CHAPTER IV - COLOMBIA (Continuation)




40.      Despite the demobilization of the AUC, violence resulting from the armed conflict persists.  The IACHR continues to receive complaints alleging that armed outlaw groups –paramilitaries and guerrillas- and members of the military and police forces continue to be involved in crimes, human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed against the civilian population and that resulted in violations of the right to life, the right to personal integrity and the right to personal liberty.  Because of this, the phenomenon of internal displacement continues.


41.       The “Observatory for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” attached to the Office of the Vice President of the Republic, states that, by its method,[43] it has calculated that in the first nine months of 2007, there were some 13,023 homicides.[44][45] It also writes that during those first nine months of 2007, 21 massacres occurred, claiming the lives of 98 victims  For its part, CINEP –which has its own method for compiling[46] and presenting figures- indicates that in the first half of 2007 there were allegedly 243 extrajudicial executions;[47] 231 intentional homicides of protected persons and 31 forced disappearances.[48]  In keeping with its practice, the Commission believes that in order to present the picture portrayed by government sources and by sources in civil society,[49] it should cite both sources in its report, despite the considerable methodological differences between them. 


42.       In 2007, the IACHR continued to receive information on the many extrajudicial executions attributed to members of the military and police forces.[50]  In addition to the information supplied by Colombian nongovernmental organizations in the hearings,[51] the Commission has learned that after its on-site visit in October 2007, an “International Mission of Observers of Extrajudicial Executions and Impunity in Colombia” prepared a preliminary report in which it concluded[52] that “there are many cases of what international law calls extralegal, arbitrary or summary executions; although the methods used may differ, they follow the same pattern of behavior.  The practice is not abating and occurs in many departments in Colombia.”[53]


43.       Based on testimony and meetings with municipal authorities, the international mission of experts identified a number of patterns followed when extrajudicial executions are committed.  Among the patterns described in the preliminary report are the following:  extrajudicial executions committed in the course of anti-insurgent military operations, although witnesses state that no combat was involved; in many instances, the victim is unlawfully taken into custody at his home or workplace and taken to the place of execution; persons executed or disappeared are generally campesinos, indigenous persons, laborers, disadvantaged persons or community leaders; the military or police report the victims as being insurgents who died in combat; often the victims turn up wearing uniforms and with arms  and military equipment of various kinds, even though, according to the testimony, at the time of their disappearance they were wearing their customary attire and unarmed; occasionally the victims are fingered beforehand by anonymous informants wearing hoods, or re-assimilated persons who would readily provide false information because of their situation; at other times, the victims are selected at random; the inspection of the body is done by the same military or police force that had previously listed the victims as “fallen in combat”; the crime scene is not preserved nor is any evidence or proof; frequently the body shows signs of torture; they are stripped of personal objects and their identification papers are disposed of; the bodies are taken to places far from where the abduction occurred and there are serious difficulties locating family members to identify the body; bodies are buried as unidentified persons, even when they have been identified by family members or third persons; members of the military and police are given financial and professional incentives and rewards for producing “positives”; from the outset, military criminal courts have jurisdiction over such cases and often the Prosecutor’s Office does not challenge the military court’s jurisdiction; relatives of the victims, witnesses and human rights defenders trying to solve such cases are threatened and intimidated; the percentage of those convicted for such crimes is infinitesimal.


44.       In this regard the State has told the IACHR that it practices a “policy of zero tolerance for human rights violations” and that the “cases reported differ according to the source and represent a very small percentage of the outcomes of the operations conducted by the forces of law and order.”[54] It observes that it has responded to complaints received by, for example, issuing Directive No. 10, dated June 6, 2007, in which the Minister of Defense reiterated the duties of the authorities in charge of enforcing law and order and creates a “Committee to Follow-up on Complaints of Alleged Murders of Protected Persons,” composed of the Minister himself, the Commandant of the Military Forces and other ministerial and military officials.  Its purpose is self-analysis, self-control and prevention.  The State also mentions projects to train judges serving on military criminal courts and legal advisors attached to military units.


45.       The State asserts that “the Office of the Attorney General has conducted independent investigations which …. have made significant headway.”[55]  Specifically, it points out that in the last six years, the Attorney General’s Office has conducted 189 investigations “into the homicide of protected persons.” These inquiries have 727 public servants from various institutions under investigation; of these 119 are purportedly deprived of their liberty (although there is no indication whether they are being held pending trial or are serving sentences).  However, the State reports that out of the 189 investigations instituted in the last six years, involving 727 public servants, only nine people have allegedly been convicted.  It does not say whether the convictions have become final or whether sentence was passed without the defendant being present.   It encloses specific information about two cases in which the accused civil servants were acquitted.[56]  The State reported also that, in 2007,129 inquiries pending in the military criminal courts had been transferred to the regular courts.[57]


46.       Given the complaints received and in light of the reports available, the Commission is compelled to reiterate that active protection of the right to life and the other rights recognized in the American Convention is part of the State’s duty to ensure the real and full exercise of those rights to all persons subject to its jurisdiction and requires that it take the measures necessary to prosecute and punish arbitrary violations of the right to life, the right to personal integrity and the right to personal liberty.  It is especially vital that measures be taken to ensure that State forces of law and order do not violate these rights.[58]


47.       During the visit by the Rapporteur for Colombia in November 2007, the IACHR witnessed the investigations being carried out by the Special Committee to Investigate and Expedite Inquiries into the Subject of Extrajudicial Executions in Medellín-Villavicencio[59] of the National Unit for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the District Attorney’s Office, which, on October 1, 2007, was investigating 173 cases in Medellín and 152 in Villavicencio. The IACHR greatly admires the work being done in this area by the National Unit for Human Rights and IHL.


48.       The use of military criminal justice to investigate members of the forces of law and order suspected of extrajudicial executions is a violation of the guarantees provided under articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention.  The Inter-American Court has already established that in a democratic state of laws, the criminal military jurisdiction is to be restricted and exceptional in scope and intended to protect special juridical interests associated with the functions that the law assigns to the military forces.  Hence, military personnel are to be tried for crimes or misdemeanors that, by their nature, harm the juridical interests of the military.[60]  The Inter-American Court has also written that when the military courts assume jurisdiction over a matter that should be heard by the regular courts, the right to the appropriate judge is violated, as is, a fortiori, due process, which, in turn, is intimately linked to the right of access to justice.[61]  One of the guarantees of due process is that the judge presiding over a case must be competent, independent and impartial.[62]


49.       Finally, on the matter of internal displacements, government sources claim 101,819 victims of forced displacement in the first nine months of 2007.[63]  Those state sources calculate that this would be 38% fewer displaced persons than in the same period in 2006.[64]  The Office of the Advisor for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), however, indicates that the figure for the displaced in the first half of 2007 would be 112,099.  While it, too, observes that this would be 27% less than the number recorded in the same period in 2006, it attributes the decline to the fact that victims are fearful of registering with the authorities.[65]


50.       As regards the internal displacement situation, the State points out that it is designing and implementing a program to protect forcibly displaced persons pursuant to Constitutional Court order 200 of 2007, said to be geared toward the protection of leaders and representatives of organizations of the displaced population, as well as displaced persons at special risk. The program is designed to meet their particular needs, by guaranteeing preferential and differential treatment.[66]




51.       Colombia is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country and its own Constitution protects the ethnic and cultural diversity by recognizing the right to equality and requiring that groups discriminated against or marginalized enjoy genuine, real equality.


52.       The constitutional provisions notwithstanding, ethnic groups are targets of violence stemming from the armed conflict, both as individuals and collectively.  This poses a threat to their autonomy and their territorial and cultural rights.  In 2007, the IACHR continued to receive information on the violence that besets, most especially, indigenous peoples, the community councils, and African-Colombian communities in certain regions of the country.

A.         Indigenous peoples


53.         In Colombia, 90 indigenous peoples live in 32 departments nationwide.  They speak 64 different languages and have their own vision of the cosmos, their own history and their own sense of spirituality.  The cultural diversity of these peoples is reflected in their different lifestyles, which are generally associated with the land, their forms of social organization and different ways of resolving conflict, all of which have enabled them to preserve their cultural identity.[67]  This cultural richness is in constant peril, threatened by the unrelenting violence in many of the areas where these people live.


54.        According to the most recent population census, taken in 2005, 1,378,884 indigenous people live in Colombia and represent 3.4% of the country’s total population.  At the present time, there are 710 certified reservations located in 27 departments and 228 municipalities throughout Colombian territory.[68]


55.        The Commission is troubled by the fact that outlaw armed groups like to use the indigenous peoples’ ancestral territories, whether for strategic points or to raise and process illegal substances; that interest appears to have increased in recent years.  This situation, combined with the interest in exploiting the natural resources that exist on those reservations, has caused the violations of indigenous peoples’ individual and collective human rights to increase.  


56.        On August 9, 2007, on the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia said the following:


Indigenous communities have faced and continue to face a very difficult situation: a combination of repeated disregard for the economic, social and cultural rights, and the multiple and frequent assaults on their civil and political rights.  Compounding this is the fact that the areas inhabited by indigenous communities are the scenes of armed conflict, often dramatic in its intensity and destructiveness.  In armed conflicts, an indigenous population continues to suffer a profound victimization at the hands of agents on all sides of the conflict.[69]


57.        The Commission is particularly concerned by the fact that the armed conflict in Colombia has left some indigenous peoples in Colombia malnourished, especially children.  By UNICEF’s calculations, malnutrition is a problem for over 70% of the indigenous children of Colombia.[70]


58.        According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), malnutrition among children in the Embera and Wounaan tribes appears to be as high as 75% on the Pacific coast of the Chocó region.  The Commission has learned of the deaths of children in six Embera Katio families who had been forcibly displaced.  The children had died of hunger and malnutrition.[71]  The Commission was also informed that in the southern part of the department of Putumayo, the Cofan indigenous people are suffering from starvation, as the conflict prevents them from moving about and therefore limits the opportunities for their traditional hunting, fishing and gathering.  Reports are that over 40 thousand Wiwas, Kankuamos, Arhuacos and Koguis indigenous peoples living in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta are living a similar fate.[72]


59.        Malnutrition goes hand-in-hand with the risks posed by the violence stemming from the conflict.  According to the figures of the Observatory for the Presidential Program in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,[73] between January and September 2007 a total of 31 indigenous people were killed in the armed conflict.  There were 41 such deaths in that same period in 2006.[74]  According to this source, the following are among the departments in which these homicides occurred in 2007: Cauca (1), Tolima (2), Córdoba (2), Valle del Cauca (5), Guajira (7) and Nariño (7).[75]  ONIC, for its part, reported 36 homicides and 32 forced disappearances between January and August 2007.[76]  According to the Human Rights Data System of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (SINDHO), a total of 160,102 indigenous persons representing 23 indigenous peoples had their rights violated.  Those most affected were the Guambianos, the Yanaconas and the Embera Chamí.[77]


60.        Concerning the particular situation of the Embera Chamí[78] –beneficiaries of precautionary measures ordered by the IACHR— in May 2007 the Office of the Colombian Ombudsman issued a Risk Report in which he described the threat to these people in the following terms:


The struggle for political and territorial control of the western region of Caldas among the FARC – EP guerrilla movement, the AUC’s Cacique Pipintá Front and the new armed outlaw groups that the Magdalena Medio Self-Defense Brigades are spawning, the funding that the paramilitary movement receives from drug-traffickers whose interests in land seizures and accumulation and laundering of private capital are shepherded by criminal gangs and hired guns coordinated by the Cacique Pipinta Front of the AUC and the interest that the armed outlaws have in holding onto local power by consolidating electoral power or using pressure and coercion to get people to stay away from the polls, are among the major risks today.[79]


61.       The Commission is also disturbed by the events that occurred in the Awa indigenous community.  According to the information received on July 14 and 15, 2007, four members of this community perished -two of whom were minors- when a landmine exploded.[80] The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) complained that 13 indigenous persons from that same ethnic group had also died when a landmine exploded.  The IACHR condemns the use of weapons of this type and calls upon all armed groups to refrain from using them. 


62.        The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) also denounced that in 2007 the Awas indigenous people had been victims of four forced displacements, owing to the fighting between members of the Colombian Army and armed outlaw groups.[81]  The Commission is particularly disturbed by the toll that forced displacement takes on members of indigenous groups, such as the loss of territory, the inability to reach sacred sites, the loss of identity, and others.  The Commission believes that the State of Colombia must devote particular attention to indigenous displaced persons, whose cultures are such that their basic needs related to their identity, vision of the cosmos, language and traditions must be properly addressed.


63.       The Commission has shared with the Colombian State its concern over the vulnerability of the indigenous peoples in Colombia, as attested to by the murders, forced disappearances, massacres and forced displacements to which members of indigenous ethnic groups have fallen victim.  It has also told the State that the ceaseless attacks upon leaders of these ethnic groups is intended to break down their sense of unity in defending their rights, especially the rights to life, autonomy and territory.  The Commission has observed that the constant acts of violence committed against indigenous peoples not only threaten the lives and personal integrity of their members, but also their very existence as peoples.


B.        Afro-Colombian communities and community councils and those of the San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina islands (raizales)


64.       The Commission received information on the situation of the Afro-Colombian communities in 2007, on the occasion of the visit that Commission member Sir Clare K. Roberts, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, made to Bogotá.[82] It also continues to receive complaints of acts of violence and intimidation calculated to bring about the forced displacement of these people, most of whom live on the Pacific coast.


65.        The Commission would first point out that despite the progress made in mapping out a public policy for the Afro-Colombia population, those efforts have not brought about a material improvement in its situation.  It is imperative that the State fill the gaps in the census figures[83] and compile discrete statistical data. This is Colombia’s most important minority.  In order to craft and introduce public policies calculated to be an effective means to conquer the inequalities that persons of African descent endure, then reliable, up-to-date figures will be needed to grasp the true dimensions of the challenges faced.


66.        As the IACHR has already observed, those challenges include a lack of access to basic services, education, income and participation in decision-making at the national and local levels.  For example, the Chocó population of African descent, which accounts for 85% of that department’s total population, lives in dire poverty, with limited sewer and potable water service,  illiteracy rates of 19% and high maternal mortality.  These factors and others have conspired to dampen their celebration of their particular vision of the cosmos, traditions, and culture.  For the most part, this population has dropped below the radar screen of public policy and has been left particularly vulnerable to the players in the armed conflict.


67.        In effect, in 2007 the population of African descent continued to be victims of extrajudicial executions, forced displacements,[84] forced disappearances,[85] forced recruitment and selective arrests, all because of their economic and social exclusion, the deep-seated discrimination against them,[86] and their presence within geographic areas that the various players in the armed conflict regard as having strategic importance.  One of the telling examples is the intensification of the armed conflict in Afro-Colombian neighborhoods in the port city of Buenaventura, in the rivalry for the outlet to the sea for arms and drug trafficking.[87]  Another example is the violence practiced against community councils that dare to claim their right, under Law 70,[88] to collective title to properties in the Chocó area of the Uraba.


68.        In the latter of these two cases, since enactment of Law 70, Afro-Colombian communities along Colombia’s Pacific coast have gotten collective title to 5,177,625 hectares of land.  Yet the Commission continues to receive complaints that a number of the beneficiary communities have been forcibly displaced, and have been unable to get back their land because certain companies have started to cultivate it, especially for oil palm, without first consulting or asking for the consent of the communities involved. In a number of cases, the crops are being protected by elements in the armed conflict and in some instances by the military itself.  The communities are allegedly under heavy pressure to transfer title to the land.  The Government, for its part, has on a number of occasions expressed the view that  expansion of oil palm production is one of its economic development priorities for that region.


69.         The Commission observes that most of the differences between the oil palm producers and the Afro-Colombian communities have been referred to INCODER–the state institution in charge of giving title to those lands–but have purportedly not been effectively or definitively settled.  It is important to note that the complaints received raise serious questions about whether the obligations established under Law 70, which requires that the Afro-Colombian communities be consulted beforehand, are being fulfilled, and about the ecological sustainability of the land use[89] and the involvement of the Afro-Colombian communities.


70.         The forced displacement and blockades cutting off access to food are fertile ground for violations of the civil and political rights of Afro-Colombians, drive them deeper and deeper into poverty and make them increasingly vulnerable by destroying the traditional structures for organizing land, production and their community life.  They are being forcibly displaced and stripped of their communal lands by the criminal conduct of armed outlaws, with law enforcement either cooperating or looking the other way, driving Afro-Colombians into extreme poverty or indigence.


71.         Authorities responsible for providing assistance to internally displaced persons and intra-urban displaced persons need to devote particular attention to the impact that displacement has on the Afro-Colombian population.  It is the Commission’s understanding that the Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation has developed programs to assist displaced persons.  The focus is on preventing displacement, humanitarian relief and the displaced person’s economic and social re-assimilation.  These programs, last six months, however they can be extended depending on the needs of the beneficiaries,[90] are said to have benefited a population that is over 30% Afro-Colombian.[91]  Nonetheless, the Commission understands that the State does not have a program specifically designed for displaced Afro-Colombian communities.


72.        The Commission learned of the October 16, 2007 massacre of six displaced persons, near the city of Istmina in the area of the San Juan and Baudó rivers in the department of Chocó.  The victims, who reportedly had been displaced by the violence in the city of Quibdó, had allegedly accepted a job in a gold mine in Istmina as one of the few ways to earn a living, given the high unemployment among the displaced population.  After two days on the job, they were killed in the mine by an outlaw group.  The UNHCR has reported that this incident was part of the severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the area, where the civilian population continues to be victimized by armed outlaw groups fighting to win control of the territory and illicit businesses.[92]


73.         Throughout the process of demobilization and re-assimilation of the demobilized, the Afro-Colombian communities have had to adapt as former combatants arrived in their communities; as groups rearmed or new groups emerged; and as the areas where the victims of forced displacement lived were repopulated by persons belonging to outlaw groups’ support networks.  In its efforts to set up programs for communities especially hard hit by the conflict and restitution of lands, the National Reparations and Reconciliation Commission must devote special attention to the impact the situation has on Afro-Colombians.




74.      The patterns of threats, harassment, and homicide continued to plague human rights defenders in Colombia in 2007. The IACHR has received complaints reporting e-mailed threats against human rights organizations,[93] acts of intimidation and the theft of information at their main offices, committed by all sides in the conflict.  It also remains concerned by the “phony” charges being brought against human rights defenders, some of whom have cases before the inter-American system.[94]


75.         In March[95] and June of 2007[96] paramilitaries known as “Nueva Generación” leveled threats against human rights defenders, international organizations, social organizations and religious organizations doing their work in the department of Nariño. In February 2007, the Cauca Indigenous Regional Council (ACIN) –whose leaders are the beneficiaries of precautionary measures ordered by the IACHR- and the campesino organization CIMA received threats from the FARC-EP to the effect that they would be regarded as military targets unless they pledged “to demand the resignation” of the president.[97]  These threats put human rights organizations in peril and affect the legitimate exercise of their mission.


76.         The IACHR has also learned of intimidation and violence committed against members of organizations on whose behalf the Commission ordered precautionary measures. The Commission learned that on November 6, 2007, the headquarters of REINICIAR in the city of Bogotá was vandalized and information stolen.[98]  The Commission had ordered precautionary measures for the director of REINICIAR, Jahel Quiroga, and the organization’s members since 2002.  The Commission also learned that on November 4, 2007, armed individuals threatened the life of Mrs. Yolanda Becerra, director of the Organización Femenina Popular (OFP), after she entered her residence in Barrancabermeja.  Both Mrs. Becerra and the OFP have been the beneficiaries of precautionary measures that the Commission ordered since 1999, owing to the constant threats leveled against her and her organization’s work to defend human rights.  This incident simply reconfirms how imperative it is that effective measures be urgently adopted to protect the life and personal integrity of Mrs. Yolanda Becerra, which includes investigation, prosecution and punishment of those guilty of threatening the OFP. The situation is so serious that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia has issued a statement on the matter.[99]


77.        As is clear from the information reported above, the violence practiced against members and leaders of local organizations that try to participate in the proceedings instituted in application of the Justice and Peace Law, to exercise their right to know the truth, to see justice and to get redress, is especially disturbing, as are the acts of intimidation and threat leveled against those who attempt to solve cases of alleged extrajudicial executions of civilians by the forces of law and order.




78.       The IACHR has repeatedly underscored the need to employ effective mechanisms of negotiation to put an end to the violence that the Colombian people have endured for forty years.  The Commission has also observed that for a lasting peace to endure, non-repetition of conduct criminalized under international law, human rights violations and gross violations of international humanitarian law must be guaranteed.  To that end, the crimes must be investigated and reparations made for the consequences of the violence, using mechanisms that can get at the truth of what happened, administer justice and compensate the victims of the conflict.  The challenge in 2007 has been to show the concrete results achieved by dismantling the armed structures of paramilitarism and implementing the framework of laws put into place to prosecute the crimes committed by the AUC.


79.        Correct enforcement of those laws requires a proper definition of the nature and meaning of certain key procedural measures, such as the voluntary deposition provided for under the Justice and Peace Law.  It also requires effective measures to strengthen the role of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and enhance the mechanisms that enable victims to participate and allow the openness that will ensure the transparency and lawfulness of the proceedings.  Then, too, measures will have to be taken to protect the safety of officers of the court, witnesses and victims in general.


80.         The IACHR understands that, apart from the established legal system, the State has a central role and a principal responsibility in ensuring that victims of crimes against international law will have effective and equal access to measures of reparation, in keeping with standards of international human rights law. Reparations for victims of crimes against humanity ought not to depend entirely on a guilty verdict against the perpetrators, nor prior attachment of their personal property, legal or illegal.


81.        The IACHR continues to be concerned by the fact that groups are taking up arms again and new groups are forming.  It again urges the Colombian Government to implement effective mechanisms to ensure that the structures of the AUC are dismantled and criminal gangs broken up.


82.        The Commission is still troubled by the toll that the violence takes on the civilian population, particularly the most vulnerable sectors such as indigenous peoples, the Afro-Colombian communities, and the displaced.  It would draw the State’s attention to the increasing number of complaints alleging the involvement of police or military in violations of human rights.[100]  The Commission also remains concerned over the attacks that outlaw groups and guerrillas level against human rights defenders and social leaders. 


83.        Based on these considerations, the IACHR is recommending to the Colombian State that it:


1.         Bolster the work of the institutions called upon to play a role in implementing the Justice and Peace Law, especially the units of the Attorney General’s Office that play a pivotal investigative role, to provide logistical support and security that will ultimately enable the courts to solve the crimes committed against the victims of the conflict.


2.         Arrange mechanisms to protect and ensure the safety of the victims of the conflict, witnesses and human rights defenders that participate in the investigation and prosecution of those who seek to avail themselves of the Justice and Peace Law.


3.         Adopt effective measures to dismantle the armed outlaw groups and take steps to ensure that emerging groups do not gain strength.


4.         Transfer all cases that may involve extrajudicial executions of civilians from the military criminal justice system to the regular courts, and establish mechanisms to prevent and investigate possible extrajudicial executions.




[43] In a note dated December 20, 2007, the State points out that the procedure followed for statistical studies by the “Observatory for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” attached to the Office of the Vice President of the Republic, consists of compiling the data reported by the National Police Force’s Criminal Research Center and comparing and validating them against its “Weekly Press Log,” which is the outcome of a daily review of national and regional newspapers and radio stations on the internet.  There it gathers reported data on the following:  judicial activity related to human rights and international humanitarian law, captures of combatants, members of outlaw groups, military actions taken by Colombia’s Armed Forces, actions taken by “subversive groups” and self-defense groups; violations of international humanitarian law, additional categories, those violations committed by unknown perpetrators and what it generically referred to as “peace and anti-war manifestations.” This source does not publish a list of victims of these behaviors. See

[44] The Observatory attached to the Office of the Vice President defines homicide exclusively from the perspective of international humanitarian law, and uses the following definition:  Homicide  is committed by “anyone who, on the occasion of or in waging armed conflict, causes the death of a protected person, members of the civilian population, persons not participating in hostilities  and civilians in enemy hands, the wounded, sick or shipwrecked no longer in action; health or religious personnel, journalists on assignment or accredited war correspondents, combatants who have laid down their arms by capture, rendition or other similar cause, and who prior to the commencement of hostilities were regarded as stateless persons or refugees.” By this definition and the content, the information provided could but may not necessarily include conduct committed by members of the forces of law and order or other State agents against members of the civilian population suspected of being somehow involved in the armed conflict.  See

[45] “The condition and operational results of the Public Force (comparative figures for 2006-2007)” in  “Observatory of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Office of the Vice President of the Republic

[46] While CINEP based its figures on journalistic sources, its recent reports state that it has had to “… rely far less on journalistic sources and get its facts firsthand from the victims, their families, their organizations, attorneys and social milieu […].  We are increasingly convinced that we cannot possibly offer reliable statistics on serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in Colombia [..]. There are many reasons why so many –at times an enormous number- of these violations never come to light  or never come to the attention of the organizations that can report them.  There are reasons; often it is fear [..].  Sometimes the reasons have to do with resources and communications in a country of enormous size and with extreme poverty [...].  At times the explanation has to do with a lack of information or the absence of mediating bodies to process and compile complaints. [..]  Often the facts are not learned or reported for months or even years.”  See CINEP Data Bank, Noche y Niebla No. 34/35, p. 15.  For more details see “Síntesis del marco conceptual adoptado por el Banco de Datos” in It should be noted that this source does publish the list of victims of various violations reported in its statistics.

[47] This source makes reference both to “Victims of extrajudicial execution as a result of abuse of authority and social intolerance by direct and indirect agents of the State (human rights violations)” and to “victims recorded simultaneously as victims of extrajudicial executions committed by direct or indirect agents of the State motivated by political persecution (human rights violations) and as intentional homicides of protected persons (violations of international humanitarian law).” See CINEP Data Bank, Noche y Niebla No. 34/35, p. 39.

[48] See CINEP Data Bank, Noche y Niebla No. 34/35, p. 16.

[49] CINEP is one of the few non-official entities gathering data for the whole country from different civil society sources and reporting statistical information related to the armed conflict. The information in the CINEP report comes from 78 civil society organizations, which include human rights organizations, religious organizations, educational organizations, ethnic organizations and unions.  See CINEP Data Bank, Noche y Niebla No. 34/35.

[50] A report presented to the Commission in 2006 spoke of a 92% increase in the number of extrajudicial executions committed by military and police forces in the period from 2002 to 2006.  See Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Observatory of the Colombia–Europe–USA Coordination, “False Positives: Extrajudicial killings directly attributed to the security forces in Colombia, July 2002 to June 2006.” See IACHR, Chapter IV – Colombia in the Annual Report of the IACHR 2006.  See also UN “Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights and international humanitarian law in Colombia, 2006, A/HRC/4/48, March 5, 2007, pp. 27 and 28.  Available at: http://daccessdds.un,org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/GO7/114/10/PDF/G0711410.pdf?OpenElement.

[51] See hearing on “Follow up on the complaints on extrajudicial executions in Colombia,” held during the 130th session of the IACHR, available at

[52] Preliminary report of the “International Mission of Observers on Extrajudicial Executions and Impunity in Colombia,” made public in Bogotá on October 10, 2007.  The Mission was composed of 13 independent experts (jurists, journalists, forensic anthropologists, and human rights experts) from Germany, Spain, the United States, France and the United Kingdom.  It visited the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Bolívar, Caldas, Casanare, Caquetá, Cesar, Guajira, Guaviare, Meta, Norte de Santander, Sucre and Tolima in October 2007, to get testimony on 132 cases of alleged extrajudicial executions and to compile information on judicial proceedings.  The report has had wide repercussions.  See, for example, WOLA’s “U.S. groups, alarmed by increase in extrajudicial executions in Colombia, urge stricter enforcement of U.S. human rights conditions,” October 18, 2007.

[53] Preliminary report of the “International Mission of Observers on Extrajudicial Executions and Impunity in Colombia,” made public in Bogotá on October 10, 2007.

[54] Note DDH. DIH No. 52394/2852 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, October 9, 2007.

[55] Note DDH. DIH No. 52394/2852 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, October 9, 2007.

[56] Note DDH. DIH No. 52394/2852 from the Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, October 9, 2007. The State also provided information on Directives No. 10 and No. 19 of 2007, issued by the Ministry of National Defense regarding obligations of authorities responsible for law enforcement and preventing homicides of “protected persons.” It pointed out that Directive 19 of 2007 imparted instructions for all members of the military aimed at insuring that in the event of a homicide of a “protected person,” all preliminary judicial investigations are carried out by members of the judicial police. Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States on December 20, 2007.

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

[58] I/A Court H.R., Case of Myrna Mack Chang. Judgment of November 25, 2003, Series C No. 101, par. 153.  Case of Bulacio. Judgment of September 18, 2003.  Series C No. 100, par. 111.  Case of Juan Humberto Sánchez. Request of Interpretation of the Judgment of Preliminary Objections, Merits and Reparations. (Art. 67 American Convention on Human Rights). Judgment of November 25, 2003. Series C No. 102, par. 110. 

            [59] The IACHR Rapporteur for Colombia visited the Villavicencio office of the Commission assigned to investigate extrajudicial executions in the departments of Meta and Casanare. That Commission forms part of the Working Group on Extrajudicial Executions established by Resolution 329 of October 5, 2007 of the Attorney of the National Unit of Human Rights and IHL Attorneys. See also Resolution No. 3854 of October 19, 2007, “Constituting a Subunit of the National Unit of Human Rights and IHL Attorneys to boost investigations of homicides allegedly committed by State agents.”

[60] I/A Court H.R., Las Palmeras Case. Judgment of December 6, 2001.  Series C No. 90, par. 51.  Cantoral Benavides Case.  Judgment of August 18, 2000.  Series C No. 69, par. 113, and Durand and Ugarte Case. Judgment of August 16, 2000.  Series C No. 68, par. 117.

[61] I/A Court H.R., Las Palmeras Case. Judgment of December 6, 2001.  Series C No. 90, par. 52.  Cantoral Benavides Case.  Judgment of August 18, 2000.  Series C No. 69, par. 112; and Castillo Petruzzi et al. Case.  Judgment of May 30, 1999.  Series C No. 52, par. 128.

[62] I/A Court H.R., Las Palmeras Case. Judgment of December 6, 2001.  Series C No. 90, par. 53. I/A Court H.R., Case of the 19 Case of the 19 Merchants. Judgment of July 5, 2004. Series C No. 109, par. 174.  Article 221 of the Constitution of Colombia provides that military courts martial or tribunals shall take cognizance, in accordance with the provisions of the Military Penal Code, of crimes committed by members of the Public Forces in active service and in connection with that service.” This provision clearly indicates that the competence of military judges is exceptional in nature and confined to the conduct of the military and police that is directly related to a lawful military or police function.  In an August 5, 1997 ruling on a constitutional challenge, the Full Chamber of the Constitutional Court of Colombia addressed the question of military criminal jurisdiction and wrote, inter alia, that […] in order for a crime to fall within the jurisdiction of the military criminal courts […] the punishable act must be a violation or abuse of power that occurred in the course of an activity directly associated with the mission of the armed force.  […] If, from the outset, the agent’s intent was criminal in nature, and he uses his office to commit a punishable offense, the case falls within the jurisdiction of the regular courts, even in those cases in which some abstract link may exist between the purposes of the public forces and the individual’s punishable offense […] The link between the criminal offense and the service-related function is broken when the crime is unusually serious, as happens in the case of the so called crimes of lese humanité.  In these circumstances, the case must go to the regular courts, since the crime is completely at odds with the constitutional functions of the military and police forces.

[63] “The condition and operational results of the Public Force (comparative figures for 2006-2007)” in  “Observatory of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Office of the Vice President of the Republic

[64] “The condition and operational results of the Public Force (comparative figures for 2006-2007)” in  “Observatory of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Office of the Vice President of the Republic 

[65] Boletín de la Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, cited at:

[66]  A court order following-up on Judgment T-025 of 2004 which indicated the shortcomings to be overcome in order to effectively guarantee enjoyment for displaced persons of the right to life, integrity, liberty, and security. The State also mentions other projects for the displaced: the preventive security project and the regional strengthening of the protection program project. Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States on December 20, 2007.

[67] National Planning Department, Office of the Director of Sustainable Development in the Territories, “Los pueblos indígenas de Colombia en el umbral del nuevo milenio", Bogotá 2004, p. 33.  According to the DNP, the largest peoples have from 149,827 members to 32,899 members.  Other groups have between 14,000 and 26,000 members.  There are 39 indigenous peoples with fewer than 1,000 members, and four peoples with fewer than 100.  They are:  the Dujos, at 98, the Pismira at 61, the Makaguaje at 50 and the Taiwano, with 22 members.  According to Colombia’s National Indigenous Organization, ONIC, 28 indigenous peoples have fewer than 500 members; 15 have fewer than 200, and six fewer than a hundred.   For 2001, Colombia’s National Planning Department estimated the indigenous population at 785,356, which represents 1.83% of the country’s total population.  The Colombian State has established 648 reservations, which represent 27.02% of the national territory.  Most of these are intended for special conservation and preservation.  See information updated to February 2006, Colombian Rural Development Institute, INCODER.

[68] The Commission underscores the fact that the most recent population census –taken in 2005- reportedly included the criterion of self-identification in determining the percentages of indigenous population in Colombia.  See in:  National Statistics Department.  Office of the Director of the Census and Demography.  Colombia Una Nación Multicultural. Su diversidad étnica, October 2006, available at:

[69] United Nations.  Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Colombian office.  Remarks by the Director.  Celebration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.  Bogotá, August 9, 2007. 

[70] UNICEF’s annual report states that ”The nutritional status of rural, indigenous and displaced children is well below the national average – and lower for girls than for boys.”   UNICEF, Annual Report 2006, Colombia, available at: See also the website of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia – ONIC and of the organization Actualidad Étnica.

[71]Desnutrición crónica severa, parasitismo y anemia son las enfermedades más frecuentes en niños y niñas indígenas, según el diagnóstico que realizaron médicos del hospital de EL Santuario. “Muestran retraso en su desarrollo físico, hay pequeños que tienen dos años de edad y sólo pesan cinco kilos.” Available at the website of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia -ONIC-

[72] Available at the internet portal of Actualidad Étnica

[73] The Observatory of the Presidential Program in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which is part of the Office of the Vice President of the Republic, is the vehicle through which the Government observes, analyzes and monitors the complex situation that the country is experiencing with violations of human rights and breaches of International Humanitarian Law.  The Observatory is the program in charge of compiling and processing, in a systematic, timely and reliable fashion, the data on human rights, International Humanitarian Law, and the intensity of the conflict, all of which is necessary to produce the statistics and analytical documents that are instrumental when formulating or adapting public policy in the area of human rights and international humanitarian law.” See in this regard:  Office of Vice President of the Republic.  Observatory of the Presidential Program in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.  Handbook for the formation of observatories in human rights and international humanitarian law, p. 63, available at:  y

[74] Observatory of the Presidential Program in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. “The   condition and operational results of the Public Force (comparative figures for 2006-2007).”  Available at.

[75] Observatory of the Presidential Program in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. “The condition and operational results of the Public Force (comparative figures for 2006-2007).”  Available at.:

[76] The data compiled by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia indicate that the alleged acts of violence involve:  7922 threats, 5431 forced displacements, 3234 accusations, 215 deaths caused by institutional negligence, 48 arbitrary arrests, 41 injured, 36 homicides, 32 forced disappearances, 12 cases of torture, 7 searches, 3 rapes and one abduction, for a total of 16,985 acts of violence.  See in:  National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC.  “Los pueblos Indígenas de Colombia: entre la impunidad generalizada y la desprotección estatal”. Available at:

[77]  Other indigenous peoples that ONIC lists among the victims of human rights violations are:  the Kankuamo; the Nasa; the Embera Katio; the Awa; Wayúu; the Guayabero; the Kogui; the Inga; the Cofan; the Zenu; the Koreguaje; the Pijao; the Kokonuko; the Nukak Makú and the Wiwas. See: “Los pueblos Indígenas de Colombia: entre la impunidad generalizada y la desprotección estatal”. Available at

[78] The Embera Chamí ethnic group, which lives on the reservations of Cañamomo Lomaprieta (22,163 inhabitants), San Lorenzo (14,000 inhabitants), Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de la Montaña (17,500 inhabitants) and Escopetera Pirza (14,000 inhabitants), has publicly declared itself to be resisting the armed confrontation, whereupon the armed outlaw groups in both the guerrilla movement and the paramilitaries unleashed a steady stream of persecution upon it.  Indigenous leaders are in particular danger, especially the municipal mayor, members of the municipal council, leaders of the Caldas Indigenous Regional Council, indigenous candidates for the office of mayor of Riosucio and Supía, the candidates for Riosucio Municipal Council, the indigenous governors of the aforementioned reservations and their municipal council members.  See Office of the Ombudsman of Colombia, Risk Report No. 011-07 A.I of May 28, 2007.

[79] See Office of the Ombudsman of Colombia, Risk Report No. 011-07 A.I of May 28, 2007.

[80] United Nations, Press Release of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, “The violent deaths of Awa indigenous persons in Ricaurte Nariño is condemned,” Bogotá, July 18, 2007.  Available at the Internet Portal:

[81] National Indigenous Organization of Colombia – ONIC, Press release dated October 31, 2006. 

[82] The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination conducted his visit to Colombia from May 14 through 18, 2007.  The findings of the observation mission will be the topic of a report prepared by that rapporteurship.

[83] The most recent nationwide census was taken in 2005, and found that of Colombia’s total population of 4,261,996, 10% acknowledged that they were of African descent.  Various representatives of the Afro-Colombian social movement have taken issue with these figures, and have always maintained that the Afro-Colombian population represents 26% of the total population.  The Afro-Colombian organizations are critical of the census question about ethnicity, both in terms of the way in which it is couched and the way in which the question is asked, the awareness and sensitivity of the Afro-Colombian population, the training provided to census takers and the way in which the census was conducted.  According to information supplied by the Colombian Commission of Jurists during the 126th session of the Commission, October 16 through 27, 2006, the Afro-Colombian population totals 11,745,403.  See also, United Nations, Report of Mr. Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, E/CN.4/2004/18/Add.3, February 23, 2004, paragraph 6.

[84] See, for example, CODHES, press release of October 26, 2007, which states that “some 347 people were forced from the rural subdivisions of San Agustín and Brisas, located in the vicinity of Sipí. These people came to the areas of Negrita (Istmina), Chambacú (Sipí) and San Miguel (Medio San Juan). This move from one rural settlement to another is occurring in the midst of multiple blockades mounted by these armed groups which, because of a land dispute, are refusing to allow people or boats on the Sipi River to enter or leave.  People are unable to get to the farms to pick crops – with the result that there is a severe food shortage and food crisis in the community.”

[85] See, for example, CODHES, press release dated October 26, 2007, which reports that during the first week in October 2007, around 10 people became the victims of forced disappearance in the municipality of Istmina, department of Chocó.

            [86] IACHR, Las mujeres frente a la violencia y la discriminación derivadas del conflicto armado en Colombia (Women and the violence and discrimination derived from the armed conflict in Colombia), October 18, 2006 (OEA/SER.L/V/II., pp. 39-47/

[87] The Inter-Ecclesiastical Commission for Justice and Peace reports that the exoduses from one neighborhood to another began in the second half of 2006 and have continued throughout 2007.  They are the product of armed threats, murders, intimidation, extrajudicial executions, rivalries among the “demobilized”; the threats or crimes committed by the FARC EP guerrilla militias in the neighborhoods of the city.  Areas with access to the sea in which military operations are conducted, are the very areas where infrastructure works are being planned.  The people living in these sectors are accused of belonging to the guerrilla movement or are subjected to constant searches, control, and intimidation tactics to get them to leave the neighborhood.  Inter-Ecclesiastical Commission for Justice and Peace, Report No. 3 Buenaventura,” May 10, 2007.

[88] Law 70, enacted in 1993, recognizes the Afro-Colombian communities’ right to collective property ownership.  These communities have been settling on vacant land in the rural areas near the rivers in the Pacific basin; the right to an education suited to those communities’ needs and cultural aspirations (ethno-education); and the Afro-Colombian communities’ right to be involved in such bodies as Land Planning Councils and the Executive Boards of the Autonomous Regional Corporations.

[89] It is alleged that oil palm cultivation as a mono crop is damaging to the land and saps the soil of its minerals after only a few growing seasons; in the process the biodiversity of the regions where the oil palm is cultivated is diminished.

            [90] Extension ordered by Judgment C-278 of the Constitutional Court, of April 18, 2007. Information provided by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States on December 20, 2007.

[91] Acción Social serves 180 of the 1099 municipalities in Colombia, among them 46 in Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Chocó and part of Antioquia where the Afro-Colombian population accounts for over 50% of the total.  See:

[92] UNHCR Press Bulletin dated October 24, 2007, UNHCR warns of the grave humanitarian situation in El Chocó, at

[93] On February 8, 2007, the ILO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner issued a press statement in which they expressed concern over the threats that 70 nongovernmental organizations  had received, which included human rights organizations, unions and social organizations See  See also FIDH and OMCT.  The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, “Colombia: las tinieblas de la impunidad: muerte y presecución a los defensores de derechos humanos” No. 478/3 – July 2007, p. 21.

[94] See Human Rights First, Colombia’s Human Rights Defenders in Danger.  Case Studies of Unfounded Criminal Investigations against Human Rights Defenders.  October 2007. 

[95] See FIDH and OMCT, an Urgent Appeal from the Observatory, COL 007 / 0407 / OBS 030 dated April 3, 2007, where it reports that the group that calls itself “Nueva Generación” sent threatening e-mails to the Tumaco Pastoral Commission, the UNIPA, the CPDH of Nariño, the OIM, FUNDEPAZ, AVRE, the FCSPP, MODEP and the FUN labeling them as “terrorists under the cover of human rights.”

[96] See Office of the United Nations High Commissioner in Colombia, press release dated June 12, 2007, available at

[97] See FIDH and OMCT, Urgent Appeal from the Observatory COL 007 / 0407 / OBS 030, dated April 3, 2007..

[98] Urgent Action from REINICIAR, dated November 6, 2007.

[99] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner in Colombia, press release dated November 6, 2007. See:

[100]  See hearings on “Situation of Afrodescendants in Colombia” held during the 127th session of the IACHR, “Human Rights Situation in Colombia,” held during the 128th session of the IACHR, and on “Follow up on the complaints on extrajudicial executions in Colombia,” held during the 130th session of the IACHR, audio available at