IACHR CONCERNED FOR CHANGES IN THE
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is
concerned about the resignation of an official in the Office of the
General Prosecutor of Colombia as a result of reactions to the detention
of General (r) Rito Alejo del Río Rojas.
The General had been detained on account of several
investigations relating to serious human rights violations perpetrated
while he was in command of the XVII Brigade of the National Army in the
region of Urabá (Antioquia).
According to the information available, the lack of support for
the decision of the National Unit of Human Rights of the Prosecutor’s
Office to enforce the arrest of General del Río Rojas caused the
forced resignation of its Director, Pedro Díaz Romero and the release
of the General. The Commission has also learned that judicial and
disciplinary procedures might have been instituted against the members
of the Unit and the Technical Corps of Investigations (TCI) that
participated in the investigation and the corresponding detention.
The IACHR, pursuant to its powers to make recommendations to
member states of the OAS (Article 18 of its Statute) has consistently
expressed its support for the work of the Human Rights Unit.
Since its creation in 1995,
this body has played a crucial role in advancing compliance by the State
with its international obligations by investigating nearly one thousand
cases relating to the clarification of serious human rights
violations alleged to involve the responsibility of State agents,
members of paramilitary groups or armed dissident groups.
The Commission cannot but express its serious concern for the
above related events which, by inhibiting and restraining the task of
the Unit, restrict the independence and efficacy of the administration
of justice and the battle against impunity in Colombia.
established by the IACHR and other intergovernmental organs, the Unit
has been the frequent object of public attacks and threats as a response
to its independence and efficacy. In
some cases, the gravity of the situation has forced its members into
exile. Consequently, the
Commission has granted precautionary measures pursuant to Article 25 of
its Rules of Procedure in favor of the former Director of the National
Human Rights Unit, a number of prosecutors belonging to it, as well as
in favor of members of the TCI. In
this respect it has requested the State to adopt all necessary measures
to protect their physical integrity and that of their families and to
avoid any reprisals for acts undertaken in the legitimate exercise of
Finally, the IACHR calls on the Republic
of Colombia to support the work of the Human Rights Unit, to respect the
independence of its members and to act in accordance with their
findings. The State must
respond to violence and impunity with justice.
Peace building efforts must be based on the clarification,
prosecution and reparation of human rights violations.
D.C., August 13, 2001