1.                 During the year 2000 President Pastrana has continued to adopt courageous measures to advance the peace process and bring to an end the armed conflict in Colombia.  However, there has been a marked increase in political violence in Colombia.  The armed conflict deteriorated, as did the conduct of its protagonists. There was chronic disregard for the obligation to ensure respect for the civilian population’s fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, the right to humane treatment, the right to freedom of movement and residence, and the right to effective judicial protection.


2.                 During its 110st regular session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights analyzed the situation by the criteria established in the introduction to this chapter of the Annual Report.  The draft report it approved pursuant to Article 63(h) of its Regulations was then forwarded to the State on March 9, 2001.  The latter was given one month in which to present its observations.  The Commission received the State’s response on April 10, 2001.[1]  The State indicated in its Observations that “the Commission’s Report is balanced and [..] reflects in general terms the human rights and humanitarian law situation in the Country.”[2]  It also made a number of observations that have been incorporated into the final version of this Report, where appropriate.


3.                 The Government of the Republic of Colombia has graciously invited the Commission to conduct an on-site visit to Colombia before the end of the year 2001.  In view of this imminent visit, this report will confine itself to some preliminary observations on the progress achieved and on the serious challenges that the Government and people of Colombia still face.  The Commission has seized upon this opportunity to underscore its concerns over fundamental human rights, given the violence generated by the protagonists of the internal armed strife and the vulnerability of the civilian population, particularly displaced communities and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, human rights advocates and civil servants in the judicial branch of government.


4.                 This report is based on information obtained from government and other reliable sources, as well as information that the Commission compiled pursuant to its mandate to promote and protect human rights in the region.  The Commission will begin by discussing some of the progress made in the area of human rights.  It will then look at a general picture of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in various regions of Colombian territory.  Next it will turn its attention to specific areas of concern, such as paramilitarism, the phenomenon of forced displacement, and the administration of justice.  Lastly, the Commission will discuss the situation of the human rights defenders, journalists, labor leaders and persons deprived of their liberty.




5.                 Act Nº 589 was enacted on July 6, 2000, following a difficult legislative process that lasted twelve years.  It formally criminalizes, within Colombia’s legal system, the forced disappearance of persons, genocide and forced displacement.  Act Nº 589 introduces important innovations in the way these egregious behaviors are addressed.  Criminal responsibility for authorship of these crimes is no longer confined to State agents; it now extends to private citizens acting on the orders of or with the acquiescence of State agents.  The law introduces an innovative element not present in international law: armed dissident groups or other private persons as the perpetrators of disappearances.[3]  The law also prohibits amnesty or pardon for any person convicted of these crimes.


6.                 On a practical level, this law makes provision for establishment of a register of persons captured and detained, an emergency search mechanism designed to ensure compliance with the obligation to make efforts to establish the whereabouts of a disappeared person, and a national register of disappeared persons, as well as the creation of special working groups.  Law 589 also classifies internal forced displacement as a crime against persons.


7.                 The Commission has repeatedly recommended[4] that forced disappearance be criminalized in the Colombian legal system.  It therefore welcomes the adoption of this law, which it views as an important step forward.  The Commission reiterates its recommendation that this legislation[5] be reinforced with ratification of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, which has already been sent to Congress for approval.[6]


8.                 The Commission hopes that Act Nº 589 will be enforced in practice and applied to cases of forced disappearance, particularly where the early-search system is concerned, given the alarming increase in the number of victims of this egregious international crime in the year 2000 (see infra).  The State reported that on October 25, 2000 the Vice President formally installed the Early Search Commission and that this body is currently engaged in drafting its own internal regulations.[7]  However, the Commission notes with concern that the specific cases brought to its attention where the early-search system created under Law 589 was used have generated, in theory at least, some confusion.  The Commission is referring specifically to the early search for Angel Quinteros and Patricia Monsalve, members of the Medellín Branch of ASFADDES.  This organization was under the protection of provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The disappearance of these two people and the judicial inquiry conducted into their disappearance will be discussed below.


9.                 The Commission will monitor developments in the implementation of this legislation and its effectiveness as a tool with which to ascertain the whereabouts of victims of forced disappearance and to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible.


10.             In addition to enacting Act Nº 589, the State also adopted the measures necessary to comply with the ruling of Colombia’s Constitutional Court that declared that the requirement that statutory legislation be passed for reorganization of the military justice system was unenforceable.  With that, the new Code of Military Justice was able to take effect on August 12, 2000.[8]   The Commission hopes that with the entry into force of the new Military Penal Code, cases now pending before the military courts that involve human rights violations will be referred to the ordinary criminal courts.  This issue will be examined at greater length later in this report.


11.             Recently, in a protective order, the Constitutional Court ruled on the rights of displaced persons and the State’s obligations vis-à-vis the phenomenon of displacement.[9]   The decision recognizes displaced persons as victims of violations of human rights and humanitarian law.  It also recognizes the displacement phenomenon to be a social catastrophe on a scale so great that it exceeds the State’s capacity to respond, although that does not acquit the State of the primary responsibility it bears for addressing the problem.  It also recognizes the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement as an applicable body of norms and the necessity of complying with the recommendations of the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons.  The Commission welcomes this theoretical advance and hopes that it materializes into tangible actions to confront the serious humanitarian crisis that forced displacement causes, which will be discussed at greater length in the following sections.


12.             Finally, the Commission would like to acknowledge the government initiatives being taken in the Ministry of the Interior to create mechanisms to protect the defenders of human rights and journalists. One such initiative that the Commission finds particularly promising is the Program for the Protection of Journalists and People in the Media.  Created by Executive Decree 1592 of August 18, 2000, this program is part of an effort to protect these people from the threats they receive because of their investigative reporting.  The State has also set up a mechanism to protect members of the Unión Patriótica and the Communist Party, under the agreements reached in the friendly settlement of case 11.227, pending with the Commission.  The State has also reported the creation of a “Permanent Intersectoral Commission on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” by  Decree 321 of February 25, 2000 with the mandate to orient and coordinate measures at the high spheres of Government.[10]  The Commission hopes that these initiatives will be fully implemented and become useful tools to help the State discharge its obligation of protecting the lives of persons who are at risk.  The Commission will make reference to specific aspects of the current operation of these mechanisms in the sections that follow.




A.      Violations of the rights to life and to humane treatment


13.             In 2000, the Commission periodically received urgent actions, petitions and information of all types reporting the unrelenting violations of the right to life within Colombian territory.  The internal armed strife continues to produce serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  The situation became particularly serious in early 2001, with 26 massacres in 11 departments within the space of 18 days.  The total death toll was 170.  This situation prompted the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to release a public statement.  In his press communiqué, the Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights again called the State’s attention to the threats made by the protagonists of the armed conflict against the civilian population in the regions of Montes de María, the eastern portion of Antioquia, Urabá, the department of Chocó, the Magdalena Medio, the Cauca Valley and the departments of Cauca and Putumayo.[11]


14.             The figures on the number of fatalities that the political violence claimed in 2000 are even more alarming than they were the previous year.  The statistical studies indicate that from an average of ten deaths per day in 1988, in the period from October 1998 to September 1999 that figure climbed to twelve victims a day.  In the six months from October 1999 to March 2000, the daily average rose to 14, while in the April-September 2000 period, it climbed even higher, to more than 19 fatalities a day.[12]   In this figure, the daily death toll from extrajudicial execution and homicide rose from six to over eleven.  The average daily number of forced disappearances has gone from one to more than two.[13]  Some 79,5% of the violations have been attributed to the State and to paramilitary groups, and 20.5% to armed dissidents.[14]


15.             As in previous years, a large percentage of the violations of the right to life were in the form of massacres perpetrated in the course of bloody paramilitary incursions designed to terrorize the civilian population and forcibly displace them.  In these actions, victims are often killed only after being tortured, mutilated and subjected to other atrocities.  Examples are the massacres at Ochalí (Antioquia), Ovejas (Sucre), El Salado (Bolívar), Pueblo Bello (Cesar), Tibú (Santander), and Ciénaga de Santa Marta (Magdalena), among others.[15]


16.             Information has also been received reporting extrajudicial executions apparently for purposes of “social cleansing”, and presumably perpetrated by the military and police forces in the departments of Caldas, Nariño, Risalda and Bogotá. The statistics presented to the Commission indicate that murders of socially marginalized persons rose from one every three days, to more than one every two days.[16]  The State has observed that “Public Security Forces do not have as a policy the commission of illegal acts such as social clensing”.  However, it also admitted that the Procurator’s Office has initiated a number of investigations related to acts of this nature.[17]


17.             The year 2000 also saw an increase in selective homicides that are preceded by threats and whose victims are human rights defenders, judicial personnel, journalists, labor leaders, academics, municipal civil servants, indigenous and campesino leaders, candidates for elective office –including members of the Unión Patriótica[18]—and demobilized former combatants.


18.             The Commission is disturbed by the startling increase in the number of forced disappearances.  While some 238 cases were confirmed in 1999, that figure rose to 664 in 2000.  Thus far in the year 2001, seven cases have been reported, although an as yet undetermined number have disappeared this year as a result of paramilitary raids in various counties in the Department of Cauca.[19]


19.             The serious abuses committed by the protagonists in the armed conflict, especially the paramilitary groups, have had a growing impact on large sections of the country, with varying degrees of severity.  The following are some of the departments where the incidence of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law is highest: Antioquia, Bolívar, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Chocó, Magdalena, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Sucre and Valle.


20.             According to CINEP’s statistics, the Department of Antioquia continued to have the highest rate of violence in the year 2000, with more than 200 victims of human rights violations and more than 300 victims of violations of international humanitarian law in just the April-June quarter.[20]


21.             The information the Commission has received indicates that the situation of the campesinos in the municipality of Ituango and surrounding areas continues to deteriorate, despite complaints from civic leaders, nongovernmental human rights organizations and the Church.  The municipality continues to be the target of multiple, indiscriminate paramilitary actions mainly affecting the civilian population, most of whom are campesinos. Hundreds of people have been displaced.


22.             On September 3, 2000, a large number of paramilitary in helicopters descended upon Riosucio Canyon in Ituango. The following day they moved into five hamlets in the area where they allegedly killed four campesinos, set fire to almost one hundred homes and sacked and burned four rural schools, a health clinic and a chapel.  As a result almost 700 campesinos were displaced.  The paramilitary accused the campesinos of collaborating with the guerrilla.[21]  On November 1, 2000, a large contingent of paramilitary entered the village of El Cedral and the surrounding hamlets.  They had a list of eight names of persons they accused of being guerrilla collaborators and whom they allegedly convicted in hasty trials and then executed.  They allegedly burned 25 houses and forced the campesinos off their lands.  As a result, some 400 campesinos had to move to the municipal seat of Ituango.[22]  Between November 30 and December 1, another paramilitary attack on the town of Santa Lucía left three campesinos dead and an undetermined number of homes burned, and displaced some 150 people.[23]


23.             In recent months, the human rights situation in the eastern sector of Antioquia, the municipalities of Granada, El Carmen de Viboral, El Peñol, Guatapé, San Rafael, and others has taken a severe turn for the worse with the fighting between groups of armed dissidents and paramilitary.  According to the Office of the Ombudsman, most of the mass murders in Antioquia in recent months are concentrated in the eastern sector.  The towns of San Carlos, San Rafael and El Carmen de Viboral were the hardest hit because of relentless pressure from armed groups, which forced dozens of people to move.  While eight massacres were committed in that department in January 2000, one year later, in January 2001, there were 14 massacres with a death toll of 71.  Of these, 20 lived in the eastern sector of the department.[24]


24.             The information the Commission has received indicates that on November 3, 2000, the paramilitary unleashed a juggernaut that began in Granada with the killing of 19 people.  The Bloque Metro of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Civil Defense Patrols of Colombia) claimed responsibility for the murder of the campesinos.  In a communiqué they made available to the press they told the inhabitants of the area that they would not have to leave because they had “clear and accurate information about who and where the enemy was.”[25] The Inter-institutional Committee, composed of citizens of Granada, reported that six of those murdered were over age 60 and engaged in earning their daily living; two were children and another two were mothers; the rest were farmers and people whose business was a matter of public knowledge.


25.             The Commission is particularly troubled by the situation in Barrancabermeja, Department of Santander.  Complaints are periodically received concerning paramilitary incursions and the establishment of new paramilitary camps in the urban districts.  The complaints report that even though civilian and military authorities have been alerted, paramilitary groups belonging to the AUC have settled in the Mirafores and Simón Bolívar districts in the northeast quadrant of the city, and have spread to another 32 districts in the southern, southeastern, northern and northeastern sectors.[26]


26.             The complaints report that the paramilitary patrol these districts around the clock, have permanent reinforcements and force those who live in those districts to attend meetings that the paramilitary hold periodically to warn them of the rules they must follow to avoid being forced to abandon their property and leave the city.  Using this mechanism, the paramilitary kill, force people from their homes or, at best, occupy their homes.  Despite the public gestures made by Colombia’s Vice President, promising to take measures to safeguard the lives and ensure absolute respect for the human rights of the people of Barrancabermeja, the complaints report that the AUC’s “paramilitarization” of the city is being done openly, in places where the State military and police forces have a permanent presence.[27]


27.             The Commission is deeply disturbed by the situation in the Cauca Valley region.  The Commission has received information to the effect that since May 2000, the western wing of the AUC, composed of the Calima, Pacífico, Farallones and Paéz fronts, has terrorized a number of communities in the region, leaving a number of people dead and disappeared and around 7,000 displaced.[28]  Of these families and 700 are Afro-Colombian, and 450 indigenous from the Las Delicias reservation in Buenos Aires, Cauca.  In the Upper Naya area, five thousand people who have not left the region are reportedly being threatened.  Five mayors from the municipalities of Almaguer, Bolívar, Balboa, Caloto and Rosas have also received threats.  Reportedly, most of the communities in the Cauca Valley that the paramilitary have attacked are part of the Movimiento del Suroccidente Colombiano [Southwest Colombian Movement] with which the National Government supposedly signed an agreement in November 1999, pledging to guarantee their safety.[29]


28.             The complaints the Commission has received report that the communities in the department of Cauca feel threatened, especially Timba, La Esperanza, El Ceral and Palo Blanco, where the paramilitary control the movements of vehicles and people, commerce, foodstuffs coming in and social activities.  The reports indicate that the general warning given out by the paramilitary is that “anyone who is not a guerrilla is an informant or collaborator” and that “the slaughter will be massive.”[30]


29.             The Commission has been informed that although government authorities have been appraised of the situation, no measures have been taken by the military and police forces to curb the AUC’s activities.  In one specific case, on November 25, 2000 a commission of human rights defenders composed of national and international non-governmental organizations went to the municipality of Cajibío, where they found people who had been driven out of the hamlets of Mesetas and Dinde, in the district of Campo Alegre.  On December 1, 2000, a special early-warning request was made of national and local authorities, asking them to adopt special measures to protect the campesino and indigenous communities and the general populace in the northern and central sections of Cauca Department.  The early-warning request singles out the exact places where new attacks on campesino communities might occur.  Thus far, no reply has been received from the authorities concerning measures taken.  The Observations submitted by the State indicate that, amongst other measures, on January 11, 2001 an Inter-Institutional Humanitarian Verification Commission visited the North of Cauca and South of the Cauca Valley to deal with, among other issues, the public order situation and the internally displaced.[31]  Despite these actions, the available information indicates that the situation has continued to deteriorate.  As a result the Commission has issued precautionary measures to protect the local authorities and the members of social organizations operating in the area.


30.             The Commission must not fail to mention the situation in the Department of Putumayo.  There, between late September and early December a series of clashes occurred between the Army, the FARC and the southern wing of the United Civil Defense Patrols of Colombia.  The humanitarian consequences of the armed roadblocks that the FARC set up will be discussed in the section on internal displacement.


B.       Violations of international humanitarian law by groups of armed dissidents


31.             Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by groups of armed dissidents increased in 2000.  They have massacred, extrajudicially executed, attacked and threatened members of the civilian population.  According to figures from the Ministry of Defense, between January and October 2000, armed dissident groups were responsible for 164 of the 671 victims killed in massacres.


32.             The Defense Ministry’s report states that armed dissidents are blamed for the killing of 1,863 people and the abduction of over 3,000 civilians.[32]  In the first quarter of 2000, there were some 238 politically motivated killings attributable to armed dissident groups.[33]  On December 29, a group of armed men killed Congressman Diego Turbay, President of the Peace Committee in the House of Representatives, his mother Inés Cote de Turbay and his five bodyguards, in the region of Caquetá, on the edge of the non-combat zone.  The assassination has been attributed to the FARC, which has thus far not disclaimed responsibility.


33.             In their attacks on civilian populations, armed dissident groups have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality, basic tenets of international humanitarian law.  In particular, their indiscriminate use of gas canisters and car bombs has killed numerous civilians.


34.             The armed dissident groups have continued their practice of taking hostages in order to exchange them for money and finance their activities. According to CINEP, between April and September 2000 the ELN allegedly abducted some 300 people, and the FARC another 180.[34]  Among the victims were mayors, civil servants in the judicial branch of government, humanitarian workers, journalists and foreign citizens.  According to the data of the Fundación País Libre, 165 hostages died in captivity, victims of the duration and extreme conditions of their captivity.


35.             The Commission deplores the fact that in 2000 FARC continued the practice of enlisting children under the age of 15 into its ranks, which is contrary to international law and to Colombian domestic law.




36.             The Commission is deeply disturbed by the growing influence that paramilitary groups exert and by the actions and omissions of government agents who sometimes allow and even collaborate in the commission of very egregious violations of human rights.  The figures that the Ministry of Defense provided indicate that currently, paramilitary groups have over 8,000 members, which is an increase of 81% in the last two years.  Their rapid growth is mirrored in the degree to which the geographic scope of their operations has increased.  They are now active in more than 400 municipalities in 40% of the country.  The “Pacífico”, “Farallones” and “Paéz” fronts of the AUC have extended their influence to include the municipalities of Buenaventura, Jamundí and Buenos Aires in the Cauca region, in relation to which the Commission has recently issued precautionary measures.  The extent of the AUC presence in the Atrato region and in Turbo, Apartadó and Quibdó is also alarming.  Here also, the Commission has had to order precautionary measures.  In the case of Apartadó, the Commission has had to turn to the Inter-American Court to seek provisional measures to protect the civilian population.  The AUC also exercise their influence in the municipality of Tibú, in the region of Catatumbo, Norte de Santander.


37.             The AUC continue to conduct “sweeps” and “cleansing” operations against the civilian populations that they accuse of aiding or sympathizing with armed dissident groups.  The Ministry of Defense reports that the AUC is attacking people to drive them off lands that their financial backers want to seize.[35]   In the areas they control the paramilitary set up illegal patrols to check the identity of those traveling through the area and restrict commerce in staples and fuel. Often the establishment of these patrols presages disappearances, extrajudicial executions and displacements.  In some cases, they operate in areas where the Army has a presence, as in the case of the patrol near the peace community of San Jose de Apartadó, in the Urabá Antioqueño, which is under the protection of provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court.


38.             The State has said that paramilitarism represents “a grave threat to the institutions of government and (is) responsible for much of the increase in human rights violations.“  It acknowledges that paramilitarism is “one of the factors contributing most to the exacerbation of the armed conflict since its “main modus operandi is to terrorize the public by selective killing or indiscriminate massacres”, all in order to “trigger a massive displacement.”[36]  The State alleges, however, that the civil patrols have become a self-contained operation and that their behavior “is not the result of a strategy being orchestrated from the highest levels of government.”[37]  It points out that any case in which agents of the State are alleged to be colluding with the AUC, is one of corruption or personal conviction and is being investigated by the judiciary.[38]


39.             The Commission has taken note of these statements.  Nevertheless, it continues to receive complaints to the effect that government forces either ignore or directly participate in acts of violence committed by the paramilitary, many of which are public knowledge.  The observations of the State confirm that the free operation of patrol checks, paramilitary bases and acts perpetrated by the AUC in the areas of Putumayo (La Hormiga, La Dorada, San Miguel, Puerto Asís, Santa Ana), Antioquia (El Jordán, San Carlos), y Valle (La Iberia, Tuluá) are being investigated mainly in the disciplinary jurisdiction.[39]  When provisional measures were ordered for the peace community San José de Apartadó, testimony was presented concerning the alleged responsibility of military and police forces in the massacres committed on February 19 and July 8, 2000, against members of that community living in the Urabá region.


40.             The State has pointed out that in the first eleven months of 2000, 517 security measures were ordered, 311 indictments charging members of the civil patrols were handed down, and 309 arrest warrants are in effect.[40]  In the case of the arrest warrants, it reported that 243 accused persons are in custody.  However, as the State has acknowledged, the number of members of the AUC has increased to 8,000 and is still on the rise.


41.             The Commission must point out, however, that although the human rights violations committed by paramilitary are frequently investigated by the regular courts, in many cases, the arrest warrants the courts issue are not executed, especially when they involve the upper echelons of the AUC and the intellectual authors.  This creates a climate of impunity and fear.[41]   A case in point is the fact that in 2000, the highest ranking chief of the AUC, Carlos Castaño, has had access to the national and international media and contacts at the ministerial level, yet the numerous arrest warrants against him for serious human rights violations, have never been executed.


42.             The Commission has repeatedly stated its position concerning the State’s responsibility for the links that exist between members of the military and police and paramilitary groups in Colombia and the extent of involvement in the commission of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  Unfortunately the situation does not seem to have improved during the year 2000.  The impunity with which paramilitary groups continue to operate throughout much of the country, despite the Army’s presence, and the ever escalating violence that continues to cause forced displacement of the civilian population, suggest that these groups continue to operate with the collaboration and acquiescence of agents of the State.




43.             During the year 2000, the forced displacement of civilians continued to be used as a military control strategy in the armed conflict.  Some 48% of the cases of internal displacement were carried out by paramilitary groups, while 29% were the work of armed dissidents.[42]  Displacement caused by unknown parties rose to 16% of the total, which would seem to indicate that the protagonists in the conflict do not always want to claim responsibility for the acts of violence that cause and attend displacements.


44.             The CODHES reports point out that around 319 thousand people from 65,000 homes were forced to leave those homes in the year 2000,[43] which is the highest number of displaced persons recorded in the last five years.[44]  More than half those displaced are minors whose families whose rights to personal dignity, property, freedom of movement and residence have been violated and whose most basic economic, social and cultural rights have been seriously aggrieved.  According to the information presented by the State, the figures of SEFC Red de Solidaridad Social indicate that during the year 2000 there have been 1,351 massive displacement events affecting 128,843 persons, belonging to 26,819 homes.[45]  Of these displacements, 35% (467) correspond to the first half of the year and 65% (884) to the second, constituting a 89% increase.  As far as attribution of responsibility for the total volume of forced displacement in the year 2000 is concerned, the SEFC estimates that the AUC caused 58.09%, armed dissident groups caused 11.26%, armed State agents caused 0,13% and the remaining 30,51% was caused by more than one of the former.[46]


45.             Apart from the city of Bogotá, the regions most affected by the displacements were the departments of Antioquia, Magdalena, Bolívar and Valle, as well as the departments of Nariño, Tolima, Huila and Guajira, which had heretofore not been so hard hit by this phenomenon.[47]  Some of the most egregious cases of forced displacement during the period occurred in the municipalities of Juradó (Chocó), Carmen de Bolívar (Bolívar) and Sitionuevo (Magdalena) and in the departments of Tolima, Valle del Cauca and Putumayo.


46.             On December 12, 1999, armed dissidents attacked the Marine base in the municipality of Juradó, department of Chocó.[48] The town was destroyed and at least 4,500 people were forced from their homes and fled to the municipalities of Bahía Solano in the Department of Chocó, and Buenaventura in the Department of Valle, and to Darién province in Panama[49] where the Panamanian Government and the office of the UNHCR attended them.  Some inhabitants of Juradó returned in the first half of 2000.  However, in late September 2000, approximately two thousand people walked from Juradó to Jaqué to protest the situation and the presence of armed elements in that municipality.[50]


47.             On February 18, 2000, the AUC’s Bloque Norte y Anorí massacred 45 people in the district of El Salado, Department of Bolívar.[51]  The 15,000 people driven from their homes as a result, went to the municipalities of Carmen de Bolívar, Turbaco, Arjona and Cartagena (Bolívar), Ovejas and Sincelejo (Sucre) and Barranquilla (Atlántico), among others.[52]  The inhabitants of the district of El Salado had already been displaced, following a paramilitary-perpetrated massacre in March 1997.[53]  The situation that the forced displacement of the inhabitants of El Salado created was to be expected and therefore raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the early-warning systems set up by the State and its ability to react swiftly.  In this sense the Government acknowledged in its observations that this system is still in a planning stage and "intends to surpass the lack of coordination and trust between competent instances, as well as the lack of trust in the sources and the contents of the warning reports and the scarce human and logistical resources available, that are the main cause of insufficient and delayed action by the ensemble of State institutions devoted to preventing internal displacement."[54]


48.             In late April 2000, armed dissidents attacked the town of Puerto Saldaña, Department of Tolima, and clashed with the AUC.  In the aftermath, 23 people were dead, more than a hundred homes destroyed and approximately 1,500 people displaced.[55]  A significant number of people were driven from the outskirts of Puerto Saldaña and from hamlets like San Isidro, El Placer, Edén, Alto Bonito, Cambrín, La Ocasión, La Cumbre, La Cascada and Llaneta, to the municipalities of Rioblanco, Chaparral, San Antonio, Planadas and Ibagué.[56]  Although an inter-institutional commission was formed to help the victims, some 200 families, which included 600 children, became squatters on a vacant lot on the outskirts of Ibagué in July 2000.[57]


49.             With regard to the humanitarian crisis in the Cauca Valley, the National Register of Displaced Persons of the Social Solidarity Network listed 10,485 persons as displaced persons.  Of these, 3,003 are in the municipality of Tuluá, 899 in Buga and 2,010 in Buenaventura. This last city saw some of its own inhabitants displaced when 12 people were massacred and another four disappeared in the district of Zabaletas[58].


50.             On August 31, 2000, the Calima Front of the AUC ordered the displaced persons that had been living on the outskirts of Tuluá for several months, to leave the community within 30 days.[59]  On September 11, 2000, in response to an urgent request for precautionary measures, the Commission asked the State to supply information on the situation in question.  In reply, the Commission sent a verification mission, which included representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which met with the mayors of Buga and Tuluá, the Army, the Police, the Office of the Attorney General and the displaced persons.[60]  The Commission has received information to the effect that the displaced families who still live on the outskirts of Tuluá and Buga, given the violence in the municipality, now have police guards and emergency relief from the French and Spanish Red Cross.



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[1] Note EE 0742 General Office of Special Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia, April 9, 2001 and annex entitled “Observations of the Colombian Government to the Draft Report on the General Situation of Human Rights in Colombia” (hereinafter “Observations of the State”).

[2] Observations of the State, p. 1.

[3] Article II of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons provides that:  “For the purposes of this Convention, forced disappearance is considered to be the act of depriving a person or persons of his or their freedom, in whatever way, perpetrated by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the state, followed by an absence of information or a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the whereabouts of the person, thereby impeding his or her recourse to the applicable legal remedies and procedural guarantees.”

[4] IACHR, “Follow-up on the Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia,” Annual Report of the IACHR 1999 Vol. II.  Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia (1999) Chapter IV.

[5] IACHR, Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, Chapter II, Recommendation 8, p. 56.

[6] Bill of Law 159/01, cited in the Observations of the State, p. 4.

[7] Observations of the State, p. 3 and 4.  Such Commission is composed of governmental and State authorities, a representative of the Association of Families of Detainees and  Disappeared Persons (ASFADDES) and a representative of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, chosen by other non-governmental organizations.  This Commission is chaired by the Ombudsman.

[8] Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Colombia, Informe Anual Derechos Humanos y DIH 2000, January 2001.

[9] Constitutional Court, Judgment SU-1150, August 30, 2000.

[10] This Commission, chaired by the Vice President and composed of the Ministers of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Defense, and Labor, as well as the High Commissioner for Peace, functions through ten thematic subgroups: Combat of the AUC and other illegal armed groups, coordinated by the Ministry of the Defense; Fight against impunity, coordinated by the Ministry of Justice; Assistance to displacement, coordinated by the Red de Solidaridad Social; Protection of Human Rights Defenders, trade union leaders and persons under threat,  coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior; Population Groups in Situation of Risk, coordinated by the Red de Solidaridad Social; Prison Policies, coordinated by the Ministry of Justice; Legislative Measures and promotion of International Humanitarian Law, coordinated by the Human Rights Presidential Program; Education, promotion and prevention, coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, and the Working Group on International Affairs, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Observations of the State, p. 6.

[11] Press communiqué from the Colombian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, dated January 18, 2001.

[12] Report presented by the Colombian Commission of Jurists at the hearing on the general situation of human rights in Colombia, held during the 110st regular session of the IACHR in February 2001.  The State did not challenge the figures in the report.

[13] Ibid.

[14] See: Colombian Commission of Jurists, Panorama de Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos y al Derecho Humanitario en Colombia, page 1.

[15] For an official account of some of these massacres, see Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Colombia, Informe Anual Derechos Humanos y DIH 2000, January 2001, p. 104.

[16] Report presented by the Colombian Commission of Jurists at the hearing on the general situation of human rights in Colombia, held during the 110st regular session of the IACHR in February 2001.  The State did not challenge the figures in the report.

[17] Observations of the State, p. 12.

[18] The State alleged in its observations that “none of the current or former members of the UP under the Special Program of Protection created pursuant to the friendly settlement process in case 11.227 have seen their lives or physical integrity affected”.  Observations of the State, p. 12.

[19] CINEP & Justicia y Paz, Banco de Datos de Derechos Humanos y Violencia Política, the journal Noche y Niebla, Nº 16, April, May and June 2000.

[20] CINEP & Justicia y Paz, Banco de Datos de Derechos Humanos y Violencia Política, the journal Noche y Niebla, Nº 16, April, May, June 2000, pp. 28-40.

[21] CINEP y Justicia & Paz.  Noche y Niebla Nº 17 (July, August and September 2000). Newspaper “El Colombiano”, December 2, 2000, p. 7A.

[22] The newspaper El Colombiano, Medellín, November 3, 2000, p. 8A.

[23] Idem, December 2, 2000, p. 7A.

[24] Statements made by the Ombudsman.  The newspaper El Colombiano, Medellín, February 20, 2001.

[25] The newspaper El Colombiano, Medellín, November 12, p. 9A.

[26] Information reported at the hearing on the general situation of human rights in Colombia, held on February 27, 2000, during the 110th regular session of the IACHR.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Dossier of the International SOS Campaign by social organizations and communities in the departments of Cauca and Nariño, prepared by CODHES, MINGA, CINEP, the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” and FCSPP, January 2001.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Observations of the State, p. 15.

[32] Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Colombia, Informe Anual.  Derechos Humanos y DIH 2000. January 2001.

[33] Colombian Commission of Jurists, Panorama de Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos y al Derecho Humanitario en Colombia, p. 5.

[34] See CINEP & Justicia y Paz, Banco de Datos de Derechos Humanos y Violencia Política, the journal Noche y Niebla, Nos. 16 and 17, April – September 2000.

[35] Ministry of Defense, Los grupos ilegales de Autodefensa en Colombia, December 2000, pp. 18 and 19.

[36] “Los grupos ilegales de Autodefensa en Colombia”, Ministry of Defense, December 2000.

[37]Panorama de los Grupos de Autodefensa,” a publication of the Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario, Office of the Vice President of the Nation, December 2000, p. 12.

[38] Ibid.  The State expressed similar concerns in its Observations to the present Report, p. 19.

[39] Observations of the State, p. 20.

[40]Panorama de los Grupos de Autodefensa,” a publication of the Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario, Office of the Vice President of the Nation, December 2000, pp. 10 and 11. The figures quoted by the State also indicate that the casualties caused and prisoners taken between 1995 and 2000, considered together, allegedly show that the Security Forces have deprived the AUC of 14.6% of its current 8150 present members.  Between January and February 2001 the Armed Forces have caused eight casualties and captured 70 AUC members.  Observations of the State, p. 17.

[41] See IACHR, Admissibility Reports 57/00 (La Granja, Ituango) and 33/01 (Mapiripán, Meta) Annual Report of the IACHR 2000.

[42] See, CODHES Informa, Boletín de la Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, July 2000.

[43] Desplazamiento y derechos humanos, Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, CODHES, 2001.

[44] In 1999, 288,000 people were displaced. Codhes Informa, Boletín de Prensa N° 26, November 18, 1999, p. 3 and Boletín de Prensa N° 30, August 2000, p. 1.

[45] Red de Solidaridad Social Red Nacional de Información de Población Desplazada: Avances Componentes, Metodología y Cifras,  Bogotá, February 2001, p. 7 and 36, cited in the Observations of the State, p. 21.

[46] Ibid.

[47] CODHES, Codhes Informa, Boletín de Prensa N° 33, December 5, 2000, p. 1.

[48]Juradoseños tienen el corazón en Panamá”, El Colombiano, January 15, 2000, p. 8 A.

[49]Juradó quiere ser de Panamá”, El Espectador, January 15, 2000, p. 8 A; “No vamos a ser un pueblo fantasma”, El Espectador, January 24, 2000, p. 6 A.

[50] “Nuevo desplazamiento hacia Panamá”, El Colombiano, September 29, 2000, p. 7 A.

[51] CINEP y Justicia y Paz (BCJP), Banco de datos de derechos humanos y violencia política, Noche y niebla – panorama de derechos humanos y violencia política en Colombia, N° 15, 2000, p. 117.

[52]Emergencia humanitaria por desplazamiento”, El Colombiano, February 27, 2000, p. 6 A; “1.010 desplazados llegaron a Marialabaja”, El Universal, March 14, 2000, p. 7 B.

[53] Banco de datos de derechos humanos y violencia política de CINEP y Justicia y Paz (BCJP), Noche y niebla – panorama de derechos humanos y violencia política en Colombia, Bogota, BCJP, n.° 15, 2000, p. 117.

[54] Observations of the State, p. 27.

[55]Saldaña, arrasada por FARC”, El Tiempo, May 9, 2000, pp. 1-4.

[56] “Emergencia humanitaria en la zona sur del Tolima”, El Espectador, May 11, 2000, p. 5 A; “Como hace 50 años nos vamos por la violencia”, El Espectador, May 14, 2000, p. 7 A.

[57]Los desplazados invaden Ibagué”, El Tiempo, July 3, 2000, pp. 1-12.

[58]Continúa tensión en Anchicayá”, El Espectador, May 19, 2000, p. 7 A.  Social Solidarity Network, Public communiqué, October 24, 2000, p. 3.

[59] Social Solidarity Network, Public communiqué, October 24, 2000.

[60] Note EE 2505 from the Office of the Director General for Special Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, November 2, 2000.