ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The Commission believes that the Republic of Colombia has adopted a
number of laws that will assist in the observance of the rights recognized in
the American Convention on Human rights, to which Colombia is a Party.
The Constitutional Reform of 1979 conferred upon the Procurator General
of the nation specific powers for the defense of human rights.
The Commission believes that the conditions deriving from the state of
siege which has been in effect almost without interruption for several decades
have become an endemic situation which has hampered, to a certain extent, the
full enjoyment of civil freedoms and rights in that, among other things, it has
permitted trials of civilians by military courts. The Commission also believes that in general the state of
siege has not resulted in the suspension of constitutional guarantees and that,
because of its peculiar features it has not posed a real obstacle to the
operation of democratic institutions.
Under the aegis of the state of siege, and as a result of the measures
adopted to maintain public order, the Government also issued the Security
Statute, a legal instrument that brings together many provisions of earlier
decrees. Although the Security
Statute is exceptional in nature, it grants military and police authorities the
power to impose penalties, it permits trials of civilians by military courts,
restricts the right to a fair trial and other constitutional guarantees, and
includes types of lengthy punishments that are inconsistent with the exceptional
nature of the Stature.
The Commission observes that the conditioned Amnesty law promulgated by
the Government did not produce the effects that were hoped for in terms of
re-establishing peace and good social order among Colombians.
in connection with the right to life, judging by the examples given in
Chapter II of this Report, the Commission is of the opinion that this right has
been the object of violations, in some cases.
The Commission realizes that investigations have been conducted to
clarify facts and administrative and disciplinary measures have been taken in
those cases. With respect to penal
action to punish those responsible for these acts, these have been started by
the trials have entailed lengthy legal procedures. Despite this, the
government’s efforts have not been totally successful in preventing or
suppressing these abuses.
With respect to the right to personal liberty, the Commission believes
that, although the Government has attempted to meet and comply with the
requirements in effect for application of Article 28 of the Constitution
relating the arrest and detention of persons during times of peace when there
are serious reasons to fear a disturbance of the public order, in practice there
have been abuses of authority such as mass arrests, illegal detention procedures
and in some cases illegal searches and seizures, and extension of the legal
period for interrogation and investigation.
In the opinion of the Commission, this is owing to the lack of
regulations to determine the boundaries and the applications of Article 28.
In accordance with its reviews of the documents and information in its
possession, which are given in this report, the commission believes that the
right to personal security has also been violated.
These violations have come during the interrogation stage of persons
detained by reason of the measures promulgated to combat violence stemming from
the action of subversive groups and have led to mistreatment and torture.
The Commission also observes that, through the Office of the Procurator
General of the nation, investigative procedures designed to verify claims made
in connection with these violations have been initiated and conducted.
However, virtually none of these cases has yet resulted in punishment of
the alleged perpetrators. Many of
the cases have been closed for lack of merit to continue the judicial
investigation. It is obvious that
the government’s efforts to prevent and repress such abuses have not produced
sufficiently effective results.
As regards the jail system, the Commission recognizes the efforts the
Colombian Government has made, through the ministry of Justice, to modernize the
legal rules governing this system. In
addition, the Commission has seen that persons held at the detention centers are
well treated but that the conditions there are deficient.
Among others is the problem of overcrowding owing to the large criminal
As concerns the right to a fair trial and due process, the Commission
believes that the ordinary system of justice is operating normally and in
accordance with the laws governing it. The
military justice system does not offer sufficient guarantees because its rules
contain restrictions on the right to a fail trial and in practice, procedural
irregularities that impede due process have occurred.
The Commission believes that, in general, Colombian observes the other
rights guaranteed in its Constitution and recognized in the American Convention
on human Rights. Freedom of
conscience and religion are exercised without qualification. Freedom of thought
and expression are carried out with all necessary guarantees to make the,
effective. The right of assembly and the freedom of association are practiced
with a few restrictions deriving from the state of siege in effect and the
Security Statute. The right to
participate in government is fully practiced and these rights are helping to
fortify the democratic system of the Government within the state of law that
exist in Colombia.
The commission believes that the military operations that the Government
conducted to combat armed subversions in rural areas have led to harmful excess
against the local people, and, to a lesser extent, the Indian communities. These
excesses have been abuses of authority that have led to mass arrests and
displacement of citizens in rural areas. On the other hand, the commission
believes that the Government has adopted measures, now being executed, that will
be helpful in different ways to the Indian communities of Colombia and useful in
solving their complex problems.
Based on the forgoing conclusions, the commission believes it appropriate
to formulate the following recommendations to the government of Colombia:
Lift the state of siege soon as circumstances allow; and comply with the
provisions of article 27 of the American Convention Human Rights.
In the future, apply article 121 of the constitution only in
exceptionally serious cases.
Repeal the security statute as soon as circumstances permit. If the circumstances do not permit this, amend the statute to
make it compatible with the new Penal Code and make its standards consistent
with the guarantees on the American Convention on Human Rights.
As regards the right of life, adopt more effective measures to clarify
fully questions relating to violations of this right and to punish those
responsible for them, when called for.
As for the right to personal liberty, issue legal regulations for article
28 of the Constitution so that persons arrested or detained are guaranteed the
right to fair trial, are informed of the charges against them as well as making
known the time and place of their detention, and so that their legal status is
defined in accordance with the legal terms for setting them free of placing them
at the disposal of the competent authority, in accordance with article 7 and 8
of the American Convention on Human Rights.
As relates to the right to personal security:
The Office of the Procurator General of the nation, as an institution of
the public ministry, should, on the basis conferred on him under the
Constitutional Reform of 1979, expedite investigations into abuses of authority
in the area of human rights for the purpose of punishing those responsible for
mistreatment and torture.
Without prejudice to the matters discussed in the previous paragraph, the
rules for the Office of Procurator General of the Nation should be amended so
that he may have more effective instruments to investigate facts and to punish
those responsible for them.
All interrogations of detained persons should be done in the presence of
a defense attorney and the person conducting the interrogation should be
Rules from competent authorities to the military units of the country to
refrain from blindfolding detained persons who are being interrogated to
determine the truth of the charges
against them, should be enforced rigorously; and
All essential measures should be adopted to make necessary improvements
to the detention centers; the new penitentiary code that is being drafted should
be promulgated as soon as possible and this new code should provide the
prisoners, inter alia guarantees of medical care, education, spiritual counseling and recreational
activities, and existing overcrowding should be revealed; the budgetary amounts
appropriated for that purpose should be executed.
with respect to the right to fair trail and due process:
The provisions of Article 62 of the Constitutional Reform of 1979 should
be carried out for the investment of no less than 10% of the general expense
budget for the judicial branch and The Public Ministry;
The military system of criminal justice should be modified substantially
so that it effectively guarantees the right to fair trial of accused persons;
The new Code of Military Procedure should be issued as soon as possible
and this new code should either eliminate or, if this is not possible, limit
military trials of civilians to crimes that truly affect state security.
As for military operations in rural areas and the protections of local
people and Indian communities:
While these measures are being executed, all necessary efforts should be
made to protect all persons not connected with the event, especially the rural
people and Indians living in the areas where the operations are carried out.
Special mechanism should be put into practice in rural areas to process
the claims of persons affected by such operations so that these persons are
effectively protected; and
c. Special priority should be given to the Indian Development Plan now in process of execution; the rules of convention 107 of 1957 of the International Labour Organization in connection with this matter should be observed; and legislative measures aimed at promoting better living conditions and developing the Indian Communities, in a way compatible with human dignity, should be approved forthwith.