IACHR CONCLUDES VISIT TO COLOMBIA
Washington, D.C., November 26, 2008 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to the Republic of Colombia from November 17 to 21, 2008. The IACHR delegation was headed by Commissioner Víctor Abramovich, Rapporteur for Colombia, who had technical support from staff members of the Executive Secretariat.
During the visit, Commissioner Abramovich met with national and local authorities and visited the city of Bogotá and the department of Chocó. In Bogotá, he held meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jaime Bermúdez Merizalde; the Minister of Interior and Justice, Fabio Valencia Cossio; officials of the Office of the Public Prosecutor and officials of the Attorney General’s Office. In these meetings, the Rapporteur expressed his unease and concerns regarding the application of the Justice and Peace Law, the draft legislation on reparations for victims of the armed conflict, and reports of extrajudicial executions, as well as the situations of risk faced by human rights defenders. The IACHR delegation also met with the President of the Supreme Court, Francisco Ricaurte, and the President of the Constitutional Court, Humberto Sierra, from whom it received information about the situation of the judiciary in Colombia. The delegation expressed its appreciation for both entities’ important efforts to protect fundamental rights in the country. In addition, it held a meeting with officials of the Colombia Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to share information about issues of common interest.
The Rapporteur likewise heard testimony from university students, community representatives, and members of civil society organizations regarding the human rights situation in Colombia and the growing number of threats made by the so-called Black Eagles (Águilas Negras) and other illegal groups. At a meeting with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the Rapporteur received information on deaths and forced displacements that have adversely affected indigenous peoples, as well as on the dire food and health situation that affects the rights of these peoples to survival. He also held a meeting with relatives of three young residents of Soacha, alleged victims of extrajudicial executions.
During the visit, the IACHR Rapporteur highlighted the challenges the government faces in clarifying the accusations against members of the public security forces implicated in the commission of extrajudicial executions and in adopting effective measures to prevent such conducts. In compliance with the mandate asigned to the IACHR by the OAS Permanent Council through its Resolution 859 (1397/04) Support to the Peace Process in Colombia, the Rapporteur also followed up on voluntary statements rendered in the framework of the Justice and Peace Law, as well as the on the start of the administrative reparations program established under Decree 1290, dated April 22, 2008. The Rapporteur observed and viewed positively the debate over public policies on reparations for victims of the armed conflict. During the visit, the Rapporteur learned in depth about the parliamentary discussion on the draft legislation addressing the reparation of victims. The Rapporteur noted that this draft legislation excludes from the administrative reparation programs those who have been victims of human rights violations committed by agents of the State, by requiring them to previously exhaust judicial recourse and to establish an indemnification ceiling for such reparations. The Rapporteur expressed his concern to the authorities regarding the difference in treatment between victims of illegal conduct perpetrated by groups operating outside the law and those perpetrated by agents of the State, a difference that could end up being discriminatory. Apart from this, the Rapporteur indicated that the ceiling foreseen under the draft legislation adversely affects the principle of comprehensive reparations, which constitutes a step backwards in terms of the rights such victims can exercise today. In the meeting with the Minister of Interior and Justice, Fabio Valencia Cossio, this official expressed the government’s intention to put forward before Congress an amendment to the draft legislation designed to eliminate indemnification ceilings and to institute abbreviated judicial procedures for these types of cases.
One of the main objectives of the Rapporteur’s visit was to gather information about the situation of Afro-Colombian communities that live in the basins of the Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó Rivers, in the department of Chocó, inorder to comply with a request from the Inter-American Court ofHuman Rights. The members of these communities have been protected since 2003 by provisional measures handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and this year the Court requested the Commission to present a report in the context of the follow-up to these measures. The IACHR delegation visited a humanitarian zone located in collective territories along the Jiguamiandó River and held a series of meetings in the city of Riosucio. During its visit to the humanitarian zone, the delegation received information and testimony about acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated by illegal groups operating in the zone and confirmed the persistence of the risk factors that led the Court to intervene. These communities have been adversely affected by the occupation of the collective territory by companies in the business of exploiting palm oil. The IACHR Rapporteur received information about measures undertaken by Colombian State authorities to provide protection to the communities and to make effective the material restitution of the collective territory.
The IACHR appreciates the government’s collaboration in the course of the visit, as well as its willingness to engage in constructive, open dialogue on the human rights situation in the country and the proposed measures to improve it. During the visit, the IACHR delegation had the benefit of guarantees to be able to carry out its observation efforts with complete freedom and under conditions of security, as well as the best disposition on the part of ministers, officials, and members of the public security forces who were interviewed.
The IACHR, a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.
Report on the Implementation of the Justice and Peace Law: Initial Stages in the Demobilization of the AUC and First Judicial Proceedings (2007)
Press Release 26/05: IACHR Issues Statement Regarding the Adoption of the “Law of Justice and Peace” in Colombia
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