1.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continues its practice of including in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States a chapter on the situation of human rights in member countries of the Organization, based on the competence assigned to it by the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Commission's Statute and Rules of Procedure.  This practice has served the purpose of providing the OAS updated information on the human rights situation in those countries that had been the subject of the Commission's special attention; and in some cases, to report on a particular event that had taken place or was emerging or developing at the close of its reporting cycle. 




2.           The Annual Report of the IACHR for 1997 set forth five criteria pre-established by the Commission to identify the member states of the OAS whose human rights practices merited special attention and which consequently should be included in its Chapter IV. 


3.           The first criterion encompasses those states ruled by governments that have not come to power through popular elections, by secret, genuine, periodic, and free suffrage, according to internationally accepted standards and principles.  The Commission has repeatedly pointed out that representative democracy and its mechanisms are essential for achieving the rule of law and respect for human rights.  As for those states that do not observe the political rights enshrined in the American Declaration and the American Convention, the Commission fulfills its duty to inform the other OAS members states as to the human rights situation of the population.


4.           The second criterion concerns states where the free exercise of the rights set forth in the American Convention or American Declaration have been, in effect, suspended totally or in part, by virtue of the imposition of exceptional measures, such as state of emergency, state of siege, suspension of guarantees, or exceptional security measures, and the like. 


5.           The third criterion to justify the inclusion in this chapter of a particular state is when there is clear and convincing evidence that a state commits massive and grave violations of the human rights guaranteed in the American Convention, the American Declaration, and all other applicable human rights instruments.  In so doing, the Commission highlights the fundamental rights that cannot be suspended; thus it is especially concerned about violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture, and forced disappearances.  Thus, when the Commission receives credible communications denouncing such violations by a particular state which are attested to or corroborated by the reports or findings of other governmental or intergovernmental bodies and/or of respected national and international human rights organizations, the Commission believes that it has a duty to bring such situations to the attention of the Organization and its member states.


6.           The fourth criterion concerns those states that are in a process of transition from any of the above three situations.


7.           The fifth criterion regards temporary or structural situations that may appear in member states confronted, for various reasons, with situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention or the American Declaration.  This criterion includes, for example:  grave situations of violations that prevent the proper application of the rule of law; serious institutional crises; processes of institutional change which have negative consequences for human rights; or grave omissions in the adoption of the provisions necessary for the effective exercise of fundamental rights.


8.           On the basis of the criteria set forth above, the Commission has decided to include four member states: Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela.




9.           As in previous years, the situation in the Republic of Colombia in 2007 fits the criteria established in the introduction to Chapter IV of the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  In the case of Colombia, these criteria that are particularly relevant is the one that concerns the persistence of temporary or structural situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention.  The Commission has therefore adopted the following observations on the matter, following the procedure established in Article 57(1)(h) of its Rules of Procedure,[1] for inclusion in its Annual Report.


10.          The IACHR is keenly aware of the complex situation that Colombia is facing, the influence exerted by elements involved in drug trafficking, the toll that the violence practiced by those involved in the conflict takes on the civilian population, and the efforts the State has made to pacify the situation. 


11.          First, the Colombian State is to be recognized for its efforts initiated to pacify the situation.  The Commission wants to encourage measures to ensure that the judicial proceedings conducted under the Justice and Peace Law are as transparent and open as possible.


12.          The Commission has learned of the adoption of Decree 3570 (2007), which establishes the so-called “Victim and Witness Protection Program of Law 975 (2005),” the purpose of which is to “safeguard the lives, safety, liberty and security of those being threatened or at risk as a direct consequence of being a victim or witness in a Justice and Peace case.”[2]  The adoption of this law is an important step toward the State’s compliance with its obligation to protect the physical integrity of victims of the armed conflict and safeguard their involvement in the quest for the truth, justice and reparations.


13.          It is also to highlight the continuation of the “Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, Trade Unionists, Journalists, and Social Leaders”[3] which, as the Commission has observed on previous occasions, protects many beneficiaries of precautionary and provisional measures ordered by the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, respectively.  Once again, the Commission points out the need to continue to strengthen the protection mechanisms established under these programs.


14.          The Commission notes, however, that notwithstanding the programs such as those cited above, undertaken to promote human rights, the effects of the armed conflict continue to exact their harshest toll on the most vulnerable sectors of the civilian population.  Violence continues to persist, amid efforts to demobilize armed outlaw groups and to administer justice.  These efforts have to produce results in terms of effectiveness, comprehensive redress, and eliminating the causes and elements of violence.


15.          Therefore, based on the in loco observations conducted in various regions of Colombia[4] and on information received both from the State and civil society, during the Commission’s hearings and in written observations sent to the Commission, the IACHR has prepared a number of observations on the situation of human rights in the Republic of Colombia in 2007.  The observations will particularly address the progress made and obstacles faced in the process of demobilizing armed elements and in developing and enforcing its laws, the persistence of violations of the rights to life and to personal integrity, the situation of ethnic groups, and the situation of human rights defenders and social leaders.




16.        Around mid 2006, Colombia completed the first phase of the process of demobilizing the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (hereinafter “the AUC”),[5] an armed outlaw group involved in the commission of crime during the armed conflict.[6]  In this first phase, weapons were surrendered by 31,671 persons identified as members of the 34 units of the AUC and other armed outlaw groups[7] concentrated in temporary location areas, with international verification by the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (hereinafter the “MAPP/OAS Mission”).  With this phase completed, in 2007 the process began of establishing the responsibilities of demobilized persons involved in the commission of crimes and of securing reparations for victims, in application of Law 975 (2005) or the “Justice and Peace Law”.”[8]  This law establishes a number of procedural benefits and sentence reduction for those who –having been involved in the commission of crimes- participate in the demobilization.[9]


17.        The Commission has monitored the process since 2004, a function that it regards as a vital part of its advisory role vis-à-vis the OAS member States, the General Secretariat of the Organization and the MAPP/OAS Mission.[10]  As part of this monitoring, in October 2007 the Commission made public its “Report on the Implementation of the Justice and Peace Law:  Initial Stages in the Demobilization of the AUC and First Judicial Proceedings.”[11]


18.        Concerning the administration of justice in the case of the demobilized, the Commission notes that those cases that went through the demobilization judicial circuits set up as part of the collective demobilization process benefited by the issuance of resolutions waiving prosecution when they admitted to the crime of "criminal conspiracy",[12] which term was later changed to "sedition" based merely on their participation in the activities of illegal armed groups.[13]  In addition to the issuance of decisions waiving prosecution for sedition, the demobilization judicial circuits were a good way to gather information to establish whether demobilized members of outlaw armed groups were involved in crimes that might be punishable offenses under the Justice and Peace Law, and also to gather information about crimes of against humanity and corpses’ location.


19.        However, 90% of those who went through the demobilization circuit (some 28,000 people) provided no significant information on illegal acts or crimes committed by the paramilitary units to which they belonged.  As a result, the voluntary depositions taken in the demobilization circuits constituted a lost opportunity for gathering information on the units, their members, and the socioeconomic dynamics that kept them in existence and in operation. 


20.        That information is crucial today for the work of prosecutors in the Justice and Peace Unit and for representatives of the victims when it comes to enforcing that Law and verifying that the armed structures have been dismantled.  It is the Commission’s understanding that during the taking of voluntary depositions, candidates must declare under oath their commitment to comply with the prescribed eligibility requirements.[14]  In any event, the validity of the statements must be considered in light of the obligation of the judicial authorities and other State agencies to collaborate in verifying that the requirements to make the applicant eligible for the reduced sentences allowed under Article 975 have been met.  As the IACHR understands it, the demobilization oath in no way relieves the authorities of their duty to verify the requirements for claiming the benefits of reduced penalties.


21.        Of the 31,651 persons who demobilized between November 2003 and mid 2006, only 2,695 expressed an interest in applying for the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law.[15]  However, the Attorney General’s Office verified that only a much smaller number could be duly located and summoned to give a statement.  The remainder, although on the list, could not be located because their address, telephone number or true identity was unknown.  In this regard, the High Council for Social Reintegration (ACR) had developed strategies to fill information gaps.[16]  The State also indicated that the Prosecutors for the Justice and Peace Unit had taken important steps to locate those demobilized persons.[17]


22.        By the end of 2006, the Attorney General’s Office issued the first notices[18] to attend initial depositions from candidates for the benefits under the Justice and Peace Law, aimed at persons claiming a right to participate in the different processes as victims of crimes committed by the AUC (hereinafter “the victims”).  Thanks to the publication of 1,728 notices in newspapers with nationwide circulation, broadcasts by local radios and dissemination by national, regional and local public entities, 12,354 victims had been contacted as of August 2007.[19]  The State had also devoted 84 days to attending to victims in territories in which demobilized illegal groups had acted.[20]  The Commission observes, however, that the only newspaper with nationwide circulation is El Tiempo, which is not distributed in many of the small towns and villages of various departmental areas.  Some of these regions do not even have television or Internet service.  It is precisely in those regions where the greatest numbers of victims are to be found, who require access to information on their rights and how to claim them.  Therefore, the notices should have been given via local radio stations, regional newspapers, public defenders or representatives and, in general, through instruments that serve as links between this uninformed population and the State.


23.        In January 2007, thanks to the initiative taken by the Government’s and the Attorney General’s Office to broadcast the statements taken from the demobilized persons, the National Television Company (CNTV) arranged for the transmission of the hearings of members of the demobilized paramilitary groups via the channel known as Señal Colombia Institucional.[21] In February 2007, the Attorney General’s Office issued resolution 0387[22] authorizing each delegate prosecutor to order preparation of a technical recording of the voluntary depositions to be made public, once this proceeding is over and the work of verification and investigation is completed.[23]


24.        The Commission notes the need to strengthen the presence of the regional and national media in this new stage of the demobilization process in order to guarantee transparency.  The present stage of the AUC demobilization process demands transparency and this can only be guaranteed by allowing victims access to both of the voluntary deposition sessions, and by ensuring that in the second session there is a real possibility to question the candidates and get at the truth.


25.        As for the role of the Attorney General’s Office, the assigned prosecutors are responsible for taking the voluntary depositions, for investigations in the areas of influence of each demobilized unit, and for interviewing victims in those areas.  On this point, the Commission is concerned about two specific aspects:  first, the Justice and Peace Unit is investigating a total of 34 units.  Consequently, each prosecutor must investigate, on average, the activities of two or three AUC units.[24]  The second concern is the lack of security for prosecutors as they discharge their functions.   They have to venture into remote areas in order to corroborate information, collect evidence, attend judicial proceedings, and compile records without the means of transportation or security systems to enable them to perform these functions efficiently.   On this point, the Commission would like to underscore the need to strengthen the support provided to the Justice and Peace Unit of the Attorney General’s Office.  The varied nature of the demands that the Law places upon it requires an enormous capacity for work as well as strong logistical support that will enable the prosecutors to perform their work in safety.


26.        As for the participation of victims in the process, Decree 315 (2007)[25] regulates the participation of victims and provides that they have the right to be present, either personally or through their attorney, for the taking of the depositions, indictment and other proceedings conducted under Law 975 and that pertain to the events that caused the damage.[26]  It has been observed that victims spare no effect to attend the depositions, even though they may not have the funds to pay the expenses involved.


27.        Victims have nonetheless encountered a number of obstacles in the way of their participation.  First, in the various phases of the deposition, victims are unable to question, either personally or through their representatives, those who are trying to claim the benefits granted under Law 975 with regard to matters that are of interest to those victims.  Questioning by victims is reserved for the second phase of the deposition, but is done indirectly, since the suggested questions are entered on a form that is handed to members of the CTI, who in turn hand it over to the Prosecutor.  This indirect mechanism seriously limits any chance the victim has of interrogation for the purpose of getting at the truth.  What is more, the Prosecutor’s Office loses an invaluable means of comparing the depositions and verifying compliance with the legal requirements to qualify for the benefits.  Victims also have difficulty securing legal counsel and representation in judicial proceedings.


28.        Third, the activities of criminal gangs, non-demobilized members of the AUC, new armed groups and existing ones that have become stronger, deter victims from appearing in court and asserting their rights.  During its in loco visits the Inter-American Commission has received information regarding numerous victims of the conflict who are living in areas where the demobilized units are active.  These victims are still being threatened and are subjected to acts of violence, intimidation and territorial control.  The IACHR has made public statements about a number of acts of violence committed during 2007 against persons who had taken the initiative to participate, as victims, in the enforcement of the Justice and Peace Law.


29.        The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed its condemnation of the murder of Mrs. Yolanda Izquierdo, who appeared as a victim of the armed conflict in Colombia at the deposition hearings of paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, in accordance with the procedure established in the Justice and Peace Law.[27]  Mrs. Izquierdo was shot and killed on January 31, 2007, at the entrance to her home in a district of the city of Montería.  She had taken the lead in the complaints lodged by hundreds of campesinos over the seizure of their lands by members of the AUC in the department of Córdoba and –having received death threats since December 2006- had repeatedly asked judicial authorities to provide her with protection, but received no response. The IACHR called upon the Colombian State to conduct a judicial investigation into this crime and to urgently adopt the measures required to afford proper protection to victims of the conflict and their representatives as they exercise their fundamental rights.[28]  In response, the State reported that three arrest warrants had been issued, presumably for persons suspected in the murder.[29]


30.        The IACHR also condemned the killing of Judith Vergara Correa on April 23, 2007, as she was traveling on a public bus, on the Circular Coonatra route, on her way home from work.[30]  Mrs. Vergara Correa was President of the Community Action Board in the El Pesebre district, Comuna 13 of Medellín, was a member of various peace and social development organizations -Corporación para la Paz y el Desarrollo Social (CORPADES), the Asociación de Madres de la Candelaria and REDEPAZ— and was following the depositions proceedings conducted in Medellín pursuant to the Justice and Peace Law.


31.        The IACHR learned that on February 7, 2007, Mrs. Carmen Cecilia Santana Romaña was killed in the municipality of Apartadó, in the department of Antioquia.  At the time she was leading and promoting participation by victims of the conflict in efforts to recover lands lost by displaced campesinos, and in helping victims to take advantage of the mechanisms provided for in the Justice and Peace Law.[31]


32.        The real threat to victims who try to participate in the process is such that the State must take measures.  The Attorney General’s office believes that the potential beneficiaries of the victim and witness protection program should be persons with formal links to a judicial proceeding.  Given the context in which the Justice and Peace Law is being applied, this concept should include not only victims formally linked to the process, but also those persons who want to participate in order to contribute information that will help get at the truth.[32]  As noted earlier, the IACHR recognizes the adoption of Decree 3570 (2007) establishing the so-called Victim and Witness Protection Program for Law 975 (2005)[33] and hopes that it constitutes a positive step toward the State’s fulfillment of its obligation to safeguard the physical integrity of the victims of the armed conflict and to protect their participation in the quest to seek truth, justice and reparations.


33.        Another issue of special concern with regard to the victims is the so-called motion for reparation (incidente de reparación).  The Commission notes that the motion, and even the requirement that the victim attend the reparation proceeding with the perpetrator, could pose an additional risk for the victim.  This issue is one where the problem of protecting the victim is posed by the fact that the only way victims can seek reparation under the Justice and Peace Law is through the courts.


34.        The IACHR again expresses its concern that under the Justice and Peace Law and its regulating decrees, the perpetrators –and eventually the units to which they belong- are the only parties that can be required to pay reparations.[34]  Consequently, the criminal justice system becomes the only avenue to obtain financial damages, which will undoubtedly mean that many victims –simply because of the difficulty in getting access to the courts in Colombia, the evidentiary problems and the strict criteria regarding responsibility in criminal proceedings- will ultimately be denied redress.[35]  This could also cause serious problems in terms of equal opportunity in claiming reparations, to the detriment of the victims who are in the most vulnerable sectors of Colombian society.  It could undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the process as a genuine mechanism of reconciliation and for restoring peaceful coexistence in the areas hardest hit by the violence.


35.        The IACHR has further indicated that in addition to the avenue available in the criminal justice system, the State should establish a policy of reparations designed to redress the damages caused by paramilitary violence insofar as its budgetary resources allow and based on the standards of the international law of human rights, establishing expeditious and low-cost avenues by which to apply for and get into economic reparations programs.  This without prejudice to the other forms of non-pecuniary reparations, collective reparations, and social programs and services that can be established for the population affected by the conflict.[36]  It is the Commission’s understanding that the National Reparations and Reconciliation Commission is already devising a proposed National Reparations Program, which would be comprehensive and include individual and collective measures of reparation, symbolic measures, and tangible measures.[37]  Nonetheless, the Government of Colombia sent the IACHR a request for advice in the process of implementation of an administrative reparations program in Colombia within the framework of Article 18 (e) of the IACHR’s Statute.[38] The IACHR, on its part, will provide the requested advice and appreciates that its recommendation had been taken into account by the Government.  In this regard, the IACR will continue with the follow-up to the implementation of the administrative reparations program.


36.        As for the dismantling of the paramilitary structures, the IACHR has received complaints that some of the old groups are rearming and new groups are being formed, thus perpetuating the violence.  The Eighth Quarterly Report from the Secretary General of the Organization of American States to its Permanent Council –and the two previous reports- confirm that incidents of violence have occurred since the demobilization, according to the information compiled on the ground by the MAPP/OAS Mission.  According to these reports, a number of factors are to blame:  (1) demobilized members are regrouping into criminal gangs that control specific communities and illicit economies; (2) some persons are holdouts who have not yet demobilized; and (3) new armed players have emerged and/or existing ones have become stronger in areas already abandoned by the demobilized groups.[39]


37.        The MAPP/OAS Mission found that elements were rearming in the departments of Guajira, Cesar, Atlántico, Norte de Santander, Bolívar, Córdoba, Tolima, Casanare, Caquetá and Nariño. It also warned that elements may be rearming in Cesar, Magdalena, Sucre, Antioquia, Meta, Nariño, and Putumayo.  The Mission has pointed out that other armed groups are emerging as a self-styled “new generation of paramilitaries”, especially in the area of influence of the now demobilized Bloque Norte, which was under the command of “Jorge 40”.  The Mission has also expressed concern over the situation in southern Cesar and has indicated that in areas like Magdalena, Guajira, Atlántico and Cesar the AUCs are still very much an influence and, it is feared, may have infiltrated some government institutions.  In also points out that in Putumayo, Arauca, Nariño, el Urabá in Chocó, Norte de Santander, the Pacific coast of Valluna and southern Cesar, the people are not seeing any improvement in security and State institutions still have very little presence, which means that outlaw armed groups, illegal structures and illicit economies are able to remain entrenched.[40]


38.        The Colombian Government has recognized this situation and has warned that if the demobilized take up arms again they will no longer qualify for the benefits offered under Law 975 (2005).  It has also reported the creation of a search squad to hunt for the gang of criminals known as “Águilas Negras.”[41]  The Government’s warning about the loss of benefits if demobilized revert to lawlessness is significant.[42]  At the same time, there is still uncertainty as to whether all AUC members actually joined the demobilization process.  Therefore, there is no information available on a significant number of members of these units.


39.        Lastly, in 2007 the Colombian State continued its efforts to get other armed outlaw groups to agree to demobilize, thereby demonstrating its commitment to pacification. 





[1] Article 57 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure provides that:  “1. The Annual Report presented by the Commission to the General Assembly of the OAS shall include the following: [...] h. any general or special report the Commission considers necessary with regard to the situation of human rights in the Member States, and, as the case may be, follow-up reports noting the progress achieved and the difficulties that have existed with respect to the effective observance of human rights; [..] 2. For the preparation and adoption of the reports provided for in paragraph 1.h of this article, the Commission shall gather information from all the sources it deems necessary for the protection of human rights. Prior to its publication in the Annual Report, the Commission shall provide a copy of said report to the respective State. That State may send the Commission the views it deems pertinent within a maximum time period of one month from the date of transmission.  The contents of the report and the decision to publish it shall be within the exclusive discretion of the Commission. "  Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (approved by the Commission at its 109th special session, held December 4-8, 2000, amended at its 116th regular session, held October 7 through 25, 2002, and at its 118th regular session, held October 6 through 24, 2003).

[2] Ministry of the Interior and Justice.  Decree 3570, September 18, 2007, Article 1.  Text sent to the Commission by note 1158 from the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States, dated October 4, 2007.

[3] Created in 1997, this Protection Program was a partnership of government and civil society, to protect certain sectors of the population at particular risk from the actions of the armed outlaw groups as regards their rights to life, integrity, freedom, and personal security. The objectives of the Program are: (1) to strengthen government agencies at the national, regional, and local levels so as to enable them to undertake joint, coordinated, integrated and permanent measures to prevent human rights violations and to protect the rights of inhabitants of targeted at-risk communities; (2) to strengthen the traditional organizational structures, traditional authorities, and social organizations of the targeted at-risk communities so that they can develop initiatives, make proposals, coordinate with public authorities, and become involved in the implementation, follow-up, and oversight of measures aimed at preventing violations and protecting human rights and international humanitarian law; and (3) to re-establish or improve the relationship between the State and the community for the purpose of coordinating, developing, monitoring, and evaluating the preventive and protective measures proposed in the action plans.

[4] The Rapporteur of the Commission for Colombia, Víctor Abramovich, accompanied by members of the Executive Secretariat, visited Bogotá and Medellín from January 16 to 20, 2007; Bogotá from April 9 to 13, 2007; and Bogotá and Meta from November 26 to December 30, 2007. The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of People of African Descent, Racism and Racial Discrimination, Sir Clare Kamau Roberts, accompanied by members of the Executive Secretariat, headed a visit to Bogotá from May 14 to 18, 2007. Between October 29 and November 2, 2007, members of the Executive Secretariat also visited the departments of Magdalena, Santander, Bolívar, La Guajira, and Cesar. In addition, the IACHR monitored the Justice and Peace process in situ as well as the voluntary depositions before the National Unit of Prosecutors for Justice and Peace, at its various offices.

[5] In 2003, the Administration of President Alvaro Uribe reached an agreement with the leaders of the AUC to demobilize the units of this paramilitary group in various areas of the country, in exchange for a resolution from the Attorney General’s Office to refrain from prosecuting the demobilized simply for membership in an outlaw armed group and a promise to establish alternative penalties for those who had committed crimes that went beyond mere membership in those groups.  See the “Agreement of Santa Fe de Ralito” to contribute to peace in Colombia, dated July 15, 2003.  The text of that agreement is available at the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace: See also Law 975 (2005).

[6] Over the past fifteen years, the parties involved in the armed internal conflict – in particular, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and the FARC-EP – have used massacres as strategies against members of the most vulnerable sectors of the civilian population, such as indigenous peoples, the Afro-Colombian communities and the displaced; they have used selective assassination and forced disappearance as a strategy against human rights defenders, officers of the court, union and social leaders, journalists and candidates for elective office, who have repeatedly been singled out as military targets, mainly by the AUC.  The armed dissident groups – chiefly the FARC-EP – have also used indiscriminate attacks with explosives and kidnappings, in violation of the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.  Those attacks have claimed many victims among the civilian population.

[7] Information provided to the IACHR on December 20, 2007 by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States.

[8] For more than a year and a half, the demobilization, surrender of weapons and re-assimilation into civilian life proceeded under the system for individual and collective demobilization instituted by Decree 128 of 2003, which contained regulations for implementing Law 418 of 1997, extended and amended by Law 584 of 1999 and Law 782 of 2002 on reincorporation into civil society.  On June 22, 2005, the Congress of the Republic passed Law 975 (2005), which entered into force once the president signed it on July 22, 2005.  On December 30, 2005, Decree No. 4760 of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice was issued, which regulates certain aspects of Law 975 related to the deadlines for investigating those seeking to avail themselves of the benefits of the law –Article 4- and introducing the principle of timeliness for third parties involved with the possession, holding, transfer, and, in general, ownership of illicit goods handed over to make redress to victims –Article 13.  On September 29, 2006, Decree No. 3391 was published, which partially regulated Law 975 (2005), Ministry of the Interior and Justice, Decree No. 3391 (2006), September 29, 2006, “Partially regulating Law 975 (2005).”

[9] When the constitutionality of Law 975 was challenged in a case before the Constitutional Court, the latter ruled that Law 975 was in general terms constitutional and spelled out conditions for making certain that its provisions were compatible with the Constitution. Among the parameters for interpretation established by the Constitutional Court were rules to protect victims' participation in the process and to give them access to full reparations. The judgment also clarifies the obligation to enforce the reduced prison sentence stipulated therein and to introduce legal consequences, such as loss of benefits, if demobilized personnel claiming benefits under the law should withhold information from the judicial authorities. The judgment also made clear that paramilitary activity is a common crime. In short, demobilized personnel who committed crimes during the armed conflict and who apply for the benefits of Law 975 will have to cooperate with justice so that the victims’ rights to the truth, to justice, to reparations, and to non-repetition can be realized. Constitutional Court, Case D-6032, Judgment C-370/06, made public on July 13, 2006.

[10] OAS Permanent Council, Resolution CP/RES. 859 (1397/04) ”Support to the Peace Process in Colombia,” operative paragraph 3; See IACHR, Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia,  OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102 Doc. 9 rev. 1,  February 26, 2004;  Report on the Demobilization Process in Colombia, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.120 Doc. 60,  December 13, 2004;  Statement of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Application and Scope of the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia, 2006. OEA/Ser/L/V/II. 125 Doc. 15, 1 August 2006.  See also Chapter IV of the annual reports of the IACHR for 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

[11] See IACHR, Report on the Implementation of the Justice and Peace Law: Initial Stages in the Demobilization of the AUC and First Judicial Proceedings. OEA/Ser.L/V/II.129 Doc. 6, October 2, 2007.

[12] See Criminal Code (Law 100 of 1980), Title V, Crimes against Public Security. Chapter 1: Conspiracy, Terrorism and Instigation. Article 186 - Conspiracy to commit crime (amended by Law 365 of 1997, Article 8): "When several persons conspire to commit crimes, each of them shall be punished for that fact alone, with prison sentences of three to six years. If they were active in the field or with weapons, the penalty shall be three to nine years. When the conspiracy is to commit crimes of terrorism, drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, or the formation of death squads, private vigilante groups, or assassination squads, the prison penalty shall be 10 to 15 years, plus a fine of 2000 to 50,000 times the legal minimum monthly wage. The penalty shall be doubled or tripled for those who organize, encourage, promote, direct, lead, constitute or finance conspiracies to commit crime".

[13] It should be noted that by a decision adopted on July 11, 2007, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Colombia dismissed the equivalence between these two legal conducts by establishing the incompatibility of Article 71 of Law 975  (2005) with the Constitution, precisely because of the similar treatment afforded to common crimes and political crimes.

[14] Ministry of the Interior and Justice, Decree Number 423 of February 16, 2007, “Regulating Articles 10 and 11 of Law 975 of 2005 on Justice and Peace. See article 6. Oath of compliance with eligibility requirements.

[15] In December 2006, the list of 2,695 persons who applied for the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law divided up as follows: 761  candidates with arrest warrants, incarceration pending trial or prison orders against them and 1,934 free candidates with no criminal record, as well as 23 representatives.  Information supplied by the Office of the Attorney General to the Commission during its visit to Colombia in January 2007.

[16]  The “brigades of documentation and reference” conducted in 2007 with the support of the DAS, the Army, the Attorney General’s Office and the Registry Office had issued 20,280 identification documents (military cards, judicial certificates, identity cards); information on situations and whereabouts was updated.  Observations of the Republic of Colombia on the “Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law:  initial stages in demobilization of the AUC and first judicial proceedings.”  Note DDH No.  45284/2465/07 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 4, 2007, p. 10.

[17] Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States, on December 20, 2007.

[18] The notices set a 20-day deadline, from the date of publication, for the victims to appear in the respective proceedings.  In the case of unnamed or absent victims, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is to designate a representative on their behalf until their appearance.  Information available at the website of the Office of the Attorney General: See, for example,

[19] Observations of the Republic of Colombia on the “Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law:  initial stages in the demobilization of the AUC and first judicial proceedings.”  Note DDH No.  45284/2465/07 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 4, 2007, p. 19.

[20] Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States on December 20, 2007.

[21] Office of the President of the Republic of Colombia.  Press Secretary’s Office, January 24, 2007, CNTV reglamenta transmisiones de audiencias de paramilitares desmovilizados.  Information available at the following Internet portal:

[22] Office of the Attorney General, Resolution 0-0387 of February 12, 2007, “Establishing guidelines for broadcasting the taking of voluntary depositions on matters within the jurisdiction of the National Prosecutors’  Unit for Justice and Peace, pursuant to Law 975 (2005) and its regulatory decrees 4760  (2005), 2898  and 3391 (2006) and  315  (2007).

[23] Ibid.  Article three.  Clarification or supplementary information in the technical records of the voluntary depositions.  The resolution also provides that in order to assure victims their right to justice, the taking of the statements will be transmitted directly to the chamber arranged for them.  Moreover, the resolution opened the possibility for the responsible prosecutor to impose restrictions on transmitting the deposition whenever the candidate’s statements might pose a threat to the victims or other persons; to the interests of justice or of the investigation, or to the collection of proof, evidence or information legally obtained, the privacy, honor and good name of individuals; and national defense and sovereignty; and also when the victims are juveniles or have suffered sexual violence.

[24] Given the number of prosecutors and the number of armed groups investigated, on average each prosecutor must investigate the activities of three or four groups, or else a single group that has many members. From this one can infer that each prosecutor would be responsible for approximately 100 cases. As well, the IACHR received information indicating that the prosecutors might be investigating as many as 2,000 deeds per group. Visit of the IACHR to Colombia, January 2007.

[25] Ministry of the Interior and Justice, Decree Number 315 of February 7, 2007, “Regulating victims’ participation in the investigation stage of Justice and Peace Proceedings under Law 975 (2005).”

[26] Ibid.  Article 1.

[27] IACHR, Press Release No. 4/07 “IACHR Expresses Its Condemnation of the Murder of a Victim Seeking Reparation under the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia,”  Washington, D.C., February 2, 2007.

[28] Ibid.

[29] The State mentions the apprehension of Alvaro Murillo Montes, a demobilized member of the northern unit of the AUC; Sor Teresa Gómez Alvarez and Víctor Alfonso Rojas Valencia.  Note 552 from the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the OAS, May 2, 2007. The State made also reference to the indictment resolution issued against Alvaro Augusto Murillo Montes, alias “Suero”, as alleged co-author of aggravated homicide and conspiracy to commit crime and to form or promote illegal armed groups.  Information sent by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States, December 20, 2007.

[30] IACHR, Press Release No. 25/07, “IACHR expresses its condemnation of the murder of Judith Vergara Correa”, Washington, D.C., April 30, 2007.

[31] Information received by the Commission during its visit to Colombia in April 2007.

[32] On its April 2007 visit to Colombia, the IACHR raised the issue of the definition of victim with the Office of the Attorney General in connection with the case of Yolanda Izquierdo.  The Attorney General’s Office expressed its willingness to broaden the concept of victim and to seek funding to expand the protection program to include all victims. 

[33] Ministry of the Interior and Justice, Decree 3570 of September 18, 2007, Article 1.  Text sent to the Commission by note 1158 from the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States, October 4, 2007.

            [34] Payment of reparations will be effected via the Reparations Fund administered by the Presidential Agency for Social Action and Cooperation and the State will take on the obligation to make reparation jointly and severally pursuant to Law 975 of 2005 and its enabling regulations issued in decrees.

[35]  It should be noted that the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission – CNRR- has recommended that judicial authorities use the following criteria to assess whether a victim’s participation in the judicial proceedings is property guaranteed: i) access by the victim or his relatives to the various proceedings conducted; ii) the victim’s access to the case file or files related to his case; iii) access to information related to the events under investigation; iv) the opportunity to be effective heard by the judicial authority; and v) the real possibility of offering evidence in connection with the events and the damages suffered.  Observations of the Republic of Colombia to the “Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Implementation of the Justice and Peace Law: initial stages in the Demobilization of the AUC and First Judicial Proceedings.” Note DDH No. 45284/2465/07 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 4, 2007, p. 25.

[36] Pronouncement by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the application and scope of the Justice and Peace Act in the Republic of Colombia.  OEA/Ser/L/V/II. 125 Doc. 15, August 1, 2006, paragraph 99.

[37]  Observations of the Republic of Colombia to the “Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Implementation of the Justice and Peace Law: initial stages in the Demobilization of the AUC and First Judicial Proceedings.” Note DDH No. 45284/2465/07 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 4, 2007, p. 32.

[38] Note DM/VAM/DDH 63682/3408 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, dated December 7, 2007.

[39] See Sixth Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS).  OEA/Ser. G/CP/doc. 4075/06, February 16, 2006.  See also the Seventh Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP-OAS).  See OEA/Ser.G/CP/doc. 4148/06, August 30, 2006; the Eighth Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS). OEA/Ser.G. CP/doc. 4176/07, February 14, 2007; the Ninth Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS), July 3, 2007; and the Tenth Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS) of October 31, 2007.

[40] Eighth Quarterly Report of the Secretary General to the Permanent Council on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS). OEA/Ser.G. CP/doc. 4176/07, February 14, 2007, p. 6.

[41] Information sent to the IACHR by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States by Note No. 079, dated January 23, 2007.  That squad is composed of police, Army, the Administrative Security Department (DAS) and the Technical investigations Corps (CTI) of the Office of the Attorney General and will be assisted by the Gaula Group (Anti-kidnapping and Anti-extortion) and the Mobile Squad of Carabineros (EMCAR), which, together with units from the Thirtieth Brigade, will be in charge of conducting operations. Furthermore, the State reported that, based on intelligence reports and because it was considered that they continued to commit crimes following demobilization, the Government ordered the withdrawal of claims to the legal benefits of Law 975 of 2005 by Messrs. Ever Veloza, alias “HH,” and Carlos Mario Jiménez, alias “Macaco,” who were demobilized members of the AUC. It indicated that, in accordance with the jurisprudence of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, the judicial proceedings against those two individuals would continue until their eligibility requirements had been evaluated, but that, as far as the Government was concerned, they were excluded from the peace process. Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States on December 20, 2007.

            [42] Forfeiture of the benefits accruing to a demobilized person who commits a crime is also contemplated in Article 63 of Law 418 of 1997, extended by Article 1 of Law 782 of 2002 and 1106 of 2006. Information sent to the IACHR by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States on December 20, 2007.