IV. CURRENT EFFORTS TO DEMOBILIZE ILLEGAL GROUPS AND THEIR LEGAL FRAMEWORK
61. After the election and inauguration of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez in August 2002, some leaders of the AUC made public their intent to negotiate terms for the demobilization of their forces, and on December 1, 2002, they declared a unilateral cease-fire. In the ensuing months, representatives of the Government initiated contacts with members of the AUC and on July 15, 2003, a preliminary agreement was reached setting goals for demobilization by December 31, 2005. One of the main issues discussed by the parties –and in public debate—related to the incentives for demobilization in view of the arrest warrants and requests for extradition outstanding against members of the AUC who have committed serious human rights violations and have been involved in drug-trafficking.
62. The current legal framework for individual and collective demobilizations rested and continues to rest, then, on Law 418 of 1997 which was extended by Congress by Law 782 in December 2002. These laws establish, inter alia, that a cessation of procedure (cesación de procedimiento), a resolution of preclusion of the investigation (resolución de preclusión de la instrucción), or a resolution of dismissal (resolución inhibitoria) may be granted on behalf of those who confess and have been or were accused of or tried for political crimes, and have not been convicted by a firm judgment, provided that they choose to participate in an individual or collective demobilization. According to these provisions, those who have benefited from a pardon or with respect to whom a cessation of procedure has been ordered may not be tried or prosecuted for the same facts giving rise to the granting of benefits. Both Law 418 and Law 782 echo the limitation of benefits for those who have been involved in conduct constituting atrocious acts of ferocity or barbarism, terrorism, kidnapping, genocide, and homicide committed when the victim is hors de combat.
63. The negotiations between the Government and the leaders of the AUC involved in the process have revolved around establishing a legal framework that encourages demobilization of the members of the AUC who are not in a position to benefit from the extinguishment of the penalty provided for by Law 782, noted supra. The first initiative resulting from this effort found expression in Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003, which made it possible to have sentences other than imprisonment for persons who have committed serious violations of human rights and/or international humanitarian law, presumably as an incentive for their demobilization and reincorporation to civilian life. After its debate in Congress and in the face of the serious concerns expressed by members of civil society, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner, the international community in general, and the IACHR, the bill was withdrawn and reworked.
64. This reformulation, called “Pliego de modificaciones al Proyecto de Ley Estatutaria No. 85 de 2003” (“List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003”), was introduced in Congress in April 2004, and is pending consideration as of this writing. The bill proposes a new formula by which members of armed groups that have ceased hostilities and signed a peace agreement with the National Government may benefit from alternative penalties, despite their involvement in those violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that barred extinction of the criminal action or penalty under the provisions of Law 782. The bill provides that the power to grant benefits under the alternative penalties provisions rests with the President of the Republic, after receiving a favorable opinion from a “Tribunal for Truth, Justice, and Reparation.” If the Tribunal provides an unfavorable opinion, the proceedings are referred back to the judge to enforce the sentences imposed. The President retains the power to deny the benefit, even in the event that the Tribunal has rendered a favorable opinion.
65. The bill provides for the creation of a Special Prosecutorial Unit for Truth, Justice and Reparation (Unidad Especial de Fiscalía para la Verdad, la Justicia y la Reparación), to take actions that would normally fall to the Office of the Attorney General in view of the scope of its authority. Under the bill, the Executive determines who may benefit from penalties that are alternatives to those established by the criminal courts. The demobilized identified by the Government would remain under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for Truth, Justice, and Reparation, which would be responsible for certifying that they meet the requirements for acceding to the benefits provided for by law, issuing its opinion on the viability of applying the benefits of alternative penalties to them, reducing the sentence that should be enforced, imposing accessory penalties, and determining appropriate the acts of reparation and acts for ending the armed conflict or attaining peace. The decision of the Tribunal for Truth, Justice, and Reparation is non-appealable, and it is not subject to any remedy.
66. The bill defines “alternative penalty” as that part of the sentence imposed whose enforcement will consist of the effective deprivation of liberty for a period not less than five years and not greater than ten years. These terms give rise to questions regarding their proportionality to the nature, magnitude, and frequency of the crimes attributed to the illegal armed groups in general, and the AUC in particular, particularly in the last seven years. The bill provides that on quantifying the alternative penalty, the Tribunal for Truth, Justice, and Reparation should consider, inter alia, the “personal qualities” of the person convicted and sentenced and “his or her contribution to ending the armed conflict or attaining peace.” In addition, it provides that the time spent by the beneficiary in a zone of concentration decreed by the National Government under Law 782 of 2002 – such as the “zona de ubicación” (“zone of placement”) of Santafé de Ralito—shall be included as part of the time served under the sentence.
67. The bill highlights the importance of positive acts for overcoming the armed conflict, and achieving peace and the reconciliation of Colombian society. Nonetheless, it does not impose as conditions for access to the procedural benefits basic demands to determine the truth of what happened, attain justice, and make due reparation to the victims. Specifically, it makes no reference to acts aimed at revealing the truth of the crimes committed by the beneficiary or collaborating with the justice system to determine what happened, nor does it refer to the declaration and restitution of property acquired through criminal activities. These omissions threaten to deprive the victims of their right to judicial protection and adequate reparation, in the face of realities such as individual and collective displacement from rural areas due to the action of these illegal armed groups and the unlawful appropriation of lands.
68. As the bill indicates, once the prison term is served, the suspension of the sentence will depend on behavior during a test period of supervised release. Once the supervision period is over, the judge, titled the Judge of Enforcement of Penalties and Security Measures for Truth, Justice and Reparation, will grant the definitive release of the person convicted so long as he or she has effectively served the alternative penalty involving deprivation of liberty, has fully satisfied the obligations of compensation and reparation that may have been imposed, has performed positive acts to further the demobilization, and has refrained from committing intentional crimes and from possessing arms during the test period.
69. The bill seeks to satisfy the individual and collective right to the truth by preserving the files of the Tribunal for Truth, Justice and Reparation on the demobilized beneficiaries, to which the public would have access once the cases are finalized. As indicated supra, the bill does not make reference to acts aimed at revealing the truth of the crimes committed by the beneficiary or any other relevant information to establish what happened to the thousands of victims of the conflict.
70. In any event, as of this writing, there is talk of preparing several other legislative proposals, advocated by different sectors with alternatives for the process of demobilization of the AUC, the applicable judicial procedures, and possible ways of making reparation to the victims of the conflict. The IACHR hopes that these alternative proposals will be consistent with the framework of the State’s international obligations with respect to truth, justice, and reparation.
71. Despite the lack of legislative definition of the procedural benefits to be obtained by those who decide to join an eventual demobilization, the process of dialogue between the so-called “negotiating high command” (“estado mayor negociador”) of the AUC and the Government continued to progress in the course of 2004. This negotiation co-exists with the regime of individual and collective demobilization in force for all the members of illegal armed groups who wish to return to civilian life that is regulated by Decree 128 of 2003. The next section sets forth a series of observations on these unfolding processes at the individual and collective levels, and on the cessation of hostilities proposed by the negotiating high command of the AUC.
A. Individual demobilization as a permanent strategy for disarming illegal armed groups
72. Despite sharing the effect of reincorporating members of illegal armed groups into civilian life, the objectives of individual and collective demobilizations are not necessarily identical. Unlike collective demobilizations – identified with the development of peace negotiations with the leadership of illegal organizations — individual demobilizations seek to dismantle these organizations from their base, offering their members the opportunity to avail themselves of procedural, social, and economic benefits in exchange for their surrender and cooperation with the authorities. It is a strategy in force at all times to attain the disarmament of the illegal armed groups, with the active and permanent participation of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior and Justice.
73. As indicated supra, the regime for individual demobilization in force is governed principally by Law 418 of 1997, extended and modified by Law 548 of 1999 and Law 782 of 2002, which are regulated by Decree 128 of 2003. Decree 128 of 2003 establishes the procedure for the demobilized to avail themselves of the benefits of their demobilization. Specifically, it establishes that persons who intend to avail themselves of the benefits in the areas of health, protection and security, and economic payments for collaborating through the provision of information on activities of illegal organizations and for surrendering their weapons, should go before judges, prosecutors, military or police authorities, representatives of the Inspector General (Procurador), representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman, or local or regional authorities, who will immediately inform the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation and the military garrison closest to the place of surrender.
74. From the moment the person approaches the authorities, the Ministry of Defense should cover his or her basic needs for shelter, food, clothes, and transportation, and protect his or her personal integrity. Next, the demobilized person is made available to the Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for coordinating with the Office of the Attorney General and the Superior Judicial Council the designation of prosecutors and juvenile judges to define a person’s legal situation. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson is responsible for ensuring the designation of public defenders to work exclusively for the defense of the demobilized person, and the Presidential Human Rights Program is responsible for ensuring, in general, respect for his or her rights.
75. Although the provisions of Decree 128 of 2003 are mostly aimed at regulating the provision of social benefits, it also refers to the right to avail oneself of legal benefits, such as pardon, conditional suspension of the enforcement of a sentence, cessation of the procedure, preclusion of the investigation, or resolution of dismissal based on the certification issued by the Committee on Laying Down Arms (Comité de Dejación de Armas: CODA). On regulating the provisions of Laws 418 of 1997, 548 of 1999, and 782 of 2002, Decree 128 expressly conditions access to legal benefits on the demobilized person being tried or having been convicted of committing crimes which “…under the Constitution, the law, or international treaties signed and ratified by Colombia, cannot receive such benefits.” In other words, those who are being tried or have been convicted of crimes other than rising up in arms against the State that are considered not subject to amnesty by application of the Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights or other human rights treaties, and Laws 418 and 782 (which defines them as “… atrocious acts of ferocity or barbarism, terrorism, kidnapping, genocide, and homicide committed out of combat and placing the victim in a defenseless state”), among others, may not benefit from pardon, conditional suspension of enforcement of the sentence, cessation of proceedings, preclusion of the investigation, or a resolution of dismissal, by means of individual demobilization.
76. Given that a large number of the members of illegal armed groups responsible for committing crimes against the civilian population have not given sworn statements to investigators or have been declared to be in absentia, it has been argued that the restriction in Article 21 of Decree 128 of 2003 allows atrocious crimes in respect of which no investigation has been formally launched to remain in impunity. According to this interpretation, the certification of the Committee on Laying Down Arms would prevent judicial proceedings from going forward against persons who have not been tried or convicted prior to their demobilization. On this topic, judicial officers involved in the processes of individual and collective demobilization assured the IACHR during its on-site visit of July 2004 that the procedural benefits to which the legal regime in force refers would only be applicable to the crime of “conspiracy to engage in criminal conduct” (“concierto para delinquir”) because of the affiliation of the demobilized person to an illegal armed group. Under this interpretation, therefore, a resolution preventing the prosecution from pursing charges for the crime of concierto para delinquir should not impede investigations into other crimes where the demobilized person does not have a judicial record at the time the resolution is issued.
77. In summary, the gaps and ambiguities in the terms of Articles 13 and 21 of Decree 128 give rise to a lack of clarity as to the scope of the procedural benefits to which the demobilized would have a right, and juridical insecurity for all the parties involved, in particular the victims of human rights violations and their next-of-kin. The high levels of impunity and the ineffectiveness of the administration of justice in Colombia – which have been the subject of repeated pronouncements and recommendations by the IACHR and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights — demand that the future investigation of the crimes perpetrated by the actors to the conflict be supported by clear provisions that are consistent with the international obligations of the State. At the same time, the transparency generated by clear language in the instruments used to facilitate the demobilization of members of illegal groups may contribute to the legitimacy, and therefore success, of a process aimed at achieving peace.
78. The figures provided by the Ministry of Defense to the IACHR during its on-site observation indicate that from August 2002 to July 2004, 2,604 members of the FARC (approximately 15% of its members), 727 members of the ELN (15% of its members), and 1,176 members of the AUC (approximately 19% of its members) demobilized under this legal regime. It should be noted that 20% of the demobilized are children. At the same time, these figures should be compared with the continuous forced recruitment of children and adults by all the illegal groups. In this regard, government sources have indicated that prior to the declaration of their intent to demobilize, in 2002, the AUC were growing at a rate of 58% annually. Since then, according to these same sources, the paramilitary ranks have grown 10% annually.
79. Finally, it should be noted for the record that after the visit of the IACHR, the Ministry of Defense adopted a new instrument “to enable the Government to provide the demobilized with mechanisms that offer them an opportunity to develop a life plan safely and with dignity.” Decree 2767 of August 31, 2004, expands the regime of economic benefits already established in Decree 128 of 2004 for collaborating through the provision of information on the activities of illegal organizations. Under this new instrument, the economic benefits for collaborating are generally geared to activities involving cooperation with the military forces and National Police related to crime control in Colombian territory. Efforts aimed at fostering conditions for the successful reincorporation to society of those who have formalized their intent to put down their arms are valid and desirable. At the same time, the use of civilians in tasks to support the military forces and National Police must be evaluated with caution since it could reproduce the circumstances that originally led to the creation of the groups that are now the object of demobilization efforts.
80. On November 25, 2003, the process commenced whereby 874 members of the so-called “Bloque Cacique Nutibara” laid down their arms. It was one of the most aggressive urban fronts of the AUC which for several years had been operating in the city of Medellín. This process of demobilization agreed upon at the local level with the outgoing authorities of the local government of Medellín was considered a pilot scheme for the collective demobilization of AUC members. The demobilized forces remained concentrated at La Ceja, in the outskirts of the city until December 16, 2003, in order for the authorities of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Medellín to determine their judicial situation and to issue the respective identification papers, in-keeping with the legal framework established by Laws 418 and 782 and Decree 128, analyzed supra. When this stage was completed, the local government of Medellín – through the new administration that took office in 2004— began developing the “Return to Legality” (“Regreso a la Legalidad”) program, to implement social benefits for the 868 who demobilized, to support their reincorporation into civilian life. These benefits include, inter alia, projects for training, income and employment generation, and psychosocial accompaniment.
81. During its visit to the city of Medellín in July 2004, the IACHR received information from the local government authorities involved in the process and from the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Medellín. It also had an opportunity to meet with representatives of demobilized persons in the organization known as Corporación Democracia, and to receive complaints and testimony from persons who live in areas where the Bloque Cacique Nutibara has operated. It should be recalled that as of the events of October 2002, the IACHR has closely monitored the human rights situation in the comunas of the city of Medellín. The Commission’s July 2004 visit complemented its previous visit in June 2003, when a delegation of the IACHR visited the areas of the city most affected by the paramilitary presence and control.
82. The testimony, complaints, and information received indicate that despite a certain decline in the number of incidents of political violence – a general trend since 2003, as analyzed supra—paramilitary domination persists in certain comunas of Medellín, along with acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation against those who do not express support for the project backed by these groups. Specifically, members of these groups and, allegedly, persons whop have benefited from individual and collective demobilizations seek to legitimate their influence in the community organizations known as juntas de acción comunal and to maintain their control over everyday activities in the comunas by the use of violence, extortion, and intimidation. The testimonies received by the Commission refer to the perpetration of 130 forced disappearances in 2003 and 97 disappearances from January to July of 2004, as well as the discovery of mass graves. They also refer to assassinations, with the emphasis on the use of bladed weapons instead of firearms. Complaints of collaboration between the paramilitary groups and the official forces persist, as do fears of lodging complaints before the judicial and oversight authorities, together with a sense of defenselessness vis-à-vis the legitimacy that the procedural benefits of demobilization are said to have given to members of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara. Also apparent is the aggravation of the neediest and poorest sectors of the comunas of Medellín vis-à-vis the investment in education, social security, and productive projects benefiting those who demobilized. These factors have resulted in the intra-urban displacement of dozens of families, forced to abandon their homes, thus strengthening what they characterize as “the reign of silence” (“el reino del silencio”).
83. For many years the comunas of Medellín have been a focus of violence not only committed by illegal armed groups (FARC, Comandos Armados Populares: CAP, AUC, etc.), but also by the members of gangs, known variously as bandas, combos, and parches, who constantly shuttle between the tenuous boundaries separating common crime, organized crime, and political violence. This violent situation has not diminished significantly with the demobilization of November 2003, since it has not modified the problems stemming from impunity, the lack of legitimate activity by the official forces, and the struggle for the control of urban areas.
84. Indeed, from the information available, it cannot be inferred that the 868 demobilized who express the commitment of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara constitute a significant or representative share of those who participate actively in the political violence that has derived from the armed conflict in Medellín, an urban area with thousands of active gangs, made up of approximately 25 youths each. In effect, as statistics compiled by the local government of Medellín indicate, 65% of the demobilized of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara are youths ages 18 to 25 years. In addition, a review of their criminal records undertaken by the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Medellín, after the concentration at la Ceja, indicates that most of the youths have not been implicated in crimes related to human rights violations. In fact, the information to which the IACHR had access during its visit to Medellín indicates that only 360 of the 868 demobilized have proceedings pending, which refer to offenses such as theft (hurto calificado), extortion, forgery, failure to pay alimony, drug-trafficking, and domestic violence, among others. At the time of the visit, only one of them was implicated in the investigation of crimes related to alleged human rights violations.
85. While, as has been indicated repeatedly by the IACHR and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, there are serious shortcomings in the effectiveness of the administration of justice in Colombia and there is clear reticence on the part of the victims to come forth and report serious human rights violations out of fear of reprisal, the outlook suggests that the demobilized of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara are not representative of the more violent elements in the AUC. Consequently, any expectation for a positive impact of their demobilization on the violent actions of the armed groups is low, and should be greeted with caution.
86. Despite the firm statements by the Corporación Democracia to the effect that the demobilization of the members of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara is directed by the orders given by Adolfo Paz, alias “Don Berna” – a member of the negotiating high command of the AUC— the statistics compiled by the local government of Medellín reveal another reality: 75% of those who have joined the program seek access to benefits that enable them to work a change in their individual situation. The objective of a process of this nature is to ensure that such a change does not result in the eventual return of demobilized persons to the ranks of another illegal armed group, which is one of the phenomena that have contributed to perpetuate the armed conflict in Colombia.
C. The process of negotiating conditions for the return to civilian life with the Negotiating High Command of the AUC (zona de ubicación in Santafé de Ralito)
87. As indicated supra, what is known as the “negotiating high command” of the AUC and the administration of President Uribe continue the process of dialogue, which is aimed at demobilizing a number of paramilitary fronts in 2004 and 2005. The Bloque Élmer Cárdenas, commanded by José Alfredo Berrío alias “El Alemán”, whose influence extends throughout the department of Chocó and the Urabá region – one of the epicenters of the armed conflict — is not a party to the negotiation. Nor are the Autodefensas Campesinas de Casanare, led by Héctor Germán Buitrago, alias “Martín Llanos.” While there has been an official announcement of the intent to carry out military actions against “Martín Llanos,” there has been no news of pronouncements or actions aimed at combating the constant attacks by the Bloque Elmer Cárdenas on the civilian population, in particular against the Afrodescendant communities that live in the lower Atrato, which in some cases are protected by precautionary and provisional measures.
88. On May 13, 2004, an agreement was reached on the establishment of a zona de ubicación, or “placement zone,” in Tierralta, Córdoba, which was implemented through Resolution 092 of 2004. This Resolution had the effect – under the provisions of Law 782 of 2002— of suspending the arrest warrants for the members of the AUC who are within the perimeters of its 368 km2 area during the period it is in effect, in principle until December 1, 2004. This agreement defines the purposes of the zona de ubicación as follows: to facilitate the consolidation of the process of dialogue between the Government and the AUC; to contribute to the enhancement and verification of the cease of hostilities; to move towards defining a timetable for the concentration and demobilization of the members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia; to allow for an exchange between the negotiating table and all the national and international sectors; and to facilitate citizen participation in the process. While the suspension of the arrest warrants did not become effective until July 1, 2004, the authorities refrained from executing them while they were in effect, during the discussions that have been ongoing since December 2002.
89. As for the role of the MAPP/OAS mission, the agreement provides that it will receive an inventory of the weapons, war matériel, and munitions in the possession of the members of the self-defense groups in the zone. The members of the self-defense groups will refrain from making, storing, bringing in or removing arms, war matériel, and/or additional munitions, and the MAPP/OAS Mission will receive a report on the means of communication and communication equipment in the possession of civilians or self-defense forces being used in the zone. It also establishes as one role of the Mission the execution of a process of information and awareness-raising with the communities that live in the zone. The agreement establishes that the MAPP/OAS Mission will undertake its mission of verifying the commitments acquired and the cessation of hostilities at the national level with the support of a Verification Committee made up of one member of MAPP/OAS, one delegate from the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, and one delegate of the AUC. The agreement entrusts this Committee with adopting a procedure for taking in and addressing complaints, information, or reports in relation to implementation of the cessation of hostilities.
90. The agreement does not establish guarantees of security for the civilian population living within the perimeter of the 368 km2 of the zona de ubicación who –beyond the presence of members of the MAPP/OAS Mission— are deprived of the presence of the military forces or National Police and of the judicial and oversight authorities. In effect, the agreement establishes that the official forces are in charge of the security perimeter in the zone and an internal security cordon to protect the AUC. As already indicated, under Law 782 for as long as the zone is in force, the arrest warrants for and offensive operations against the members of the AUC who are within the delimited territory are suspended.
91. As of the date this report was adopted, the negotiating goals that led to the establishment of the zona de ubicación continue to be pursued, and it appears that there has been some progress in negotiating timelines for demobilizing the members of the AUC units (bloques) that are participating in the dialogue. During the first days of August 2004, the Uribe administration called for the immediate demobilization of AUC units located in the Eastern Plains or Llanos Orientales (made up of the departments of Meta, Casanare, Vichada, and Arauca), involved in repeated confrontations in violation of the cease of hostilities. On August 1, 2004, an agreement was reached to demobilize the autodefensas in the Eastern Plains (Bloque Centauros, Autodefensas Campesinas de Meta y Vichada, and Bloque Vencedores, of Arauca), which together are said to have more than 6,000 combatants. In December 2004, 1,400 members of the Frente Catatumbo, which is part of the Bloque Norte of the AUC led by Salvatore Mancuso, demobilized. Two additional AUC fronts gathered in areas designated by the Government for that purpose in, respectively, late November and early December 2004.
92. Progress has been made in coordinating the logistical aspects of the concentration of some fronts despite the lack of a definition of the applicable legal framework and the constant violations of the cease of hostilities declared by the AUC. On May 28, 2004, the High Commissioner for Peace himself stated that “the tendency of the AUC to commit criminal actions increases month by month, especially homicides” and that there had been increased attacks against the civilian population. The Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also issued statements regarding acts of violence perpetrated in Valle del Cauca, attributing them to the AUC and characterizing them as “… another clear breach of the commitments assumed by paramilitary groups today at the negotiating table in Santafé de Ralito”.
93. The IACHR has received allegations of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated in areas with a presence of bloques led by members of the negotiating high command, such as Antioquia, Córdoba, Norte de Santander, la Guajira, Cesar, Arauca, Tolima, Cauca, and Caldas, among others. The situation of violence against the indigenous communities that live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta led to a request for provisional measures before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of the Kankuamo indigenous people pursuant to Article 63(2) of the American Convention, and the issuance of precautionary measures on behalf of the women leaders (“liderezas”) of the Wayúu indigenous people pursuant to Article 25 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. In addition, the IACHR has paid particular attention to the situation of the Embera-Katío people of the upper Sinú river basin, who live in their ancestral territories adjacent to the Tierralta area and the zona de ubicación of Santafé de Ralito, as well as the reservations (resguardos) of the Embera-Chamí in Caldas and Risaralda, who are also protected by precautionary measures.
94. The process is in a crucial stage in which both the negotiations and respect for the cease-of-hostilities commitments should be guided by the principles and standards set forth in international law for resolving armed conflicts, and the content of the state’s obligation to ensure justice, truth, and reparations for all persons under their jurisdiction.
 See, for example, Regular Judgment of the Second Criminal Court of the Specialized Circuit of Antioquia of April 22, 2003, convicting and imposing a 40-year prison sentence on Salvatore Mancuso, current leader of the negotiating high command of the AUC, for committing the El Aro massacre.
 See, for example, “US indicts leaders of Colombian terrorist organization on narcotic trafficking charges,” Press Release of the United States Attorney, Southern District of New York, of July 22, 2004, making reference to the proceedings against Diego Fernando Murillo, alias Adolfo Paz or “Don Berna” and Vicente Castaño Gil, alias “El Profe,” both members of the negotiating high command of the AUC.
 Law 782 of 2002 (December 23) extending the effect of Law 418 of 1997, extended and modified by Law 548 of 1990, and modifying some of its provisions, Official Gazette No. 45043, December 23, 2002, p. 1. In January 2003, the Government adopted Decree 128, which regulated Law 418 of 1997, extended and modified by Law 548 of 1999 and Law 782 of 2002, on returning to civilian life. Decree 128 regulates the legal, socioeconomic, educational, economic, and other benefits derived from rejoining civilian life as a result of the process of demobilization. In addition, the Decree makes reference to protection and attention for minors who lay down their weapons, providing, among other things, in keeping with the Constitution, the laws, and international treaties, that any use of minors in intelligence activities is prohibited. Moreover, it establishes the functions of the Operational Committee on Laying Down Arms (CODA: Comité Operativo para la Dejación de las Armas), whose role is to evaluate the will of the demobilized person to rejoin civilian life, and to assess the circumstances in which the person voluntarily left the armed organization, among other functions.
 If the person is deprived of liberty, the governmental authorities should accord preference to the processing of requests for legal benefits, and in the ruling granting the petition for preclusion of the investigation or cessation of the proceeding, the order for the arrest of the beneficiary should be revoked, and the arrest warrants issued should be canceled. In this section the law does not establish any restriction for granting the benefits mentioned. Article 60 of Law 418 modified by Article 24 of Law 782. Grounds for extinction of the action.
 Article 50 of Law 418 modified by Article 19 of Law 782 notes that the National Government may grant the benefit of pardon to nationals who have been convicted by firm judgment for conduct constituting a political crime when the illegal armed group with which a peace process is being pursued, of which the applicant is a member, has displayed its will to rejoin civilian life. In addition, the law provides that this benefit may be granted, upon request, to those nationals who individually and voluntarily give up their activities as members of armed groups, having displayed their will to rejoin civilian life. In other words, the law provides for grounds for extinguishment of the action and of the penalty for proceedings that involve negotiations with illegal groups and with persons who seek to rejoin civilian life individually.
 Article 62 of Law 418. Nonetheless, Article 43 clarifies that these benefits may be annulled if the beneficiary commits any intentional crime within two years.
 Law 782, at Article 6, defines a victim of political violence as a member of the civilian population who suffers harm to his or her life, physical integrity, or property because of terrorist attacks, combat, kidnappings, attacks, and massacres in the context of the armed conflict. The displaced and minors who take part in the hostilities are also considered victims.
 Article 50 of Law 418 modified by Article 19 of Law 782. Law 418, December 26, 1997. Official Gazette No. 43201 of December 26, 1997. Law 782 of 2002 (December 23), extending the effect of Law 418 of 1997, extended and modified by Law 548 of 1990 and modifying some of its provisions, Official Gazette No. 45043, December 23, 2002. It should be clarified that there are doubts as to whether these limitations would only apply to demobilized persons already subject to judicial proceedings, closing off the possibility of withdrawing the granting of legal benefits to those who, already reintegrated into civilian life, could be subject to allegations of crimes committed in the past. This issue will be addressed in greater detail infra when analyzing the provisions of Decree 128 of 2003.
 See “Observaciones sobre el Proyecto de Ley por la cual se dictan disposiciones en procura de la reincorporación de miembros de grupos armados que contribuyan de manera efectiva a la paz nacional”, remarks by Mr. Michael Frühling, Director of the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights before the First Committee of the Honorable Senate of the Republic, Bogotá, September 23, 2003.
 The IACHR has indicated as follows: “The government has also promoted approval of a bill relating to the imposition of alternative penalties which would allow the executive branch to suspend prison sentences against those found responsible for human rights violations in return for their commitment to demobilize. This bill is currently the subject of public debate and it is vital for Colombian society as a whole to be engaged in its scrutiny. This debate must be pursued in light of the clear and firm jurisprudence developed by the inter-American system on the validity and scope of legislation that has the effect of amnesty laws in favor of State actors. This jurisprudence established that States have the obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish violations of human rights committed by private parties. Although organs of the inter-American system have not yet considered the question of granting amnesty or other forms of pardon for non-state actors as part of negotiations to put an end to a conflict and demobilize members of armed groups outside the law, the IACHR shares the concerns expressed by the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner about the measures proposed by President Uribe. The experience gained by the IACHR over several decades shows that enactment of laws that limit the scope of judicial proceedings intended to clarify and redress basic human rights violations committed during a domestic armed conflict actually hinders the quest for true reconciliation and peace.” IACHR, Chapter IV, Colombia, Annual Report of the IACHR 2003, para. 19.
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter III “Alternative Penalties Mechanism,” Article 5: Peace Agreement.
 The Tribunal for Truth, Justice and Reparation, made up of three members who meet the qualifications required for serving as a judge on the Supreme Court of Justice, would have jurisdiction throughout the national territory to judge members of illegal armed groups included in peace accords signed with the National Government. List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter II “Institutions for Carrying Out the Present Law,” Article 2, Tribunal for Truth, Justice and Reparation.
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter III “Alternative Penalties Mechanism,” Article 13: Acceptance of the favorable opinion by the President.
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter I “Definitions,” Alternative Penalty.
 In this respect, it should be recalled that the strategies of violence used and the acts perpetrated by these groups against the civilian population, which were addressed supra in this Report, have frequently been characterized as crimes against humanity, and when the Colombian courts have ruled on them, they have been punished with substantially lengthier prison sentences. See, for example, Regular Judgment of the Second Criminal Court for the Specialized Circuit of Antioquia of April 22, 2003, convicting and imposing a 40-year prison sentence on Salvatore Mancuso for his participation in the El Aro massacre.
 The following are also provided for as penalties accessory to the alternative penalty: 1. Disqualification from performing public functions. 2. Prohibition on the right to possess and bear arms. 3. Expulsion from the national territory in the case of foreigners upon conclusion of the alternative sentence involving deprivation of liberty. 4. Prohibition on approaching or communicating with the victims, except for the acts of symbolic reparation. List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter IX “Accessory penalties.”
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter III “Alternative Penalties Mechanism,” Article 13: Acceptance of the favorable opinion by the President.
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter VII “Truth, Reparation, Positive Acts on behalf of Peace.”
 The period would be five years, if the alternative prison sentence actually imposed is less than six years, and ten years, if the alternative prison sentence is six years or more. List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter V “Verification”, Article 18: Period of Supervision.
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter VI “Annulment and Definitive Liberty.”
 List of Modifications to Enacting Law No. 85 of 2003-Senate, Chapter II “Institutions for Carrying Out the Present Law,” Article 2, Tribunal for Truth, Justice and Reparation.
Decree 128 of 2003 (January 22) regulating Law 418 of 1997,
extended and modified by Law 548 of 1999 and Law 782 of 2002 on
reincorporation into civilian life. Official Gazette No. 45073
of January 24, 2003,
 Article 7 of Decree 128 provides that the demobilized individual and his or her family group will receive health services through the hospital network, to which end it will suffice to have a certification issued by the Ministry of National Defense. Once certified by the Operational Committee on Laying Down Arms, CODA, he or she will be able to access the benefits provided for in the Subsidized Regime of Social Security in Health, with the following family group: spouse or common-law spouse, parents, children, and disabled younger or older siblings.
 Article 8 of Decree 128 provides that the Ministry of National Defense or the Ministry of Interior, as the case may be, will coordinate the measures needed with the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS), and the National Police, to provide security to the demobilized or reincorporated individual and his or her family group, as necessary.
 Article 9 of Decree 128 provides that “the demobilized individual who voluntarily wishes to make an effective contribution to justice by providing information helpful in preventing terrorist attacks, kidnappings, or who provides information that makes it possible to free kidnapped persons, find arms caches, communications equipment, proceeds of drug-trafficking or of any other unlawful activity carried out by illegal armed organizations, in keeping with the legal provisions in force or the arrest of ringleaders, will receive a sum of money from the Ministry of National Defense in keeping with the results, pursuant to the regulation issued by this Ministry.”
 Article 10 of Decree 128 provides that the demobilized person who delivers arms, munitions, explosives, and weapons of mass destruction will receive from the Ministry of National Defense a sum of money, pursuant to the regulation issued by that Ministry.
 Id., Article 3.
 The Decree provides that the physical delivery of the demobilized person by the Ministry of Defense is made official by a document setting forth the initial data describing the person, his or her fingerprint, and the circumstances of his or her demobilization from the armed group to which he or she belonged. The Ministry of Interior will take the steps for delivering to the demobilized person the military passbook (libreta militar), identification papers, and the certificate of the judicial record. Id., Article 6.
 It should be noted that the IACHR has not received any complaints of failure to grant the benefits provided for by Decree 128. Nonetheless, it has received highly credible complaints and testimony regarding questionable accusations leveled at human rights defenders and social leaders by demobilized persons who have been paid in exchange for the information resulting in the accusations.
 Article 13 of Decree 128 establishes that “In keeping with the law, the demobilized who had been part of illegal armed organizations with respect to whom the Operational Committee on Laying Down Arms (CODA) issues the certification that is the subject of Article 12(4) of the present Decree, shall have the right to pardon, conditional suspension of enforcement of the penalty, cessation of proceedings, preclusion of the investigation, or the resolution of dismissal, depending on the status of the proceedings.”
 Article 21 of Decree 128 provides: “… Those who are being tried for or have been convicted of crimes which, according to the Constitution, the laws, or international treaties signed and ratified by Colombia cannot receive such benefits shall not enjoy any of the benefits indicated….”
 See CCJ, “Colombia: en contravía de las recomendaciones internacionales sobre derechos humanos. Balance de la política de seguridad democrática y la situación de los derechos humanos y derecho humanitario. Agosto de 2002 a agosto de 2004”, pp. 72 and 73.
 See Criminal Code (Law 100 of 1980) Title V, Crimes against Public Security. Chapter One: On Conspiracy, Terrorism, and Instigation. Art. 186. Conspiracy to engage in criminal conduct. (Modified. Law 365 of 1997, Art. 8) “When various persons conspire for the purpose of committing crimes, each of them shall be punished, for that mere fact, by imprisonment of three (3) to six (6) years. If they despoil or act with arms, the penalty shall be imprisonment of three (3) to nine (9) years. When the conspiracy is to commit crimes of terrorism, drug-trafficking, kidnapping for extortion, extortion, or to form death squads, private justice groups, or bands of paid assassins, the penalty shall be imprisonment for ten (10) to fifteen (15) years and fine of two thousand (2,000) to fifty thousand (50,000) times the monthly minimum salary. The penalty shall be double to triple for those who organize, foster, promote, direct, head, constitute, or finance the conspiracy or association to engage in criminal conduct.”
 Presentation by Carlos Franco, Director of the Presidential Program for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, in the event “Peace Process in Colombia with the AUC,” Wilson Center, Washington D.C., June 24, 2004.
Considering paragraphs of Decree 2767 of 2004 (August 31)
Official Gazette No. 45657 of
 Articles 2 and 4 of Decree 2767 of 2004 (August 31) Official Gazette 45657 of August 31, 2004. “Article 2 Benefits for collaborating. The demobilized or reincorporated person who voluntarily wishes to make an effective contribution to justice or to the military forces or National Police by providing information helpful for preventing or clarifying crimes will receive from the Ministry of National Defense, once he or she has been certified by the Operational Committee on Laying Down Arms, CODA, an economic payment depending on the result, in keeping with the procedure issued by this Ministry.” “Article 4 Other benefits. The demobilized or reincorporated persons who voluntarily wish to develop activities of cooperation with the military forces or National Police may receive from the Ministry of National Defense, an economic payment in keeping with the procedure issued by this Ministry.”
 The demobilization of members of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara in Medellín is not the only recent experience of collective demobilization. On December 7, 2003, 168 members of the Autodefensas Campesinas de Ortega demobilized in the village of El Edén, district of Ortega, Department of Valle del Cauca. On November and Dicember 2004, 1,400 members of the Frente Catatumbo demobilized and two more AUC Frentes concentrated in designated areas.
 While the initial figure of demobilized concentrated in La Ceja was 874 persons, due to different circumstances, six of them were left out of the process.
 IACHR, Press Release No. 40/02 “IACHR concerned over the situation of Comuna 13 in the city of Medellín, Colombia,” Washington D.C., October 18, 2002. Http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados /Spanish/2002/40.02.htm.
 The pertinent part of Press Release 15/03 states: “The IACHR delegation was able to visit various neighborhoods within Medellín’s Comuna 13 and to take testimony from members of the community on selective murders, forced disappearances, and other acts of violence and intimidation allegedly perpetrated by paramilitary groups despite the presence of law enforcement personnel. The Commission heard consistent reports that many of these events had not been reported to judicial authorities because the population feared reprisals. The IACHR completed its observation in a series of interviews with officials of the Medellín City Hall, staff of the local inspector’s and prosecutor’s offices, the commander of the Fourth Army Brigade, and the police chief. The Commission’s Rapporteur for Colombia recognized the efforts of law enforcement personnel, in particular the National Police, to restore order and the authority of the state in this outlying district, whose inhabitants have been plagued for years by the activities of criminal groups such as the FARC and the ELN. Nevertheless, it expressed concern over the potential consolidation of paramilitary groups who would continue to commit serious crimes in Comuna 13. Professor Goldman urged the authorities to take the necessary measures to dismantle paramilitary structures operating in the area, to establish the state as the sole authority, and to end the climate of insecurity and fear which is interfering with judicial inquiries into the selective killings and disappearances perpetrated since a law enforcement presence was established in the area. Also raised were concerns relating to judicial proceedings against the detainees in a series of law enforcement operations carried out with the participation of the CTI and the Inspector’s Office.” See Press Release 15/03 “IACHR Rapporteur concludes working visit to the Republic of Colombia, June 27, 2003 at http: //www.cidh.org/Comunicados/Spanish/ 2003/ 15.03.htm.
 One of the testimonies received stated that “a street corner” was used “… as a slaughterhouse, and the neighbors were forced to clean the blood.”
 One of the testimonies received states “... no longer so much trigger, but club and knife, so as not to make noise.” Reference was also made to the use of bags to drown the victims.
 Mention is made, inter alia, of the collaboration of demobilized persons and paramilitaries with the Special Antiterrorist Command (Comando Especial Antiterrorista, CEAT).
 See El Colombiano, Medellín, June 13, 2004, p. 12ª, which speaks of 72 displaced families. The testimony indicates that the houses of the displaced have been occupied or leased by paramilitaries.
 One of the testimonies received states: “what reigns is silence … no one dares denounce, for when they return, they’re waiting for them…. No one dares open their mouth, out of fear.”
 The expressions “bandas,” “combos,” and “parches” are used in the city of Medellín to refer to the greater or lesser number of youths who make up the so-called “new urban tribes” or “gangs” (“pandillas”).
 The so-called “negotiating high command” of the AUC is made of Salvatore Mancuso, Vicente Castaño (alias “El Profe”), Adolfo Paz (alias “Don Berna”), Javier Montáñez, “Jorge 40,” Julián Bolívar, Hernán Hernández, Miguel Arroyave (who was reportedly assassinated on September 19, 2004), Ernesto Báez, and Ramiro Vanoy, in representation of the units known as the bloques Norte, Central Bolívar, Centauros, Calima, Héroes de Granada, Pacífico, Sur del Cesar, and Vencedores de Arauca. It should be recalled that these bloques are made up of some 40 fronts, which in turn have hundreds of combatants each. It is also said that the following persons are in the zona de ubicación: Guillermo Torres, Pablo Sevillano, Pablo Mejía, Gabriel Galindo, Marlón Pérez, Pedro Fronteras, John Santamaría, and Juan Carlos Sierra. The presence of Juan Carlos Sierra in the zone has been the subject of pronouncements by the Government through a press release by the Ministry of Defense dated September 26, 2004, stating that Juan Carlos Sierra, alias “El Tuso”, is not recognized as a member of the AUC since “this individual is sought by Interpol through a red circular and sought by a U.S. judge for conspiracy to manufacture and sell cocaine. As such, he cannot participate in the conversations in Santafé de Ralito.” The press release clarifies that the arrest warrant outstanding for Sierra is valid both outside and inside the zona de ubicación.
 See, for example, the Resolution of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of March 6, 2003. Provisional measures requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with respect to the Republic of Colombia. Case of the communities of Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó.
 The agreement provides that “a. The Colombian State and the Colombian legal order shall have full effect in the territory of the zona de ubicación. b. The National Government and the OAS Support Mission, MAPP/OAS, shall each have offices in the zona de ubicación, security for which shall be the responsibility of the Colombian official forces. c. Exiting and reentering the zone by the members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia shall be authorized and guaranteed by the National Government, shall be limited and granted only for developing activities related to the peace process. d. The Committee for Security and Coexistence shall operate permanently in the zona de ubicación; it shall be made up of one delegate from the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, one delegate from the OAS Support Mission (MAPP/OAS), and one delegate from the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia. The following shall be permanently invited: the Church, one delegate from the Ministry of Defense, the local government of Tierralta, the office of the Governor of Córdoba, one delegate from the community, and/or other entities as agreed upon. e. The Committee for Security and Coexistence shall make decisions and coordinate actions on: logistics, security, internal regulations on coexistence and conduct, communications, and entry of visitors to the zone. f. The members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia shall refrain from: engaging in unlawful activities, recruiting persons, using pressure or threats in relation to residents or visitors, engaging in armed training; and ordering or coordinating illegal actions from the zone. g. Should there be a violation or breach of Colombian law, the competent authorities shall address the situation, in keeping with the legal order in force. h. The entry, exit, and mobility in the zone shall be guarantees for the residents and those persons who engage in activities in that territory. i. The Committee for Security and Coexistence shall define a communications policy and shall regulate media access to the zona de ubicación.” “Acuerdo Entre Gobierno Nacional y las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia para la Zona de Ubicación en Tierralta, Córdoba” Santa Fe de Ralito, May 13, 2004.
 The agreement provides that the zone will be in force for six months, which could be extended depending on the needs of the process, and that in the event that the zone ceases to be in force due to a coordinated decision or unilaterally, the members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia will have a period of five days to evacuate the zone. The OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP/OAS) will verify compliance with this guarantee, with the accompaniment of the Church.
 Second Quarterly Report of the Secretary General on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS), pursuant to Resolution CP/Res. 859 (1397/04) OEA/Ser.G CP/doc. 3944/04, September 28, 2004, p. 7.
 The Catatumbo Front, which operates in Norte de Santander and Santander, is said to be made up of some 300 men under the orders of Salvatore Mancuso; it has been accused of being responsible for the massacre at La Gabarra, on May 29, 1999.
 High Commissioner for Peace, Press release, May 28, 2004; El Tiempo, May 28, 2004. High Commissioner for Peace, May 28, 2004. See also, statements by Sergio Caramagna, September 25, 2004, in which he recognizes that there have been violations of the ceasefire in Antioquia and La Guajira.
 In a press release of October 5, 2004, the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the assassination of at least 11 persons, all members of the same family, perpetrated October 3, 2004, at the “La Cascada” farm in the district of Villagorgona, municipality of Candelaria (Valle del Cauca). Among the victims were pregnant women and minors. The press release indicates that “according to official information collected by the Office, this serious crime has been attributed to members of a paramilitary group belonging to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia -AUC- that operates in the zone. This massacre is in addition to other acts of violence committed in those municipalities of Valle del Cauca where paramilitaries operate closely connected to criminal gangs that clash over interests related to the illegal drug business. The Office notes that this massive assassination appears to be yet another act of clearly violating the commitments taken on by paramilitary groups today at the negotiating table in Santafé de Ralito.” http://www.hchr.org.co/publico/comunicados /2004/ comunicados2004.php3?cod=37&cat=15.
 I/A Court H.R., Resolution of July 5, 2004, on provisional measures requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with respect to the Republic of Colombia. Pueblo Indígena Kankuamo.