N° 59/09





Washington, D.C., August 13, 2009 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern regarding information that has recently come to light about Colombian intelligence operations targeting the IACHR.


According to the information received by the Commission, a Special Strategic Intelligence Group (“G3”) within Colombia’s Administrative Security Department (DAS) was created to monitor activities tied to the litigation of cases at the international level. The G3 allegedly carried out an intelligence operation against an IACHR visit to the city of Valledupar in 2005, led by then Commissioner and Rapporteur for Colombia Susana Villarán. According to the DAS file, the objective of this operation was “to identify the cases being studied by the Rapporteur and the testimony presented by nongovernmental organizations, as well as the lobbying these organizations are doing to pressure for a condemnation of the State.”


These intelligence activities violate the State’s commitment to respect the privileges and immunities of representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) and to comply in good faith with the aim and purpose of the American Convention on Human Rights and other treaties of the inter-American system.


These operations also seriously affect the work of human rights defenders in Colombia. The Commission has repeatedly expressed concern about the situation of defenders in that country, especially about accusations made by high-level officials that the defenders belong to guerrilla movements, and the use of intelligence mechanisms to monitor their activities. The Commission has indicated that States should refrain from any type of arbitrary or abusive interference in defenders’ correspondence or telephone and electronic communications, and that they should impose disciplinary and criminal sanctions on those who engage in such practices.


On July 16, 2009, the IACHR requested detailed information from the State of Colombia on all intelligence operations carried out with respect to the IACHR, the destination and use of the reports, and the investigations of the matter carried out by the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Nation and the Office of the Attorney General. In its reply, the State condemned the illegal activities of this intelligence organization, which answers to the executive branch, and stressed its commitment to turn it into a “reliable and transparent” entity. The State also offered to facilitate channels so the Commission can have access to information on the progress of the investigation.


The Inter-American Commission took note of this response and urges the Government of Colombia not only to identify those responsible but also to conduct a thorough review of State intelligence agencies to ensure that these do not contravene international statutes for the protection of human rights. The Commission has also formally presented this information to the OAS Permanent Council and the Secretary General, so that any appropriate measures may be adopted.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. 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.


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