesty International is concerned that human rights defenders are facing a coordinated military-paramilitary strategy to undermine their work and leave them vulnerable to attack.
Amnesty International therefore calls on the EU to:
- Live up to its responsibility to ensure that EU and Member States’ aid to Colombia does not lead to human rights violations whether wittingly or unwittingly.
- Urge the Colombian government in the strongest terms possible, to take effective and decisive action to dismantle paramilitary groups, to sever all links between the security forces and paramilitaries, and to cease the implementation of policies which could result in the re-legitimization of paramilitarism.
- Reiterate its recent call for the Colombian government to desist from implementing constitutional reforms granting judicial police powers to the armed forces.
- Continue to insist that guerrilla groups uphold international humanitarian law and reach a humanitarian agreement with the government to protect the civilian population from the conflict.
For further comment/background and interviews in Spanish and English contact:
Josefina Salomon, Amnesty International (London):
Tel: +44 207- 413 5562, mobile: +44-7778 472 116
Email: [email protected]
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
Email: [email protected]
See also “Colombia: European countries have an opportunity to act on human rights crisis”