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          1.       During its 102° session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Commission" or "the IACHR") adopted the Third Report on the Human Rights Situation in Colombia[1] (hereinafter "the Third Report"), and released it on March 10, 1999.  In that Report the Commission analyzed protection for human rights in the legal and political system in place in the Republic of Colombia (hereinafter "the State," "Colombia," or "the Colombian State"); respect for economic, social, and cultural rights; violence and violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law; the administration of justice and the rule of law; the situation of human rights defenders; freedom of expression, freedom of association, and political rights; the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of Afro-Colombian communities, women's rights, and the rights of the child; and the situation of persons deprived of liberty.  In addition, it made a series of recommendations in light of its conclusions. 

          2.       On December 1°, 1999, the Commission asked the State to provide information on compliance with the recommendations made in the Third Report.  On January 18, the State requested an extension of the time for submitting information, which was duly granted.  On February 4, 2000, the State submitted its "Report on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Third Report of the IACHR" (hereinafter "the State's Report").  This extensive document, prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia, is based on information provided by the State entities involved in implementing the measures whose adoption is recommended by the Commission's Third Report.  

3.                  During its 106° period of sessions the IACHR issued its “Draft Follow–Up Report” and on March 3, 2000 it transmitted a copy to the State with a 30-day period to present its observations.  On April 3, 2000 the State presented its observations which have been incorporated, where appropriate, to the final version of this Report which was approved by the IACHR on April 13, 2000. 

          4.       The Commission has evaluated compliance with its recommendations mainly by analyzing the information provided by the State and other reliable sources.  The totality of these elements has been considered in the context of the overall situation and the facts that have come to the attention of the IACHR in the course of 1999 in carrying out its mandate to promote and protect human rights in the region. 

          5.       This Follow-up Report is divided into five sections which consider the measures adopted to address the challenges that stem from political violence, impunity, forced displacement, and attacks on those who work for human rights.  In addition, reference is made to advances in carrying out obligations that stem from social, economic, and cultural rights, as well as the protection of children, women, and indigenous peoples.   


          6.       In its Third Report, the Commission presented its analysis of the human rights situation in Colombia in the context of the internal armed conflict.  On that occasion, it described the origin and cycles of the conflict and the political violence that is gripping Colombian society, the armed actors, and the compatibility of their acts with the norms of human rights law and international humanitarian law in force for the Colombian State.  

          7.       In light of the conclusions reached in the Third Report, the Commission recommended the adoption of a series of measures aimed at ensuring respect for international standards regarding human rights and international humanitarian law by state agents.  It also recommended combating, dismantling, and disarming the paramilitary groups and all other outlawed groups known as Autodefensas that operate in Colombia (Chapter IV, Recommendation 6), as well as the derogation of norms that provide for the formation of groups known as CONVIVIR (Chapter IV, Recommendation 7). 

          8.       As is publicly known, in 1999 the consequences of the armed conflict have been the pretext for the violation of fundamental human rights such as the right to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty, on Colombian soil.  Indeed, 1999 saw the highest levels of violence in the last 20 years.  Extrajudicial executions of one or more persons for political motives or "social cleansing," as well as assassination attempts,[2] acts of violence aimed at intimidating the population, public accusations, and threats have continued to provoke pain, terror, and the consequent forced displacement of the survivors. 

          9.       The victims of individual killings have included, among others, persons prominent in politics, journalism,[3] cultural and academic life,[4] trade union leaders, human rights defenders, and representatives of indigenous communities and displaced communities, as well as state employees working in the justice system or the Executive. In many of these cases, no one has claimed responsibility nor has there been any determination as to who carried out these crimes.  Death threats have multiplied, and many citizens have had to leave their homes and even the country, in some cases with State assistance, to keep themselves and their families alive.

          10.     As regards collective violations of the right to life, the statistics compiled by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman indicate that in 1999 there were 403 massacres with 1,836 victims, which represents an increase of some 40%, when compared to the 235 such acts perpetrated in 1998.[5]  The departments most affected include Antioquia (109 massacres), Valle del Cauca (34), Norte de Santander (31), Bolívar (25), and Cesar (23).[6] 

          11.     In light of these elements, the Commission will now consider compliance with the recommendations of the Third Report, directed to the parties to Colombia's internal armed conflict, to respect fundamental human rights, and, through their command and control structures, to respect, implement, and enforce the norms and principles that govern hostilities set forth in international humanitarian law, with a special emphasis on the rules that provide protection to civilians.  

          A.        Violations of fundamental human rights by State agents 

          12.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended the adoption of immediate measures to prevent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by State agents.  Studies by Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (CINEP) indicate that during the period from April to December 1999, there have been approximately 1,500 episodes of political persecution and abuse of authority, involving extrajudicial executions, disappearances, violations of physical integrity, and, above all, arbitrary detentions with the direct participation of State agents.[7]  In addition, according to data provided by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, six of the 403 massacres perpetrated in 1999, with a total of 20 victims, have been attributed to State agents.[8]  Though, in statistical terms, this represents only a small percentage of the violations committed during the period under study (in the case of massacres, 1% of the total), the IACHR has received denunciations indicating the participation of members of the security forces in events affecting communities protected by precautionary measures issued by the Commission.[9]  The Commission must reiterate its concern over the persistence of actions constituting serious violations of the American Convention and international law by State agents. 

          13.     In addition, the Commission continues to receive allegations as to the omissions of the Armed Forces and National Police in cases in which there are clear indications of imminent paramilitary attacks.  Some of these episodes have been widely reported by the press, such as the massacres at La Gabarra, in Norte de Santander.  These massacres took place August 20 to 22, 1999, despite the efforts of the organizations that approached the authorities to seek the adoption of preventive measures on behalf of the civilian population, unfortunately without success.[10]  In the particular case of the department of Antioquia, another epicenter of paramilitary violence against the civilian population, the Commission continues to receive reports and information from various sources, now recorded in its files, on situations in which the National Army or Police have withdrawn from their posts just before incursions by paramilitary groups to attack and terrorize the civilian population. 

          14.     In the face of the aforementioned situations, which constitute serious violations of human rights and are entirely incompatible with international humanitarian law, the Commission reiterates that measures should be adopted to undertake a serious investigation and the impartial and effective prosecution, by the civilian justice system, of those who participate in either the planning or execution of such acts (Chapter IV, Recommendation 4).  The recommendations of the Commission in this area are detailed infra, in the section on Administration of Justice and Rule of Law. 

          15.     In addition, the Commission has recommended that members of the security forces involved in human violations be removed from active duty pending the final decision in any disciplinary or criminal proceedings (Chapter IV, Recommendation 5).  In this respect, it does not appear from the State's Report that any legislative measure has been adopted to comply with this recommendation.[11]   

          16.     The Commission has learned that despite the failure to implement norms in this regard, on September 1, 1999, the President of the Republic removed Brig. Gen. Alberto Bayardo Bravo Silva from active duty[12] in view of his involvement in the official omissions that presumably contributed to the perpetration of the massacres at La Gabarra. The Police Commander for Norte de Santander and the departmental director of the DAS were also allegedly removed from their posts as a result of the same events.[13]  The State has informed the Commission that the Human Rights Unit of the Prosecutor´s Office has initiated a number of investigations relating to members of the Army and the Police involved in these massacres[14].  The Commission hopes the State will continue to prosecute and remove from active duty agents of the Armed Forces and National Police involved in human rights violations.  

          B.        The growing activity of the paramilitary groups and the new regime of the groups known as CONVIVIRs 

          17.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended the immediate adoption of measures to combat, dismantle, and disarm all paramilitary and other proscribed groups known as autodefensas operating in Colombia, including the prosecution and punishment of their leaders, members and supporters (Chapter IV, Recommendation 6). 

          18.     The State indicated that its "Policy of promotion, respect, and guarantee of human rights and application of international humanitarian law" includes among its priorities combating the Autodefensas groups from two complementary angles: first, directly and effectively countering their actions, and second, deterrent in nature, dismantling the factors that contribute to their rise and development. 

          19.     In relation to the first aspect of this policy, the state has reported that between the beginning of January and the end of February 2000, 14 paramilitaries were killed, 46 prisoners were taken and that it had seized a considerable amount of sophisticated war material.  According to the data provided by the General Command of the Army, from January to October 1999 a total of 188 members of paramilitary groups were arrested, and there were 37 paramilitary casualties as a result of operations of the Armed Forces, National Police, CTI, and DAS.  The statistics provided by the State also indicate that between 1995 and 1999 the Armed Forces and the Police had 256 armed confrontations with these groups in which 88 of their members were killed and 705 were captured.  In Colombia’s view, these figures reflect the State’s commitment to combat these groups.  However, official figures also show that the Autodefensas have grown to approximately five thousand members[15] and that they continue to deploy “war fronts” [16] in Colombian territory, to violate humanitarian law and to terrify defenseless civilians. 

          20.     Beyond the scant efforts to dismantle these groups, the Commission must note that there have been public accusations regarding the participation of sectors of the Army in strengthening these groups.[17]  Indeed, the Commission continues to receive information and reports from various sources, which are in its files, indicating that some State agents support and act alongside paramilitary groups and Autodefensas.  

          21.     The Commission takes note of the reply consistently articulated by the representatives of the Executive to the effect that there is no official policy of support for the paramilitary groups.  Nonetheless, it is a fact that paramilitary violence has worsened and that these groups continue to resort increasingly to terror and violence as a means of furthering their objectives.  In effect, the cumulative figures of the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman indicate that in 1999 there were 155 massacres with 902 victims attributed to the Autodefensas, accounting for almost 40% of the total number of such incidents, and almost 50% of the victims.[18]  

          22.     These episodes continue to be preceded by the announcement of the creation of new "war fronts," widespread threats, and the setting of deadlines for abandoning certain localities.  The Autodefensas continue calling into question the neutrality of communities of displaced persons such as at Turbo[19], and communities of peace such as San José de Apartadó[20], and issuing lists of persons "virtually sentenced to death."[21]  Although peasants have continued to be the social sector most affected by the political violence,[22] the threats have extended to other sectors of society, such as the university. Specifically, the Commission has received information indicating that in 1999, a paramilitary group called "Autodefensas Universidad de Antioquia" threatened to kill members of the academic community there.[23]  Several members of the university community have been killed on campus[24], including Professor Hernán Henao Delgado, Director of the Instituto de Estudios Regionales, who was assassinated in his own office on May 4, 1999. 

          23.     In relation to the second line of policy implemented by the State--i.e. actions undertaken in relation to the factors that make it possible for these groups to form and develop--the State reported that the Office of the Vice President of the Republic has offered certain forms of logistical support to the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the Human Rights Unit and has fostered the formation of joint immediate response teams to collect the first evidence right after the fact (see section on administration of justice, infra).  As a result of the measures adopted, the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor-General is reported to have accused 679 persons as alleged members of Autodefensas and issued 379 arrest warrants for alleged members of these groups from their formation up to the end of 1995.[25]  The Commission notes, however, that the State has not submitted information on the number of actual arrests or the number of convictions. 

          24.     With respect to the recommendation aimed at dismantling the services known as Vigilance and Private Security Cooperatives, or CONVIVIR (Cooperativas de Vigilancia y Seguridad Privada), the State has reported that since the issuance of Decree 2974 of December 31, 1997, a gradual and steady effort has been in place that has led to the cancellation of 130 licenses, and the suspension of another 174.  In addition, in 89 cases, expiring licenses were not reissued.  Moreover, pursuant to Judgment C-572 (1997) of the Constitutional Court, these services were instructed to return any of the arms still in their possession that had been issued to them whose use is restricted to the armed forces and national police. 

          25.     Accordingly, the State reported that of the 414 special vigilance and private security cooperatives existing as of December 31, 1997, only 23 such special services have a temporary operating license today.  The State has indicated that those 23 special services have complied with the requirements set forth in Decree 2974, such as appointing a clearly-established legal representative, having a delimited scope of action, and clearly identifying its members as not including any persons with a criminal record. They are to operate under the close supervision of the Superintendency, and there must not be any complaints against them.[26]  Based on the information provided, the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor-General has pursued criminal charges against those groups that degenerated into private justice or "paramilitary" groups. 

          26.     The Commission notes that despite the restrictions imposed since 1997, which it reported in its Third Report, the legislation that allows for the operation of these private vigilance services has not been derogated.  Although the substantial reduction in the number of licenses is encouraging, the legislation, and therefore the possibility of these groups operating, continues in force.

           C.   Violations of international humanitarian law by the armed dissident groups 

          27.     The Commission notes with alarm that in 1999 there was also an increase in violations of international law by armed dissident groups.  The violations run the gamut from kidnappings and extrajudicial executions to indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population and massacres. 

          28.     As is public knowledge, the kidnappings by the ELN affected innocent civilians, such as the passengers of Avianca flight 9463, the parishioners at the La María Church in Cali, and the fishermen on the Magdalena river, among others.  In addition, the FARC claimed responsibility for the brutal murder of three U.S. indigenous rights activists. The Commission has made a public pronouncement on the incompatibility of these acts with the standards of international law.[27]  Statistics compiled by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman point to these groups as being responsible for 16% of the massacres carried out during the period under study.[28] 

          29.     The Commission would like to reiterate that compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law is not only an obligation of the parties to the conflict, but that it will eventually help bring about a climate for achieving peace and national reconciliation. 


          30.     The concluding observations in the Third Report are based mainly on the notion that overcoming violence in Colombia must be based on clarifying the facts of human rights violations, and prosecuting and punishing the persons responsible, as provided by law, and making reparation for the damage caused to the victims.  Only by upholding the rule of law and the proper administration of justice will be it possible to break the vicious cycle of impunity, re-establish public order, and ensure the observance of fundamental rights and social peace.[29]  

          31.     In the following sections the Commission will refer to compliance with the recommendations aimed at shoring up the administration of justice by adopting and implementing norms that are in line with general principles such as access to justice, the impartiality of the court, procedural equality of the parties, as well as the effectiveness of the decisions of the organs associated with the administration of justice. 

          A.        Legislative measures 

          32.     In its Third Report, the Commission made a series of recommendations whose implementation requires the adoption of legislative measures.  In the following sections the Commission will refer to the measures adopted in relation to military justice, the elimination of the so-called "regional" justice system, the adoption of a forced disappearance law, and review of disciplinary sanctions in cases involving human rights violations. 

          1.         The draft Military Criminal Code 

          33.     The IACHR has repeatedly expressed its concern over the trial by the military criminal courts of Colombia of serious human rights violations alleged to have been committed by members of the Armed Forces.[30]  As a result, it has been recommended that the norms and practices in place be reviewed and amended with a view to bringing them into line with the fundamental principles of due process. 

          34.     Specifically, the Third Report recommended that the necessary measures be adopted to limit the use of the military justice system to service-related offenses.  In addition, it was recommended that Judgment 358 of the Constitutional Court,[31] which establishes that proceedings in cases of serious human rights violations must take place before the civilian courts, should be fully implemented. (Chapter V, Recommendations 6 and 7).  

          35.     After a lengthy period of discussion with state agencies, civil society organizations, and the international community about the need to reform the military criminal justice system, on August 12, 1999, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia adopted Law 522, approving the Military Criminal Code (hereinafter "the new Code"). The Commission agrees with the State that the adoption of this law is a step forward in the process of modernizing the Armed Forces and National Police, pursuant to Article 221 of the Constitution, and in light of its interpretation by the Constitutional Court.  In addition, it recognizes the value and symbolism of this reform which, in the words of the State, has occurred "in the circumstances of the armed conflict, and in the face of the complex challenges facing the Armed Forces and National Police." 

          36.     The new Code considers as service-related offenses such conduct as is committed by the members of the Armed Forces and National Police "derived from the performance of their military or police function."[32]  Article 2 sets forth criteria for raising and resolving jurisdictional conflicts between the civilian justice system and the military criminal justice system.  Concretely, for the purposes of raising and deciding jurisdictional conflicts, one must consider, first, whether the proceedings involve members of the Armed Forces or National Police.  Second is the causal factor, i.e., whether the criminal conduct clearly stems from the function performed; and third, whether it is a regulated function, for only those service-related acts which according to the current norms are considered to be derived from the performance of their military or police function would constitute offenses over which the military criminal courts should have exclusive jurisdiction.  Article 3 expressly excludes genocide, forced disappearance of persons, and torture from the military jurisdiction, giving the civilian justice system exclusive jurisdiction over such cases.  As the State has said, in these cases it will not be possible to argue that they are "service-related," as they entail conduct totally at odds with the protection function assigned to the Armed Forces and National Police, and it will not be possible to raise jurisdictional conflicts with respect to any of these.  The new Code maintains the special or abbreviated procedure for military offenses directly related to internal discipline in the armed forces.[33] 

          37.     The Commission notes, however, that the wording of this provision does not stand in the way of invoking the jurisdiction of the military criminal courts to try conduct such as extrajudicial executions, sex crimes, or other conduct which, despite constituting serious violations of human rights, are subject to a case-by-case examination as to whether they are service-related.  Indeed, the new Code, in principle, considers that military judges should sit in judgment in trials for crimes committed by members of the Armed Forces or National Police, since it provides that only the judges and courts of the military justice system have jurisdiction to hear cases in which the criminal proceedings have been initiated with respect to offenses included in the Code (Article 16).  The Superior Council of the Judiciary will continue to be entrusted with deciding jurisdictional disputes.  It should be noted that the language of the Code does not establish guidelines that ensure that the Superior Council of the Judiciary will resolve the disputes brought before it in a manner compatible with the decision of the Constitutional Court and international standards.[34]  

          38.     The provision that establishes that "in no case may the crimes of torture, genocide, and forced disappearance of persons as understood in the terms defined in international conventions and treaties ratified by Colombia, be considered service-related" is a fundamental safeguard.  Nonetheless, forced disappearance has yet to be defined as a crime in the domestic criminal law (see discussion infra), and the State has yet to ratify any treaty in the area of forced disappearance.  Therefore, there are serious questions as to how the charges and jurisdictions will be determined in cases involving such conduct. 

          39.     The Commission also notes that this provision continues to make it possible to argue due obedience as grounds for exoneration of liability.  The State considers that due obedience is regulated in a satisfactory manner in the Code, since it reproduces the provision in the Criminal Code, which provides that one can argue the performance of lawful orders, issued by a competent authority, following all legal formalities, as grounds for exoneration of liability.[35]  In this respect, the Commission would like to point out that the State organs still must interpret these norms in a manner consistent with the standards established by international law as it applies to the question.[36]  

          40.     With respect to the guarantees of independence of military judges, the provision also provides that in no case can members of the Armed Forces or National Police hold command functions and, at the same time, the functions of investigation, accusation, and judgment, thereby doing away with the current system, which allows the commanding officers to sit as judges in cases involving conduct carried out under their command.  In addition, the new Code eliminates the court-martial procedure (Consejo de Guerra).  Even though it keeps the proceedings before the Corte Marcial y Especial, there will no longer be vocales or jurors, and their judgments must be grounded in the applicable law.  The Commission notes, however, that the Superior Military Tribunal shall be presided over by the General Commander of the Armed Forces (Article 235), and the courts of first instance shall be linked to the military command structure, insofar as the Office of Inspector General of the Army has jurisdiction to sit in judgment, in the first instance, in criminal matters (Article 241). 

          41.     The new Code has the virtue of consolidating the position of the Public Ministry in proceedings before the military criminal jurisdiction, and provides for its role as participant in the process, to ensure respect for human rights and the fulfillment of due process guarantees.[37]  In addition, it establishes the civilian party within the military criminal procedure, with full powers to take procedural initiatives in the case.[38] Nonetheless, the Commission understands that there are limitations on the civilian party's access to classified or confidential documents of the Armed Forces and National Police that may be needed in the proceedings, which shall be kept separately, and therefore the civilian party may have no knowledge of them (Article 310). 

          42.     Despite the concerns expressed here, which were already stated in part in the Third Report,[39] the Commission considers that the reforms to the military criminal justice system in matters such as the establishment of military judges and prosecutors outside of the line of command, and elimination of the vocales from the court martials, constitute a partial advance in the adoption of norms that ensure respect for judicial guarantees.  Also noteworthy are the permanent presence of the Office of the Procurator-General of the Nation and the institutionalization of the civil party and his or her role in the proceedings initiated in that jurisdiction. 

          43.     In any event, it is worrisome that the entry into force of the new Code is subject to the adoption of a ley estatutaria, or implementing legislation, to provide for the structure of the administration of military justice.  In this regard, other partial advances have not been made effective, and depend on the promulgation of another norm whose development requires additional procedures and qualified majorities.  

          44.     The Commission shall continue to monitor compliance with its recommendations in light of the new Military Criminal Code, and in particular, how the competent organs interpret the Code once it enters into force. 

          2.         The dismantling of the "faceless" justice jurisdiction 

          45.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended that the State take steps immediately to eliminate the system known as justicia regional pursuant to the repeated recommendations of international organs for the promotion and protection of human rights (Chapter V, Recommendation 8)

          46.     The State reported that the Ley Estatutaria de la Administración de Justicia[40] provided for ending the Regional Justice system by June 30, 1999.  In the wake of this law, the State decided to give legislative impetus to several adjustments in the organization of the civilian Judicial branch, which provide for protection for judicial officers and witnesses who participate in the investigation and prosecution of crimes of drug-trafficking and terrorism.  Concretely, through Law 504 of 1999, some modifications were made to the Code of Criminal Procedure which, in exceptional cases, withhold the identities of prosecutors and witnesses as a protective measure in criminal proceedings for extremely serious offenses. 

          47.     The legislation establishes the principle of identifying public employees in charge of judging the most serious offenses perpetrated by members of criminal organizations.  However, with a view to guaranteeing the protection of the judicial officers entrusted with the criminal investigation, authorization is given to keep their identities secret. The Prosecutor-General of the Nation may authorize keeping the identities of the prosecutors under seal only in those cases in which a showing is made that the life or integrity of the officer is at risk, after obtaining an opinion from the Public Ministry.  In any event, the order to keep the identity under seal is valid during the investigation but not during the trial.  Similarly, the Office of the Prosecutor-General of the Nation was authorized, only in special and individually-chosen cases, to order that the identity of witnesses be kept under seal.  In those exceptional cases in which the use of testimony from unidentified witnesses is allowed, it shall not obstruct the right to cross-examination, since the witnesses may be questioned by all of the participants in the process.  Also noteworthy is the legal rule that disallows convictions based exclusively on statements given by witnesses whose identity has been kept under seal.

          48.     In relation to the court, a special category of judges has been provided for within the civilian justice system to hear cases of this type.  Specialized circuit judges will sit in the seats of the judicial districts; they shall be the judges of first instance in such cases, the second instance having been entrusted to a specialized court in Bogotá.  The legislation still provides for the existence of clear and compelling indicia of liability (indicio grave de responsabilidad) as the basis for prolonged preventive detention.[41]

           49.     The State has recognized that the mechanism of specialized forms of justice has been subjected to much criticism for subordinating the rights of the accused. Nonetheless, it considers that it is an exceptional institution used exclusively for safeguarding the persons involved in the proceedings, to ensure their own rights.[42] 

          50.     The Commission considers the abolition of the "faceless judge" courts to be a positive measure.  In addition, as will be discussed infra, it is aware of the problems associated with protecting the personal integrity of judicial officers, witnesses, and victims who participate in criminal proceedings. 

          51.     Nonetheless, continuing to retain a "special" jurisdiction for the trial of certain offenses is a source of concern, given the emphasis on the continuing use of measures whose effects could limit the full enjoyment of guarantees such as equality before the law and the courts, the presumption of innocence, and the right to defense.[43] Therefore, the Commission shall continue to pay close attention to the effects that the interpretation and application of the laws providing for keeping the identity of prosecutors and witnesses under seal may have on respect for the due process guarantees of the defendant in particular cases.  

          3.   The failure to adopt a law to criminalize the forced disappearance of persons  

          52.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended to the State that it consider the possibility of ratifying the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons (Chapter II, Recommendation 8), already signed by the State in 1994.  The Report also makes reference to the fact that in 1998, a proposed law was sent once again to the Colombian Congress seeking to define as a crime under domestic law the forced disappearance of persons,[44] genocide, and the forced displacement of persons[45], and to define and provide for harsher penalties for torture.[46]  At the time of the approval of the Third Report, this proposed law had been adopted in the lower chamber, and was to come before the Senate in subsequent months.[47] 

          53.     Consideration of this proposed law in the legislative chambers concluded on November 30, 1999, with the approval of Law 142/98.  Nonetheless, though recognizing that including the crime in the domestic legal order was tantamount to overcoming the objections to ratification of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, the State reported that it had


deemed it advisable to reopen the debate in the plenary sessions, through the mechanism of a presidential objection to the proposal, regarding the definition of the crime of genocide, considering that it went beyond the international provision, on setting forth the possibility of political genocide, as the IACHR itself has noted.  The Executive considers that this provision, in addition to not corresponding to what is established in the respective treaty, is highly inadvisable given the circumstances of the internal armed conflict affecting the country.[48] 

In effect, the provision met with the objection of the President of the Republic on December 30, 1999,[49] on grounds of unconstitutionality and inadvisability of the article defining genocide against "a political group or collectivity, with its own identity, for political motives."  The Executive argued that this expression "could impede, in practice, the fulfillment of the constitutional and statutory functions by the Armed Forces and National Police."  In any event, the IACHR would like to clarify that the international provisions on the subject matter and their interpretation[50] merely represent a standard that does not prevent the States from developing standards that afford more protection in their domestic law, should they so desire. 

          54.     In any event, the Commission must express its serious concern over the frustration of what was a historic opportunity to incorporate the recommendations of the international mechanisms for protecting human rights into Colombia's domestic legislation on forced disappearance and other serious human rights violations.  The objection perpetuates a legislative gap that interferes with the due protection, domestically, of the many fundamental rights affected by forced disappearances.  Moreover, despite the intent expressed by the Executive to "reopen the debate" on this law, the Commission understands that the issue has not been among those forwarded to the special sessions of the Congress. 

          4.         The Draft Single Disciplinary Code 

          55.     In its Third Report, the Commission addressed the question of the application of disciplinary sanctions for abuses committed by state agents in violation of human rights that are not proportional to the seriousness of the infraction committed.  The Disciplinary Code only defines genocide and forced disappearance of persons as serious breaches punishable by dismissal, leaving beyond the scope of this corrective measure conduct such as torture, extrajudicial execution, forced displacement, violations of the right to liberty, and serious breaches of international humanitarian law. 

          56.     In its response, the State reported on the presentation to the Congress of a draft amendment to the Single Disciplinary Code.[51]  It stated that the reform is motivated by the need to bring the disciplinary legislation into line with developments in the case-law, the text of the 1991 Constitution, and the State's international obligations. 

          57.     The draft maintains as grave infractions, genocide and forced disappearance, and includes torture, arbitrary executions, forced displacement, violations of the right to liberty, and serious breaches of international humanitarian law as conduct deserving of the maximum disciplinary reproach, dismissal.  In addition, it establishes as an accessory sanction general disqualification from performing a public function in any state post for five to 20 years. 

          58.     The proposed law calls for the intervention of legally constituted non-governmental human rights organizations as participants in the process.  The State has indicated that these organizations, given their relationship with the victims, are in a position that enables them to gain access to information useful for disciplinary investigations and for determining the facts.  This expands the ability of the complainant to intervene; under the current Code, he or she may only appeal a decision to archive the investigation or the rulings exonerating the persons investigated of responsibility.[52] 

          59.     The Commission considers the introduction of this proposed law as a positive step and will continue to follow the legislative process leading to its approval and entry into force. 

          B.        Problems with respect to judicial guarantees 

          60.     In its Third Report, the Commission noted the existence of high rates of impunity, as well as a series of problems that affect the operation of justice in Colombia.  Specifically, the Commission referred to the consequences of the trial of cases involving serious human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the security forces before the military criminal justice system.  In addition, it identified a number of factors that hinder the effective protection of the judicial guarantees set forth in the American Convention by the civilian courts.  What follows are the key recommendations made in the Third Report and the measures adopted by the State in response thereto with a view to addressing those problems. 

          1.      The transfer of cases regarding human rights violations from the military courts to the civilian courts 

          61.     The Third Report recommended that steps be taken aimed at guaranteeing that the cases that involve serious human rights violations not be tried by the military justice system (Chapter V, Recommendation 6).  Specifically, it was recommended that the organs linked to the administration of justice adopt the measures within their authority to implement fully the law as stated in Judgment C-358 of the Constitutional Court on August 5, 1997 (Chapter V, Recommendation 7). 

          62.     The State has indicated that the Office of the Delegate Procurator for Criminal Matters has initiated requests for transfer of cases to the civilian criminal courts.  The information provided also reveals that although the Office of the Prosecutor-General does not participate in the investigations pursued by its dependant Units[53], the Prosecutor-General specifically appointed prosecutors for the purpose of evaluating competing jurisdictional claims at the request of the Office of the Procurator-General and municipal ombudsmen (personeros municipales) in a small number of cases.[54] As a result of these initiatives, the State indicated that a total of 196 criminal proceedings had been transferred to the civilian courts for "conduct related, among other things, to human rights violations," and it attached the list.[55] 

          63.     The Commission must observe, however, that just as has occurred in the past[56], the data set forth in the list does not clearly reveal whether the cases transferred truly refer to the investigation and trial of acts that constitute serious human rights violations.  Indeed, a large number refer to alleged crimes of burglary (39); Law 30/86, subornation or falsehood (16); embezzlement (9); manufacture, possession, and or illegal trafficking of firearms or ammunition (9); slander and/or libel (3); abuse of trust (2); extortion (2); escape of prisoner (2); harm to the property of another (1); arson (1); assault (1). 

          64.     Unfortunately, the State has not provided information on the removal to the civilian jurisdiction in 1999[57] of cases regarding facts with respect to which the Commission has deemed it pertinent to initiate a case for an alleged violation of the American Convention.  Indeed, in 1999 there were at least two procedural events that are especially worrisome and which are described below. 

          65.     In its Resolution Nº 24/87[58], the Commission declared the Colombian State responsible for the detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution of Luis Fernando Lalinde Lalinde, by members of the National Army, and it was recommended that the violations be investigated and that the persons responsible be brought before the courts.  In response, on October 12, 1990, the Commander of the Army's Eighth Brigade took on the investigation.[59]  On September 1, 1997, the Public Ministry representative asked the Superior Military Tribunal to transfer the case to the civilian jurisdiction based on the ruling of the Constitutional Court in Judgment C-358 of August 5, 1997.  On November 27, 1997, the Superior Military Tribunal refrained from ruling on the request for removal of the case to the civilian jurisdiction, leaving the decision instead to the Commander of the Army's Eighth Brigade.  This Commander, in his capacity as judge of first instance, decided to cease proceedings against the members of the Army implicated in the case, and on April 6, 1999, the Superior Military Tribunal affirmed the cessation of proceedings in the case of the serious violations committed against the person of Mr. Lalinde.[60]  

          66.     Furthermore, on September 9, 1999, the Superior Council of the Judiciary ruled in the jurisdictional dispute raised in the case of the death of Messrs. Carlos Manuel Prada González and Evelio Antonio Bolaño Castro on September 20, 1993, in Blanquicet, Antioquia, in favor of the military courts.[61]  The issue of the responsibility of State agents for violations of the American Convention in the events in question is pending determination before the Commission, which has already ruled on the admissibility of the case.[62] 

          67.     These procedural events, together with the absence of measures to transfer to the civilian justice system other cases in relation to matters pending before the Commission, continue to be worrisome in light of the conclusions reached by the Commission regarding the impartiality and independence of the military courts in the Third Report, and the corresponding recommendations.  The application of the provisions of the Military Criminal Code still in force persist, along with the failure to abide by Judgment C-358 of the Constitutional Court, as does the consequent violation of judicial protection that should be afforded to victims of human rights violations.  

          2.         Effective protection of judicial guarantees by the civilian justice system 

          68.     In its Third Report, the Commission made a series of recommendations aimed at addressing the lack of efficacy in the administration of justice by the civilian courts.  The recommendations refer specifically to the infrastructure available for investigations into and the trial of criminal conduct and the problems with the failure to execute arrest warrants, as well as factors such as risk to the personal security of the witnesses and judicial officers involved in investigating serious human rights violations. 

          a.         Resources earmarked to the administration of justice 

          69.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended endowing the Office of the Prosecutor-General, and in particular its Human Rights Unit, with sufficient financial and human resources (Chapter V, Recommendation 2).  In addition, it recommended giving resources and support to the Office of the Procurator-General and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (Chapter II, Recommendation 1).  In this regard, the State has reported that despite the overall deficit, public spending in the justice sector has increased from $149,843,197 in 1999 to $172,691,502 for the year 2000.[63]   

          70.     As was already mentioned, the State has supported the work of the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor-General through the Office of the Vice President of the Republic, which is the organ entrusted with human rights within the Executive branch.  Specifically, it reported that the Office of the Vice President has given specific logistical support for the performance of the activities of the offices of the Prosecutor-General and the Procurator-General in clarifying certain cases of human rights violations.  In addition, it indicated that the Vice President is taking steps aimed at obtaining resources to promote a series of investigations into human rights violations.[64]  

          71.     The work of the Human Rights Unit in the Office of the Prosecutor-General has been widely recognized by the Commission.  Nonetheless, there is still no clear indication whether the support provided has enabled it to overcome the obstacles it faces daily in terms of infrastructure and security (see section IV.2 infra). 

          b.         The efficacy of the organs linked to the administration of justice 

          72.     In the Third Report the Commission recommended that the State adopt all necessary measures to ensure the timely execution of arrest warrants issued by prosecutors and judges for persons associated with serious human rights abuses, in particular members of paramilitary groups (Chapter V, Recommendation 4). 

          73.     The State has reported that through decree 2429 of 1998, a Special Committee to give Impetus to Cases was established, aimed at coordinating the actions of the Executive, the Office of the Prosecutor-General, and the Office of the Procurator-General, to clarify a group of important cases involving human rights violations.  In addition to the support provided by the Office of the Vice President (see supra), the State has reported that an operational support group is now being designed, made up of specialized personnel, to shore up the Office of the Prosecutor-General in its efforts to execute the arrest warrants for members of paramilitary groups or Autodefensas.[65] 

          74.     In effect, the Commission has learned of the existence of several committees to give impetus to investigations of serious violations of human rights and infractions of international humanitarian law, and understands that they are receiving advisory services from international organs such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Nonetheless, it has received no information indicating that they have had a significant impact on operations.  To the contrary, the Commission continues to receive worrisome information on the difficulties that justice officers face in investigating human rights violations by State agents or members of paramilitary groups, especially in certain areas of the country, such as the department of Antioquia.[66] 

          75.     As regards human rights violations committed by State agents, the Third Report also makes reference to the role of the Office of the Procurator-General of the Nation in giving impetus to the corresponding proceedings (Chapter II, Recommendation 3). 

          76.     The State reported that the investigations in the case of massacres, multiple homicides, forced disappearances, acts of torture, and serious infractions of international humanitarian law which come to the attention of the Procurator-General's office on appeal have ended up in dismissal of State agents, the maximum disciplinary sanction.  Nonetheless, only six public employees were dismissed from January to November 1999[67], which in the view of the Commission is a surprisingly low figure in light of the number of violations perpetrated by State agents directly or in collaboration with paramilitary groups. 

          c.         The security of persons who participate in the administration of justice 

          77.     The Commission is aware of the risks to physical and mental integrity to which judicial officers, witnesses, and victims are exposed when they participate in criminal proceedings, and has recommended that steps be taken to guarantee the security of persons who participate in the administration of justice (Chapter V, Recommendation 5). 

          78.     In its response, the State makes reference to the continuation of the Program for the Protection of and Assistance to Victims, Witnesses, Officials, and Persons Intervening in the Criminal Process, established by Law 104 of 1993.[68]  The State has recognized, however, that the increased demands for protection and assistance have outstripped the coverage and technical capacity of this Program, and has reported on the existence of two technical cooperation projects, currently under study, to address this problem.  The first is a project to improve the therapeutic, social, and humanitarian care to victims, witnesses, and persons participating in the criminal proceedings, which will be submitted to the Colombian Agency for International Cooperation (ACCI), with the support of the Government of Canada.  The second involves an agreement between the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to design a system to protect witnesses and employees of the Office of the Prosecutor-General.[69] 

          79.     During the last year, the Commission has continued to receive information on persons linked to the administration of justice, victims, and family members of victims who, in view of the seriousness of the threats, have been forced to move or even leave the country, on their own or with the support of international organizations.  The Commission is aware of the dimensions of the problem and of the difficulties the State faces, and hopes that it adopts the measures needed to break the cycle of impunity created by those who evade justice through threats and intimidation. 


          80.     In its Third Report, the Commission addressed at length the phenomenon of forced displacement, which in recent years has affected more than one million people. This phenomenon, which continues to be used as a strategy for military control in the context of the armed conflict, is the direct result of the terror caused by serious violations of the most fundamental human rights and of international humanitarian law.[70]  As indicated supra, there has been little in the way of advances in the investigation and trial of those responsible for such conduct, and efforts to adopt legislation that defines the forced displacement of persons as a criminal offense in the criminal code were recently thwarted (see section II on the administration of justice and the rule of law). 

          81.     In 1999, 288,127 persons who constitute approximately 57,625 households were forced to flee by the direct or indirect, deliberate or unintentional action of paramilitary groups, guerrilla organizations, and the Armed Forces, in the context of military operations carried out as part of the armed conflict in Colombia.[71]  During this period, there was an increase in mass exodus, as 31% of the displaced, approximately 90,234 persons, organized their forced exits in treks for their very survival in the face of the threats, murders, massacres, aerial attacks, and widespread fear.[72]   

          82.     The departments of Cundinamarca, Bolívar, Antioquia, Santander, Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca, and Córdoba have been, in that order, the most affected by the arrival of the displaced population in 1999.  As indicated by the CODHES report, while Cundinamarca, Antioquia, Santander, and Córdoba have seen a permanent influx of the displaced over the last four years, the departments of Bolívar, Norte de Santander, and Valle del Cauca have seen a sharp increase in 1998.  This is likely explained by the worsening of the conflict between armed dissident groups and paramilitary groups in these departments.[73] 

          83.     The State considers that part of its official policy includes an effort to address forced displacement.  Nonetheless, it has recognized that it has come up against institutional, legal, and operational limitations: 

This issue illustrated how responsibilities are dispersed within the State and the lack of coordination, the weakness of the information systems, the precarious capacity to provide emergency humanitarian care, and the difficulty in carrying out returns and re-locations adequately and in conjunction with sustainable income-generating projects.

In addition, it has stated that although prevention has been the main component of Government policy, it has been difficult to do so given the situation of the armed conflict.[74] 

          84.     In 1999, the coordination and implementation of policies regarding forced displacement were moved from the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Care to the Population Displaced by the Violence, to the Social Solidarity Network.[75]  During the transition, the document CONPES 3057[76] and the Strategic Plan for the Solidarity Network for 2000-2002 were adopted, and along with them the Joint Technical Unit (UTC) was created as a technical advisory body to the Social Solidarity Network, with the support of the Liaison Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

          85.     Document CONPES 3057 was approved on November 10, 1999, by the National Council on Economic and Social Policy.  This "Plan of action for preventing and attending to the consequences of forced displacement" calls for providing coordinated and comprehensive services to the displaced population for purposes of prevention, assistance, and reparation.  The State considers that the plan responds to the needs of the displaced and international guidelines on providing services, and proposes to reorganize and simplify the institutional framework, strengthen the information systems, and improve the mechanisms and instruments for prevention (early warning system, improving security conditions, and local changes that make it possible to reduce the inhabitants' vulnerability), protection, humanitarian care (forging strategic alliances among the State, NGOs, and international agencies), and return and re-location in stable socioeconomic conditions.[77] 

          86.     In addition, the State has noted that the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF: Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar) participates in the process of providing services to the displaced population from the time of the emergency, during the transition, and through the return or relocation.  The ICBF seeks to provide psychosocial care to children and families and food security to the displaced, mindful of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the text of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.   

          87.     The Commission will analyze the effective application and the impact of the adoption of this conceptual framework on displacement, particularly in the areas of humanitarian assistance, raising the awareness of the population and State agents, and resettlement. 

          A.        Humanitarian assistance and protection for the displaced 

          88.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended execution of the humanitarian assistance programs for the displaced that include the basic rules ensuring members of the same family not be separated, proper accommodation, and satisfactory conditions of health and hygiene (Chapter VI, Recommendation 5). 

          89.     As already indicated, the functions of the Ministry of Interior[78] were transferred to the Social Solidarity Network (RSS: Red de Solidaridad Social) by Decree 489 of 1999.  The State argues that the Network, which is also entrusted with responsibility for other issues (see infra), is present in every region of the country, along with other institutions, in the municipalities of Carmen del Bolívar, Mutatá, Turbo, Malambo, Dabeiba, Bogotá, San Jacinto, Curumaní, Juradó, Bahía Solano, Cabuyaro, Cúcuta, Carmen de Chucurí, Ibagué, Roncesvalles, Buenaventura, Buga, and Jamundí. The State has also reported that cooperation agreements have been entered into with the Association of Scouts of Colombia to provide humanitarian care in Bogotá, and with the Colombian Red Cross to assist, initially, the cities of Medellín, Cali, Quibdó, and Soacha. In addition, a National Network for Comprehensive Emergency Humanitarian Assistance is in the process of being established; it will have mobile camps to provide emergency shelter in massive displacements, semi-rural emergency housing, and Units for Care and Guidance in the mid-size and large cities that are receiving displaced persons. 

          90.     With respect to the effective operation of this institutional arrangement, the Commission continues to receive information indicating that difficulties persist in the effective coordination of State entities involved in addressing the situation of the displaced population.  In addition, proposals on the Observatory of Displacement (Observatorio del Desplazamiento) and the National Information Network, to provide early warning systems that enable the State to respond, have yet to be implemented.[79]  

          B.        Providing the population with information regarding the status of the displaced 

          91.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended that campaigns be carried out emphasizing the status of the displaced population as non-combatant civilians; accordingly, they cannot be identified as parties to the conflict (Chapter VI, Recommendation 4). 

          92.     The State has reported on the publication and dissemination, among the displaced population and the government entities, of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, in a joint effort of the Social Solidarity Network and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  In addition, the Social Solidarity Network, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, and the Office of the Vice President of the Republic are coordinating implementation of a communications strategy for disseminating and fostering respect for human rights, international humanitarian law, and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, for the purpose of raising the awareness of the communities and armed actors as to the civilian status of the displaced population, who cannot be treated as if they were an actor in the conflict.  In addition, it has pointed out that the issue is also on the agenda for peace talks with the armed dissident groups. 

          93.     Despite these efforts, the Commission has learned that the campaign appears not to have reached all sectors of the State, in particular the security forces.  It appears that accusations against the displaced continue; usually they are accused of being collaborators of the armed dissident groups or their neutrality is called into question and it is said that they work as informers for the Armed Forces in the context of the conflict.[80]  

          C.        The resettlement of the internally displaced 

          94.     In its Third Report, the Commission recommended that the State ensure the resettlement or return of the displaced to their places of residence on a voluntary basis and in conditions that assure the safety and dignity of returnees (Chapter VI, Recommendation 3). 

          95.     The State has indicated that the processes of return and relocation of the displaced population in several regions of the country have been accompanied by production, housing[81], and food security[82] programs.  In addition, responsibility for coordination and management of the resources and registration of the displaced population has been delegated in the Social Solidarity Network, to strengthen the institutional response. 

          96.     The State indicates in its report that returns are taking place under the coordination of the Social Solidarity Network, such as those involving the communities of the Cacarica river basin, in Ríosucio (Chocó), the villages of El Diamante, Tolobá, Cascajal, and Divino Niño, in the municipality of Tierralta; the district of Carmen de Cucú, in San Pablo; the municipality of Carepa; the villages of Mesopotamia and Pueblo Nuevo, in Carmen de Atrato; and the district of Playón de Orozco, in the municipality of El Piñón. 

          97.     The State has noted the experience of return to the Cacarica river basin as having had the greatest impact.  It argues that the families left their territory 32 months ago and are currently settled in Turbo, and in the districts of Bocas del Atrato and Bahía Cupica.  In addition, it notes that this return program includes a housing project; support for environmentally sustainable production; improving the conditions of navigability of the Perancho and Peranchito rivers; the establishment of a "house of justice" as a civilian security arrangement; and the collective titling of their territory, with a total area of 103,000 hectares. 

          98.     In effect, the Commission is aware of the adoption of a document setting forth "Partial agreements between the displaced communities of the Cacarica basin settled provisionally in Turbo, Bocas del Atrato, and Bahía Cupica, and the National Government." It should be noted, however, that it also has information that indicates that this community of displaced, whose situation has justified the issuance of precautionary measures[83], continues to be at risk, exposed to the actions of the paramilitary groups in the region, and that during the last year the threats and acts of violence against its members have continued. 

          99.     The State also reported that it supported the immediate return of 4,000 persons from La Gabarra through the Program for Development and Peace of the Middle Magdalena Region, and the return of 10,000 persons from southern Bolívar who had displaced to Barrancabermeja.  In the latter case, the State reported that parallel to the return, a process of coordination and negotiation with the population involved was put in place, giving rise to a joint effort to identify needs and actions framed in the context of a regional development plan. 

          100.    In the case of southern Bolívar, the Commission has learned that, despite the existence of agreements to protect the displaced, the persecution of some displaced persons (such as Edgar Quiroga, detailed supra, and the displaced persons in Barrancabermeja) has led to distrust and peasant displacement into forest areas.[84]   

          101.    The State argues that in those cases in which the population has not been able to return because of security considerations, or because they are already settled in other rural or urban areas, INCORA has purchased lands for re-location.   This work, which includes productive development and accommodations, has been carried out in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, the respective departments and municipalities, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.  Such efforts are currently under way at Altamira, Jerusalén, San Marino, Ataco, Armero, Guayabal, Icononzo, Ríoblanco, and Roncesvalles.[85]

          102.    The State has reported that inspection visits have been made by the Congress, specifically through the Sixth Committee of the Senate, chaired by Senator Piedad Córdoba, by holding public hearings that include the participation of State institutions involved in the National System for the Displaced Population, national and international NGOs, and representatives of the regional authorities.  These hearings have reported on the processes begun by the communities of the displaced, examining their living conditions and the type of humanitarian services they have received from state agencies at the places where the displaced population is received. 

          103.    With respect to the promotion of actions and steps that make it possible for the displaced population to have access to the programs of the National System of Agrarian Reform and Peasant Rural Development[86], INCORA has been assigned the responsibility for implementing special procedures and programs for the sale, adjudication, and titling of lands, the registration of rural properties abandoned by the displaced, as a mechanism of protection impeding the sale of such properties, and the establishment of a program to enable them to receive land that is the property of displaced persons in partial payment for new properties in another part of the country.  The State has recognized, however, that this objective has been met only in part, through internal agreements of INCORA.  Nonetheless, it intends to address the problem anew, in light of the recommendations in the CONPES 3057 document.[87] 

          104.    The Commission appreciates the State's efforts to respond in an institutional and coordinated fashion to the phenomenon of displacement.  Nonetheless, the continuation of the phenomenon and the deteriorating situation of the persons affected suggest that the measures adopted are insufficient in the face of the magnitude of the problem.  The policies and conceptual frameworks described require greater political, technical, and financial support.  In addition, as has been shown by recent events such as those at La Gabarra, significant advances are not perceived in establishing reliable mechanisms to guarantee the safety of the displaced communities during displacement and in the process of return and resettlement.  The Commission shall continue observing the development of the situation, compliance with its recommendations, and respect for the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. 


          105.    In its Third Report, the Commission expressed its serious concern over the situation of persons who work for respect for human rights in Colombia, or to clear up the facts of violations committed.  These persons are victims of constant threats, attacks on their physical integrity, kidnappings, and even extrajudicial executions, in reprisal for their work.  This group of persons includes not only human rights defenders and the members of non-governmental organizations, but also public employees, such as the members of the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor-General, who are constantly threatened, as well as the municipal ombudsmen (personeros), who are involved in human rights-related tasks at the local level. 

          106.    What follows describes compliance with the recommendations that call on the State to impede accusations by state agents against those who work to help bring about respect for human rights and to clear up the facts of violations.  Compliance with the obligation to guarantee the security of these persons, and to investigate and prosecute the persons responsible for acts of violence against them will also be addressed. 

          1.         Official accusations against entities of the State and civil society connected with the protection of human rights 

          107.    In its Third Report, the Commission expressed its concern over the fact that certain state officials, in particular those belonging to the security forces, make declarations that suggest that non-governmental human rights organizations and their members act improperly or unlawfully when they carry out activities to protect and promote human rights.  In this regard, the Commission recommended to the State that it adopt measures to clarify unequivocally to public opinion that the work of non-governmental human rights organizations in Colombia is legitimate and important (Chapter VII, Recommendations 2 and 9). 

          108.    In this respect, it should be noted that on April 28, 1999, Gen. Alberto Bravo Silva characterized the non-governmental human rights organizations as "international terrorists."  Despite protests by civil society, no clarifying statement was forthcoming from the Commander of the Armed Forces. 

          109.    Finally, on September 9, 1999, the Office of the President issued Circular Nº 07, in which he ordered public servants to refrain from: 

(a) questioning the legitimacy of the human rights organizations and their members, (b) making statements that discredit, harass, or incite harassment against those same organizations, and (c) issuing public or private statements that stigmatize the work of such organizations.

The Commission considers this measure to be a positive gesture.  Nonetheless, recent events cast serious doubt on the will of the Government to ensure strict compliance with this directive. 

          110.    Concretely, on December 3, 1999, the second commander of the National Army, Néstor Ramírez Mejía, noted during a forum in Miami on Colombia organized by the Cuban-American Foundation and Tradition, Family and Property (TFP):  

It is demanded that we respond to events that it is up to the Police to confront, yet we cannot shy away from this or show ill will, we have to accept it.  And, finally, what poses greater limitations for us is defending ourselves from the infiltrators of the subversion in the Office of the Prosecutor-General, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, and the Office of the Procurator-General, backed by some international and national organizations that cause us very much harm ... the non-governmental human rights organizations, misinformed or infiltrated, are as dangerous as the guerrillas themselves.[88] 

          111.    In response, Prosecutor-General Alfonso Gómez Méndez and Procurator-General Jaime Bernal Cuéllar, publicly stated that Commander Ramírez Mejía's declarations endangered the lives of the members of both institutions, and they called for the intervention of the Executive.[89]  The President of the Republic answered:  "I deplore the statements by Gen. Néstor Ramírez, if they were as you say."  In addition, he considered that subsequent statements by Ramírez regarding his presentation in Miami cleared up the concerns of both officials.  He left it up to the Procurator and the Prosecutor-General to decide whether to bring criminal or disciplinary proceedings against the second commander of the National Army. 

          112.    In addition, a number of non-governmental human rights organizations sought a clarification from the President and from the commander of the Armed Forces, apparently without having obtained a significant reaction in terms of carrying out that Circular.  On December 14, 1999, the President was alleged to have acknowledged receipt of the communication, and reported that it would be sent to the Minister of Defense "for his cognizance and study," without making any reference whatsoever to the statements by Gen. Ramírez, nor to the government's commitments to struggle against the paramilitary groups.  For his part, Fernando Tapias Stahelin, general commander of the Armed Forces, answered the communication from the human rights groups by affirming that the Armed Forces recognize the importance of the non-governmental organizations and are complying with Presidential Directive Nº 07 of September 9, 1999, but it made no mention of Gen. Ramírez's statements. 

          113.    The Commission attributes the utmost importance to the work of human rights defenders and the entities associated with the administration of justice, and must express its concern vis-à-vis the Executive's response to the statements by the Armed Forces.  These accusations by high-level members of the Army together with the failure of the Executive to reject this position unequivocally seriously endangers the lives of the persons alluded to. 

          114.    The terms of the response by the Executive can be interpreted as a failure to back the efforts of organs such as the Office of the Prosecutor-General to enforce the law and to uphold the rule of law.  In addition, they multiply the risk to which human rights defenders and the members of organizations working in Colombia are exposed.  The Commission remains seriously concerned over the situation and reiterates the urgent need to adopt specific and effective measures to punish those who practically depict people who work for justice and human rights as enemies of the State. 

          2.         Threats and acts of violence against those who work for human rights and justice 

          115.    In its Third Report, the Commission recommended that the State investigate seriously and effectively violence against human rights activists, and try and punish the persons responsible, as a fundamental means for preventing the repetition of violent incidents.  These measures should also include threatened State personnel who investigate human rights violations (Chapter VII, Recommendations 3 and 10). 

          116.    The State's Report notes that the Ministry of Interior's program for the protection of witnesses and persons who have been threatened has been strengthened.  This program currently serves and processes the requests for protection from human rights defenders through the Risk Evaluation Committee of the Protection Program for Witnesses and Persons who have been Threatened.  This Committee coordinates the adoption of urgent measures with the support of the General Command of the National Police and, if necessary, the Armed Forces and the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS).[90]  The Commission understands that at present the budget for this program comes to approximately six hundred million Colombian pesos (US$ 250,000), which cannot be considered an adequate or realistic amount in light of the high levels of risk these persons face. 

          117.    The State reported that in December 1999 the term of Law 418 of 1997 was extended, and the program for the protection of persons at risk for causes related to political or ideological conflict, or the internal armed conflict, including persons threatened in relation to cases of human rights violations, was regulated.  In addition, the General Law on the Budget includes an item in the amount of approximately $1,400,000,000 for human rights prevention and protection, assigned to the Special Administrative Unit for Human Rights in the Ministry of Interior. 

          118.    In 1999 and to date in 2000, the Commission has received numerous requests for precautionary measures on the part of persons dedicated to promoting human rights in Colombia.  These are human rights defenders, members of civil society organizations, and even State employees, such as municipal ombudsmen (personeros) who are subject to threats, assassination attempts, and/or accused of collaboration with one or another of the parties to the armed conflict.  The Commission has responded to these urgent calls in the manner that it deemed appropriate.  When formally approached, the Colombian State has shown different levels of responsiveness, diligence and efficiency in implementing the IACHR’s requests.[91] 

          119.    The Commission is especially concerned about the situation of Messrs. Edgar Quiroga, spokesperson for the peasant exodus in the Middle Magdalena region, and Gildardo Fuentes, who on November 28, 1999, were allegedly intercepted by units of the 45th Army Battalion "Heroes of Majagual" in the village of La Placita, district of Cerro Azul, municipality of San Pablo.  According to information provided by eyewitnesses, the detainees had been tied to a tree and tortured.  On November 29, 1999, the Commission asked that precautionary measures be taken to protect the lives and physical integrity of these persons.  A few days later, it learned of a communique from the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia describing Mr. Edgar Quiroga, who has a known history as a human rights defender, as a "terrorist of the ELN."  Though it granted the precautionary measures, the Commission has received no further news regarding the whereabouts of Edgar Quintero or Gildardo Fuentes. 

          120.    The situation mentioned is but one example of the risk to which persons who work for human rights in Colombia are exposed.   The continual exposure to threats, accusations, and assassination attempts has forced these persons to displace within the country and even to leave the country and their valuable work.  Apparently, in departments such as Antioquia, there are no longer human rights defenders permanently based in small municipalities, as they have been left unprotected in the face of the paramilitary presence and the failure to act on the part of the civilian or Police authorities.[92] 

          121.    With respect to the investigations into the assassination of human rights defenders, the State has reported that indictments have been handed down in the cases of Mario Calderón and Elsa Alvarado, Jesús María Valle Jaramillo, Eduardo Umaña, and trade unionist Jorge Luis Ortega.  In addition, it noted that some of the cases mentioned are the subject of special monitoring by the Special Impetus Commission, created by Decree 2429 of 1998.[93]  The Commission will continue to closely follow the progress in these investigations, their pertinence with respect to the facts and the persons allegedly responsible, and their effectiveness.  It is pertinent to note that during 1999, seven members of the Comité Técnico de Investigaciones (CTI) of the Human Rights Unit in the Office of the Prosecutor-General were assassinated.  In addition, the Commission has learned that more than 100 prosecutors are under threat, and that some have had to leave the country.[94]  This situation will only contribute further to the high levels of impunity in Colombia. 

          122.    Despite the measures adopted by the State to offer protection to the persons threatened and the work of the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor-General to clarify the above-mentioned cases, the Commission remains profoundly concerned over the vulnerability of human rights defenders and persons who work for justice in Colombia. 


123.          In its Third Report, the Commission noted the deterioration in recent years in the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights in Colombia, where, despite some important efforts by the Government, unequal distribution of wealth persists, with a serious impact on respect for human rights. 

          124.    In its response, the State referred to the programs and actions carried out by the National Government in the area of social and economic development of the population.  These plans derive from the National Development Plan[95] and in some cases supervision of their implementation depends on the Social Solidarity Network[96] and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Social Policy.[97] The State has recognized that:


the combination of factors such as the armed conflict, drug trafficking, and the weak State presence in many parts of the country considerably limit the possibilities of full enjoyment of human rights; the human rights policy seeks to reconcile the human rights actions with actions related to the peace process.[98] 

          125.    In this connection, the "Plan Colombia" presents a set of strategies for recovering the central responsibilities of the State.  These strategies are said to be aimed at promoting democracy, the monopoly over the application of justice, territorial integrity, generating conditions for employment, respect for human rights, preserving the public order, and strengthening the rule of law.

          126.    The Commission notes that in 1999 unemployment affected 20% of the economically active population.  In addition are the consequences of the armed conflict for certain sectors.  First, the internally displaced, who, given their situation, are unable to find productive employment.  Second, the trade union leaders have been openly accused and threatened for exercising their trade union rights.  In any event, the Commission will closely monitor the development of these plans, and their impact on compliance with its recommendations. 

          127.    The following observation concerning the situation of children, women, indigenous communities, and Afro-Colombian communities are made in light of the recommendations made by the Commission in its Third Report

          1.         The situation of children 

          128.    The Third Report addresses the situation of street children, children who work--commonly in unhealthy or hazardous conditions, and without adequate remuneration or benefits--and who do not receive schooling, and the shortcomings in the current legislation.  In addition, the Commission referred to the strengthening of the programs created to protect children from participating in the internal armed conflict and re-evaluation of the system for recruiting for the security forces, bearing in mind the protection that should be accorded to minors. 

          129.    With respect to the education of minors, the State has reported that it has implemented the "Plan for Educational Development to Construct Peace (1999-2000)".[99] The plan calls for expanding access to schools, and keeping schoolchildren in school, seeking to creating better conditions for the exercise of the right to education in equal conditions.[100]  In this regard, the Commission must point out that according to the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, the total number of minors outside the school system came to 3.2 million for 1999. The projections for 2000 indicate that another 1.5 million children will be without this fundamental service due to the economic crisis.[101]  

          130.    In relation to the impact of the armed conflict, the State has reported that the ICBF has designed the project Children, Family, and Armed Conflict, whose purpose is to protect children and families in the context of human rights and international humanitarian law, where priority attention is to be given to the displaced population and children not linked to the armed conflict.  In November 1999, the specialized care service was reportedly implemented for children not linked to the armed conflict; it is to provide services to this population.  

          131.    According to the last report from the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 86% of the displaced households include children, and the increase in the number of children displaced by the violence has been particularly accentuated in 1998 (190,200) and 1999 (176,800).[102] The Commission notes that in addition to the consequences typical of displacement, displaced children have to face other types of problem, e.g. the inability of the 24,293 displaced children in Bogotá to attend school.[103]  In view of this situation, it is necessary to strengthen and implement special programs to address the needs of children displaced by violence, with a view to effectively carrying out that recommendation.  

          132.    The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman[104] has indicated that there are 6,000 minors participating in the ranks of the armed groups, and the Delegate Ombudsman for Women, Children and the Elderly has stated that seven million children live in absolute poverty, which makes them particularly vulnerable to recruitment.[105] According to the records of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, only 174 minors nationwide are on record as having left the ranks of the armed groups from 1996 to 1999. This is indicative of the lack of an effective program to protect minors involved in the conflict. 

          133.    In its Third Report, the Commission stated that whenever the armed dissident groups and the paramilitary groups incorporate children under 15 years into their ranks, they act in violation of the express provisions of international humanitarian law. Although in due course both illegal groups and armed dissident groups suggested they would be willing to negotiate an agreement to exclude children from the armed conflict, the Commission has learned that leaders of the FARC have publicly indicated that they will continue to recruit minors while the hostilities persist.[106]  The Commission considers this unfortunate and condemns the fact that armed dissident groups continue this illegal practice. 

          2.         The situation of women's rights 

          134.    In its Third Report, the Commission referred to gender discrimination in employment, education, and participation in public affairs.  Reference was also made to the alarming levels of sexual and domestic violence in Colombia. 

          135.    The State's Report indicates that the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Equity for Women has promoted a series of legislative reforms aimed at affording greater protection to women who are victims of sexual, physical, and psychological violence. Concretely, it indicates that stiffer penalties were adopted for rape, rape of a person incapable of putting up resistance, and, in general, all crimes against the sexual integrity of persons in which the most common victims are women. 

          136.    In effect, the Commission understands that in December 1999, Congress approved a proposed reform to the Criminal Code that specifically included defining the crimes of rape, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and forced sterilization in the context of the armed conflict.  Nonetheless, it should be clarified that the President of the Republic objected to several articles of the Code, thereby deferring the punishment of such conduct and the entry into force of the legislation. 

          137.    The State also indicated in its answer that Law 294 of 1996 on preventing, remedying and punishing family violence is undergoing reform.  The State has indicated that the reform seeks to offer more accessible protection to women and children who are victims of this phenomenon by transferring jurisdiction to the special public defenders or comisarios for family matters and, where pertinent, giving them the power to issue preventive measures when cases of family violence come to light. 

          138.    In its Third Report, the Commission referred in positive terms to Law 294 of 1996.  This statute criminalizes abuse, restraint on physical liberty, and sexual violence between spouses as crimes of family violence, and it contains an expeditious mechanism to protect victims.  Under the current regime, a motion seeking a protective measure is to be heard by a family judge, in keeping with Law 294.  The Commission understands that this provision has already been amended by Law 575 of 2000, whose main provision transfers jurisdiction over requests for special protection from the family judges to the comisarios, who function as administrative personnel.  

          139.    The Commission has received information that indicates that this transfer of jurisdiction to the administrative authority to hear the motion for a protective measure is not necessarily in response to an evaluation of the impact of the law, but responds, rather, to the need to clear up the backlog of cases in the courts.  

          140.    The Commission will continue monitoring the impact that the reform of this provision will have on its effective application and on compliance with the duty to administer justice adequately in cases of family violence.  In addition, it will continue to follow closely the actual approval of the Criminal Code in areas that affect women. 

          3.         The situation of the indigenous communities 

          141.    In the Third Report, the Commission referred to the question of the recognition and granting of title to indigenous lands and their natural resources.  The Commission recommended, among other things, that the indigenous communities be guaranteed effective control over their resguardos or other community lands, without the interference of those who seek to maintain or assume control over those territories by violence or any other means to the detriment of the rights of the indigenous populations.

          142.    The State indicated, in its answer, that as of November 25, 1999, a total of 509 resguardos had been constituted to benefit 64,378 families made up of 344,659 indigenous persons, and one indigenous reserve.  The territory adjudicated as a resguardo has a total area of 30,414,096 hectares.[107]  In addition, the Commission has learned that in 1999, additional territory was assigned to the U'wa resguardo.  

          143.    Nonetheless, the Commission has received information that indicates that the adjudication of property titles to indigenous communities continues to be sluggish and inefficient.[108]  It has been noted that the problem has worsened, among other reasons due to the recent re-structuring of INCORA, the entity in charge of carrying out land titling. One example is the delay in the implementation of agreements with the Paez communities of the Cauca.[109]   

          144.    With respect to the episodes of violence that have a detrimental impact on indigenous peoples within their own resguardos, the State has said that it is coordinating actions, through the Commission for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its various sub-committees, with the various security, oversight, and Executive offices to takes steps to neutralize those actions.  

          145.    The Commission continues to receive information and reports, in some cases from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), regarding the situation of violence and in some cases the displacement of indigenous families and communities.  The situation of the Karagabi and Kiparadó communities, during the efforts to regain military control over the upper Sinú region in January 1999, are one such example. 

          146.    As is publicly known, the Embera-Katío community has been hard hit by paramilitary violence during the period under study.  Alejandro Domicó Domicó was executed on February 1, 1999, in the municipality of Tierralta, by the Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá, and Lucindo Domicó Cabrera, a member of the Cabildo Mayor del Río Sinú y Río Verde, and spokesperson in the negotiations with the Urrá S.A. company, was assassinated on April 24, 1999, in the municipality of Tierralta, department of Córdoba, allegedly by paramilitaries. 

          147.    The Commission continues to be seriously concerned about the security of these communities, which appear to be defenseless in the face of actions taken by actors in the armed conflict.  The Commission urges the State to adopt effective and special measures of protection with respect to this part of the civilian population. 

          148.    In its Third Report, the Commission also recommended ensuring that the process of consultation with the indigenous communities is carried out prior to authorizing the exploitation of natural resources on their lands.  The State should also guarantee that the exploitation of resources not cause irreparable harm to the identity or religious, economic, or cultural rights of the indigenous communities.

           149.    The State indicated that the right to consultation for any project or activity that might affect these communities has been regulated by Decree 1320 of 1998.  In addition, it noted that the indigenous communities have been assisted by the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Interior in these processes.  According to the State, more than 100 consultations have taken place with the Ministry of Environment that have made it possible "to ease tensions in the conflicts that have come about due to the expectations of development associated with some projects.  Similarly, in some cases differences have arisen between the parties that have delayed projects, but they have been solved by recourse to negotiation and dialogue, in some cases with excellent results, while others are marked by conflict."  

          150.    With respect to this question, as is public knowledge, in 1999 several incidents have affected the U'wa and Embera Katío indigenous groups in which lives have been lost.  These incidents display the discontent in these communities, or at least of a large part of their members, with the allocation of territories for the exploitation of natural resources, the issuance of environmental licenses to private companies, and the transparency of the consultation processes. 

          151.    The Commission understands that the Colombian courts have ruled on the compatibility of the measures adopted by the State with its obligations pursuant to domestic and international law.[110]  The Commission will continue observing the situation, not only in light of the recommendations in the Third Report, but also of complaints received. 

          4.         The situation of the Afro-Colombian communities 

          152.    In its Third Report, the Commission noted the deficiencies in the health infrastructure, education, housing, and general well-being in the areas inhabited by these communities and the effects of Transitory Article 55 of the 1991 Constitution to make reparation for the historic mistreatment of this population.  The Commission recommended full implementation of the provisions of Law 70/93, adopted in 1993, to improve their conditions and legal status. 

          153.    On this occasion, the Commission notes that the Report by the State, despite referring to the Afro-Colombian communities, does not include specific information on the adoption of specific measures to address the Commission's concerns, which would appear to indicate that the problems identified in the Report persist.  Accordingly, the IACHR calls on the State to adopt measures to comply with its recommendations regarding the situation of the Afro-Colombian communities. 

          VI.       CONCLUSIONS 

          154.    The Commission is grateful to the State for its collaboration in the follow-up process, and takes note of its statements regarding compliance with the recommendations made in the Third Report.  At the same time, it should note that the information received from several sources with respect to human rights violations in Colombia, since the approval of the Third Report, indicate that the State has not adopted the measures needed to re-establish respect for fundamental rights in its territory. 

          155.    The Commission is extremely concerned by the increasing violence in Colombia, by both the armed dissident groups and the Autodefensas. The paramilitary forces have stepped up their barbaric attacks on the civilian population, in particular against the most vulnerable and/or exposed citizens: the displaced communities, the indigenous communities, human rights defenders, and even State officials who work for justice. 

          156.    In its Third Report, the Commission addressed the links between members of the security forces and illegal groups in Colombia, the degrees of cooperation in the commission of acts that constitute human rights violations and/or are incompatible with international humanitarian law, and the responsibility of the State.  The information collected indicates that these links persist and indeed may have been strengthened. 

          157.    Unfortunately, the freedom with which the paramilitary groups and autodefensas continue to operate throughout the territory, and the high and mounting levels of violence, which continues to cause forced displacement, suggest that the State's efforts to combat, dismantle, and disarm them have been far from successful. 

          158.    The high levels of impunity persist, among other reasons, due to the continuing trial of human rights violations by the military courts (despite recent legislative efforts to address this problem), the judicial practices that surround the assignment of jurisdiction, and the violence or accusations directed against those who investigate or report human rights violations. 

          159.    Finally, the Commission wishes to reiterate its appeal to the parties to the armed conflict that, through their command and control structures, they respect, comply with, and enforce the norms that govern the hostilities set forth in international humanitarian law, with special emphasis on the provisions that afford protection to civilians.  In those situations where internal hostilities still persist, the Commission has underscored the need to observe the basic norms of international humanitarian law in order to avoid any act that might hinder the return to peace and national reconciliation.

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[1] OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102 Doc. 9 rev 1.

[2] On the assassination attempt on Eduardo Pizarro Leongómez, see IACHR, Press Communique 31/99 of December 23, 1999.

[3] On April 11, 1999, Hernando Rangel Moreno, director of the newspaper Sur 30 Días and a radio announcer, was assassinated.  On August 13, Jaime Garzón, a well-liked journalist and humorist, was assassinated.  On September 16, Guzmán Quintero Torres, editor-in-chief of the regional newspaper El Pilón and correspondent for the news program Tele Caribe, was assassinated.  On October 21, Rodolfo Luis Torres, correspondent for Radio Fuentes of Sincelejo, was assassinated.  On December 4, Pablo Emilio Medina Motta, a television cameraman, was assassinated.  As regards threats to journalists and the exercise of freedom of expression in Colombia, see "Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression," in Annual Report of the IACHR 1999.

[4] During the first nine months of 1999, the following academics were assassinated: Darío Betancourt (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional), Hernán Henao (Universidad de Antioquia), Héctor Fabio Bejarano (Universidad de Santiago de Cali), Jesús Arnoby Gómez Gómez (Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia), and Jesús Antonio Bejarano (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), who served as Presidential Adviser for Peace during the Gaviria Administration.  Universidad Nacional de Colombia, "Informe sobre la situación de derechos humanos en las universidades de Colombia," submitted to the IACHR on September 28, 1999.

[5] Responsibility for these massacres has been attributed as follows: 38% to paramilitary groups and autodefensas; 1% to the Armed Forces or National Police; 16% to armed dissident groups; 18% to undefined groups and militia; and the remaining 26% to other groups.  Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, SAT Sistema de Alertas Tempranas.  Subsistema de Información:  Masacres ocurridas en Colombia 1999.

[6] Id.

[7] See CINEP and Justicia y Paz, Banco de Datos de Derechos Humanos y Violencia Política, Revista Noche y Niebla, No. 12, April-June 1999, Nº 13, July-September 1999, pp. 21-36 and 23-38, respectively and Nº 14 October-December 1999, pp. 28-33.

[8] Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, SAT Sistema de Alertas Tempranas.  Subsistema de Información:  Masacres ocurridas en Colombia 1999.

[9] After the approval of its Draft Follow up Report, the Commission learned that five members of the Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó had been massacred on February 19, 2000.  The State has informed the Commission about the steps taken to clarify the event, through the appropriate channels.

[10] On July 1, 1999, the non-governmental human rights organization MINGA was reported to have warned the Commander of the Fifth Brigade and the Ministry of Defense on the threats against the inhabitants of La Gabarra.  The Commander of the Fifth Brigade reportedly answered that "the statement that the aggressors will enter La Gabarra and assassinate the population because of supposed ties to the guerrillas and will take control of the area is but a chimera."  See El Tiempo, Tuesday, August 31, 1999.

[11] The State's Report notes merely that consideration has been given to authorizing the General Commander of the Armed Forces to "remove from active duty, by discretional decision, members of the various forces because of their inefficient or unsatisfactory performance in the struggle against the armed groups operating outside the law" and that one criterion for promotions of members of the Armed Forces and National Police, and for their rotation and assignment to units, should be their performance in relation to respect for human rights and effectiveness in the actions against the armed groups operating outside the law."  State’s Report, p. 48.

[12] Decree Nº 1710 of September 1, 1999, which retired from active duty one brigadier general of the National Army.

[13] See El Tiempo, Tuesday, August 31, 1999.

[14] Investigation N° 536, relating to the events that occurred in Carboneras, Corregimiento La Gabarra on May 29, 1999, implicating the Captain acting that day as Police Commander of the Tibú Station.  Investigation N° 538, relating to the events that occurred in the urban area of Municipality of Tibú, on July 17 1999, implicating the Commander of the Counterinsurgency Batallion N° 47 “Héroes de Saraguro”, the then Commander of the Police Station and six police agents who were at the Station the night when the events took place.  Investigation N° 575 relating to the urban zone of the Corregimiento La Gabarra, Municipality of Tibú, on August 21, 1999, involving the Commander of the military base established at the Corregimiento La Gabarra.  The persons implicated in these processes are presumably detained.

[15] Observations presented by the State on April 3, 2000.

[16] The breakdown of the various "blocs" and "war fronts" deployed by the Autodefensas is set forth on the World Wide Web.

[17] Human Rights Watch, The Ties that Bind: Colombia and Military and Paramilitary Links, February 23, 1999.

[18] Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Colombia, SAT Sistema de Alertas Tempranas. Subsistema de Información:  Masacres ocurridas en Colombia 1999.

[19] This group of displaced is protected by precautionary measures issued by the IACHR in December 1997.  See Annual Report of the IACHR 1997, p. 41.

[20] This Community of Peace is protected by precautionary measures issued by the IACHR in December 1997.  See Annual Report of the IACHR 1997, p. 41.

[21] On January 10, 1999, the mayor of Apartadó denounced that paramilitary groups that operate in Urabá have a list of 100 persons facing death threats, and that in a message to him from the Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá they warned him "to have 100 coffins ready, because the war is going to continue."  Presentation of the Comité Permanente para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos "Héctor Abad Gómez", hearing before the IACHR on the general human rights situation in Colombia, 104th session.  See also El Espectador, January 11, 1999.

[22] See CINEP and Justicia y Paz, Banco de Datos de Derechos Humanos y Violencia Política, Revista Noche y Niebla, Nº 12, April-June 1999, Nº 13, July-September 1999, and Nº 14 October-December 1999 pp. 21-36, 23-38 and 28-33, respectively.

[23] Specifically, members of TALIBER, an organization that works for prisoners' rights in coordination with the law school at the university, were threatened, as follows: Two members of the teaching staff, 47 students, and the members of the boards of directors, including the university employees.

[24] In 1999, the manager of the law school cafeteria was assassinated, as was one of the threatened student leaders, as he was leaving the university.

[25] State’s Report, p. 7.

[26] State’s Report, p. 49.

[27] See Press Communiques 4/99 (March 8, 1999), 11/99 (April 16, 1999), 15/99 (June 2, 1999), and 28/99 (November 2, 1999).

[28] The FARC was responsible for 47 massacres with 219 victims, the ELN 13 massacres with 44 victims, the EPL two massacres with 14 victims, and the ERP one massacre with four victims.  Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Colombia, SAT Sistema de Alertas Tempranas.  Subsistema de Información:  Masacres ocurridas en Colombia 1999.

[29] IACHR, Third Report, p. 372.

[30] See, e.g., Report Nº 26/97, in Annual Report of the IACHR 1997; Report Nº 61/99 and Report Nº 62/99 in Annual Report of the IACHR 1998, Vol. I.  See also, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Office in Colombia, Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1999/8, March 16, 1999.

[31] Constitutional Court, Judgment C-358 of August 5, 1997.

[32] State’s Report, pp. 55-58.

[33] State’s Report, pp. 42-45.

[34] Despite the change in wording, Article 2 of the Code speaks of offenses particular to the military function, and not of service-related offenses, and therefore does not determine the scope of Article 221 of the Constitution.  Accordingly, the provision appears to set aside the rule established by the Constitutional Court according to which for an offense to be tried in the military jurisdiction, the action must be directly and proximately service-related, i.e., a regular action by the Armed Forces or National Police that becomes irregular. Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Panorama de los derechos humanos y del derecho humanitario en Colombia 1999, p. 35.

[35] State’s Report, p. 39.

[36] See Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, UN doc. A/CONF.183/9 (1998), Article 33, which reflects the current status of international law in this field.  See also, Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, UN S/RES/827 (1993), Article 7; and Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, UN S/RES/955 (1994), Article 6.

[37] State’s Report, pp. 55-58.

[38] The Code confers the right to request that evidence be taken to show the existence of the punishable act, the identity of the perpetrators or participants, and their responsibility; one may appeal the rulings on those aspects.  This amounts to a statute that makes the full, real participation of the injured person more effective in a case in whose outcome he or she has a real interest.

[39] See IACHR, Third Report, Chapter V, paras. 56-59.

[40] Law 270 of 1996.

[41] State’s Report, pp. 59-61.

[42] State’s Report, pp. 53-55.

[43] In this regard, see Statement by the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of May 2, 1999, and the "Observaciones de la Oficina en Colombia de la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos en relación con la abolición de la Justicia Regional."

[44] The definition proposed in the draft legislation included, as possible perpetrators of the crime of forced disappearance, public employees, private persons acting under the decision or with the acquiescence of public employees, private persons belonging to armed groups, or any other person.  The draft legislation created special working groups on disappeared persons, a national register, regulations for administering their property, as well as the permanent obligation of the state to search for them.  It also considered the existence of a register of persons arrested and detained, and an urgent search mechanism.  The draft legislation prohibited any amnesty or pardon in relation to the crimes contained therein.

[45] A criminal definition of forced displacement sought to respond to a criminal modus operandi used frequently by the illegal armed actors in the armed conflict in recent years.  At present, this conduct is criminalized generically by the laws on crimes against individual autonomy.

[46] The proposed legislation also included changes to the definitions of the crimes of aiding and abetting after the fact, conspiracy to commit a crime, and instigation to commit a crime, so as to include the forced disappearance of persons, genocide, and forced displacement of population within the most serious forms of such conduct.  State’s Report, p. 45.  Nonetheless, the text approved on November 30 appears to have undergone a series of changes with respect to a series of issues, including due obedience, since its approval weeks earlier by the First Committee of the lower chamber.

[47] Third Report, Chapter II, para. 81.

[48] State’s Report, p. 16.

[49] This situation has also affected the proposed reform to the Criminal Code that incorporated the provisions of the law defining the crimes of forced disappearance, genocide, forced displacement, and torture, in addition to 27 infractions of international humanitarian law.

[50] IACHR, Report Nº 5/97, Annual Report of the IACHR 1996.

[51] State’s Report, p. 10.

[52] State’s Report, p. 11.

[53] The State indicated that the petitions for transfer may only be brought before the competent officer by those are participants in the process.  State’s Report, pp. 55-58.

[54] The State reported that in the death of Wilmer Antonio Ciro Monterrosa, August 14, 1999, in response to the request from the municipal ombudsman of Saravena (Arauca), it ordered that a prosecutor be designated in the Human Rights Unit to evaluate a possible motion to assume jurisdiction.  The investigation that was being carried out by the 124th Judge of Military Criminal Investigation was transferred by the Superior Council of the Judiciary to the Human Rights Unit.  In addition, the Office of the Procurator-General asked the Dirección Nacional de Fiscalías to evaluate a possible motion seeking jurisdiction before the 123rd Judge of Military Criminal Investigation regarding the preliminary investigation into the violent deaths and torture of Messrs. Luis Joaquín Bello Mendivelson and Luis Evelio Morales Aldana, on September 8, 1996, in the department of Arauca; the ruling was also favorable to the Human Rights Unit.  State’s Report, pp. 55-58.

[55] State’s Report, pp. 58 and 59.

[56] See Third Report, p. 181.

[57] In the course of 1998, the investigation of the matters examined in Cases 11.237, currently pending before the Inter-American Court (see Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case of "Las Palmeras," Preliminary Objections, Judgment of February 5, 2000) and 10.337 (See Report Nº 7/00, Amparo Tordecilla Trujillo, Annual Report of the IACHR 1999), was transferred to the Human Rights Units of the Office of the Prosecutor-General.

[58] IACHR, Resolution Nº 24/87, Colombia, Annual Report of the IACHR 1987-1988.

[59] It should be recalled that the Eighth Brigade of the National Army and its commanders issued the orders as a result of which Luis Fernando Lalinde was detained, tortured, and executed on October 4, 1984.

[60] Information collected in the hearing on the general human rights situation in Colombia held during the Commission's 104th session.

[61] The State informed the Commission as to the decision of the Superior Council of the Judiciary in the course of a hearing on this case, held October 1, 1999, during its 104th session.

[62] IACHR, Report Nº 84/98, Admissibility, Annual Report of the IACHR 1998, Vol. I.

[63] State’s Report, Attachment N° 7.

[64] State’s Report, p. 53.

[65] State’s Report, p. 53.

[66] "The groups of investigators sent from Medellín to the regions to collect evidence on the paramilitary actions are either assassinated or return to Medellín bearing a message from the respective paramilitary chief to the effect that it would be best not to investigate them, for their actions are not directed against the country's institutions.  Whatever the case, the few investigators willing to collect evidence find no support for their efforts from members of the Police in the urban areas, nor from members of the Army in rural areas, in regions under the tight control of the Armed Forces."  Submission by the Comité Permanente para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos "Héctor Abad Gómez" during the hearing held in the 104th session of the IACHR.

[67] In addition, it reported that in order to improve investigations in cases of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, a large number of attorneys were called to testify who were responsible for investigations in such inquiries and determining the responsibility of public authorities.  State’s Report, pp. 8 and 9.

[68] The Program, under the Office of the Prosecutor-General, is aimed at providing integral protection to the participants in processes and their families, with respect to their needs for security, maintenance, housing, and medical and psychological care.  The program has national coverage and has Regional Units for Assistance and Protection strategically situated in Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla, and Cúcuta.  State’s Report, p. 54.

[69] State’s Report, pp. 53-55.

[70] Workshop on Implementing the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Summary Report, May 27-29, 1999, Bogotá, Colombia, Brookings Institute Project, Grupo de Apoyo a Organizaciones de Desplazados, U.S. Committee for Refugees.  See also, Statement by the Representative of the Secretary General on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis M. Deng, to the 54th Session of the UN General Assembly, November 5, 1999.

[71] These figures correspond to the monitoring component of the Information System on Forced Displacement and Human Rights in Colombia SISDES.  Newsletter of the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES) CODHES Informa Nº 28, February 22, 2000.

[72] In 1998, the percentage leaving in exoduses was 21%.  See CODHES Informa Nº 17, February 15, 1999.

[73] CODHES Informe Nº 28, February 22, 2000.

[74] State’s Report, p. 37.

[75] Decree 489/99, which assigns "to the Social Solidarity Network, an entity under the Administrative Department of the Office of the President, the proceedings and functions that had been performed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Attending to the Population Displaced by the Violence" (Article 1).

[76] The drafting of this policy instrument included the participation of an inter-institutional commission made up of the Social Solidarity Network, the National Planning Department, Plan Colombia, various other state institutions, national and international NGOs, and United Nations agencies.  The Commission has been informed that the final version of the document does not reflect most of the aspects developed in the draft on which the inter-institutional commission worked.

[77] State’s Report, Attachment 6.

[78] The Ministry of Interior had been performing these functions through the Special Administrative Unit for Human Rights.

[79] Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Panorama de los derechos humanos y del derecho humanitario en Colombia: 1999, p. 41.

[80] In December 1999, Gen. Canal, Commander of the 3rd Army Brigade, based in Cali (Valle del Cauca), was reported to have indicated--in an interview with the humanitarian mission made up of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the liaison office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the national NGOs CINEP, Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Corporación Avre, Instituto Mayor Campesino, and the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), the international NGO Solidaridad Internacional, the Diocese of Life, Justice, and Peace of the region, and the regional office for Bogotá of the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman--that one of the ways to solve the conflict and the phenomenon of forced displacement is through collaboration of the civilian population in the form of information as to the location and activities of those who cause displacement.  On that occasion he was reported to have said that he understands but does not share the idea of the Communities of Peace, which declare their neutrality in respect of the armed conflict.

[81] The State argues that as one specific strategy applicable to the processes of rural re-location, the Social Solidarity Network has been developing the implementation of a comprehensive package for re-location of the displaced population, which will include the creation and development of peasant reserve zones in select areas, by mutual agreement with the displaced communities.  In those peasant reserve zones, the intent is to develop collective properties for productive activities and for housing, as well as a crucial package for temporary sustenance.

[82] The State has considered the participation of the regional and local organizations in preventing risk factors, the promotion of day-to-day peace, and peaceful dispute settlement to be key for developing this plan. The Plan also includes guaranteeing the health of the displaced population, expanding the coverage of educational establishments, teacher training, and the application of special pedagogic methodologies that take account of the characteristics of this group of the population.

[83] See the reiteration of the precautionary measures originally issued on December 7, 1997, on behalf of displaced persons in the stadium at Turbo and Bocas del Atrato.  IACHR, Annual Report of the IACHR 1998, p. 44.

[84] See CODHES Informa Nº 28, February 22, 2000.

[85] The State has also supported stabilizing the socioeconomic situation of 350 families who of their own accord sought to relocate in Bogotá. In addition, it was decided that 100 families would be re-located in Quibdó.  In this case, a temporary housing project and support for productive projects are about to get under way, with the participation of the Colombian Red Cross, the Spanish Red Cross, and the mayor's office.  In addition, indigenous families of Aruacos from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta have been relocated on a property in Soledad, Atlántico, and support was provided for the construction of their dairy farms.

[86] Articles 17 and 19 of Law 387 of 1997.

[87] The State aims to design and implement special procedures for:  (1) identifying and clarifying the rights and property titles of the displaced population that returns; (2) creating new forms of access to the land that do not entail titling, such as leasing property with the option to buy, and other forms of usufruct; (3) developing compensation schemes that make it possible to use real property that has been abandoned as part of the payment for new properties; (4) the use of properties donated by the private sector, properties subject to confiscation, and the titling of untitled lands; (5) in the case of territories for which collective title could be given to indigenous groups, prioritizing those that benefit displaced populations upon their return.  These measures are now being drawn up by a group of experts made up of representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture and Interior, INCORA, the National Planning Department, and the Social Solidarity Network.

[88] See "General admitió que tocó el tema," El Colombiano, December 7, 1999, p. 8A; "Procurador y Fiscal piden claridad al General Ramírez," El Colombiano, December 6, 1999, p. 3; "Infiltrados," El Colombiano, December 16, 1999, p. 5A; "Sí hablé de infiltración: Ramírez," El Tiempo, December 7, 1999, p. 3A.  See also, "Jefe militar colombiano acusa a organizaciones no gubernamentales," El Nuevo Heraldo, December 3, 1999.

[89] See, "Ramírez, en manos del Fiscal y Procurador," El Tiempo, December 9, 1999, p. 9A.  The Procurator-General and Prosecutor-General answered, "We do regret that without any evidence whatsoever the direction of entities such as the Office of the Prosecutor-General, the Office of the Procurator-General, and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman have been called into question, these being entities that have been and continue to be important for fighting human rights violations.  We would have expected some response from the head of state and from the high command of the armed forces."  See "Conocemos la Constitución," El Tiempo, December 11, 1999, p. 3A.

[90] The State reported in its observations of April 3 that 26 arrangements of “hard” security are currently in force, including the service of 48 bodyguards trusted by the protected persons and 12 more to be appointed, 60 bullet-proof vests, 60 guns, 30 radios, and 30 vans.  The State also referred to the functioning of approximately 30 “soft” security arrangements which do not require armed personnel.  As far as the headquarters of the organizations are concerned, 23 of them have already been adapted for protection and the contracts to work on the adaptation of 62 more have been concluded.  The State is apparently also evaluating measures to protect 34 more premises.  The State has also implemented a program for humanitarian emergency aid which has made possible the relocation of 85 people under threat, as well as the travel arrangements of persons in extreme risk.


[91] The list of precautionary measures issued from January 1999 to February 2000 is reproduced in Chapter III of the Annual Report of the IACHR 1999.  The Commission has also turned to the State to request information on the security situation of certain individuals and members of certain organizations.

[92] Submission by the Comité Permanente para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos "Héctor Abad Gómez", hearing before the IACHR on the general human rights situation in Colombia, 104th session.

[93] State’s Report, p. 76.

[94] Information received in the hearing on the general human rights situation in Colombia held during the 106th regular session of the IACHR.

[95] This plan seeks to promote income-generation; significantly reduce unemployment; reduce poverty and protect adequate use of the environment; offer incentives for the social and economic promotion of the population, in equal conditions, to expand social opportunities, particularly for the population that is especially vulnerable in view of its socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, territorial, religious, or gender status; and improve efficiency and equity in the allocation of public resources, mindful of the criteria of income and regional and gender-based re-distribution.

[96] The Network finances and co-finances programs and projects to support the poorest sectors of the Colombian population in the areas of employment, education, food, social security, sports recreation, cultural activities, and integration of marginalized settlements. In addition, it is carrying out actions and programs to promote, develop, and implement a new concept of social management in which State and society coordinate, sharing responsibility for implementation, and for the results of the social programs.

[97] At present, this office is coordinating the design and implementation of the National Program for the Prevention of Family and Daily Violence, the National Plan for the Disabled, the Action Plan for Children, and National Plans for Creation and the Prevention of Drug Addiction (RUMBOS).

[98] State’s Report, p. 23.

[99] State’s Report, p. 33.

[100] The strategies planned to be developed to achieve this are:  (1) mobilizing the resources of individuals and organizations that commit to covering the cost of a school supplies for one student; (2) regulating social service in rural areas for the students of education and teaching-related programs; (3) expanding access for the dispersed population in rural areas and the adult population through education models whose quality has been tested; (4) adopting alternative educational models to be applied in those dispersed areas where it is not possible to have a student-teacher ratio of 15:1; (5) promoting experiences of recognized value that render compatible work, recreation, and education, such as the New School and the Tutorial Learning System; and (6) strengthening rural education through a project that is already being developed that seeks to strengthen basic education, systematizing and promoting formal secondary and technical education, as well as non-formal education to cover the youths and adults in these areas.

[101] Communique Nº 462 of the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, November 25, 1999.

[102] "Crece la niñez desplazada,"  El Tiempo, January 27, 2000, p. 2A.

[103] Id.

[104] Cambio, July 19, 1999, p. 16.

[105] Cambio, July 19, 1999, p. 17.

[106] UN Press Release HR/00/9, January 31, 2000, "Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, calls on the FARC of Colombia to Honor Commitments on Recruitment of Children."

[107] State’s Report, p. 91.

[108] The community affected notes that administrative obstacles persist to state implementation of the agreements.  For example, there is not sufficient personnel to carry out the land purchase programs, the bonds for payment of the lands are not issued in a timely fashion by the Ministry of Treasury and the National Planning Department, and there are inconsistencies between what is reported by the regional offices and the national office.  As a result, the procedures continue to be sluggish and complicated.

[109] See Report Nº   /00, Annual Report of the IACHR 1999.

[110] In the case of the Embera Katío, the Constitutional Court stated that "the procedure for the issuance of the environmental license that made possible construction of the civil works of the Urrá I hydroelectric plant was carried out in an irregular manner, and in violation of the fundamental rights of the Embera Katío of the Upper Sinú, as the consultation that was required, formally and substantially, was omitted. Thus, not only were the rights to participation, due process, and integrity of this people violated, but also, the principle of respect for the multicultural character of the Colombian nation was also violated, with a grave impact on the right to subsistence of the Embera in the department of Córdoba, in addition to the State failing to carry out the commitments it has acquired internationally and incorporated into domestic law through Law 21 of 1991 (approving ILO Convention 169) in the area of respect for the human rights of the indigenous peoples."  Constitutional Court, Judgment Nº T-652 (1998), Judge Carlos Gaviria Díaz writing for the Court.