1. In this Chapter, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the "Commission," the "IACHR" or the "Inter-American Commission") will discuss several selected issues relating to the right to freedom of association and the right to participation in government. The Commission will first address the situation of labor union members and the right to freedom of association and will then look at the special case of teachers. The Commission will then proceed to examine the situation of elected officials and the various electoral processes, which took place in 1997 and 1998, in the context of the right to participate in government. Finally, the Commission will discuss the situation of those political parties that serve as an alternative to the two traditional parties. Their situation involves both the right to freedom of association and the right to participate in government.

2. Article 16 of the American Convention on Human Rights (the "Convention" or the "American Convention") provides for the right to freedom of association. This article establishes that, "[e]veryone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes." The Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ("Protocol of San Salvador") provides more specific provisions regarding the right to freedom of association of labor union members. Article 8 of the Protocol establishes that the States Parties shall ensure the right of workers "to organize trade unions and to join the union of their choice for the purpose of protecting and promoting their interests." Colombia has adhered to this Protocol, although it has not yet entered into force. The Commission nonetheless considers that this instrument provides a useful interpretative tool for analyzing the right to freedom of association established in the Convention.

3. Article 23 of the Convention sets forth the right to participate in government. The right to participate in government includes the right of every individual to "take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives," as well as the right "to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections."


4. The Commission has received detailed and credible information regarding violence directed at persons who engage in labor union activities. Labor union members have frequently been stigmatized because of their labor related activities, as well as for their social and political ideologies. They have frequently been labeled as guerrilla sympathizers or collaborators, placing them in a vulnerable situation vis-à-vis the parties to the armed conflict.

5. Between 1991 and 1997, 1,071 labor union members were killed in Colombia. In June 1997, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions ("ICFTU") issued a report on attacks against trade unionists throughout the world. According to the report, of every 100 trade unionists killed in the world during 1996, approximately 40 of these were Colombian.( 1 ) Since 1991, the greatest number of killings of labor union members occurs each year in the Department of Antioquia. The education and agricultural workers labor unions have experienced the greatest number of murders of their members. Unionized miners also suffer significant attacks. The members of the Unitary Workers Center (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores - "CUT") have consistently been subjected to acts of violence over the years.( 2 )

6. The Commission has received information indicating that, in 1997 alone, 144 unionized workers were killed, including 37 labor union leaders. Nine additional unionized workers were disappeared.

7. One of the murdered union leaders, Victor Julio Garzon, served before his death as General Secretary for the National Unitary Labor Union for Agricultural and Cattle Workers (Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria - "FENSUAGRO"), one of the most important unions in the country. Mr. Garzón was killed on March 7, 1997 in Bogotá. He had participated in a commission established for monitoring agreements between peasant farmers from the coca-producing regions in the south of the country and representatives of the government that was reached following large-scale demonstrations by coca growers in 1996. As noted in other sections of this Report, these coca growers have been labeled by the State's security forces as collaborators of the armed dissident groups and have been subjected to violence. The Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Nation is investigating the death of Mr. Garzon.

8. The recent murder of Jorge Ortega, another important labor union leader, caused great consternation in Colombia. Mr. Ortega, vice-president of the CUT union, was killed on October 20, 1998. At the time of his murder, the CUT union was involved in difficult negotiations with the Colombian Government. Mr. Ortega was killed in the residential complex where he lived as he returned home from work at approximately 7:30 p.m. The Colombian Government condemned his murder and offered an award for information regarding the whereabouts of the individual responsible for the murder.

9. The violence against labor union members has not been limited to violations of the right to life. Labor union members also receive constant threats in many areas of the country. The physical violence and threats have also led to the forced displacement of a great number of labor union members. Between January and November of 1997, 342 unionized workers were forcibly displaced from their normal places of residence. Of those displaced unionists, 43 were labor union leaders.( 3 ) In addition, the Commission has received information regarding attacks with explosives on labor union offices. Labor union members have also been the targets of kidnappings.

10. The Commission found it necessary in several cases in 1997 to request that the Colombian State adopt precautionary measures on behalf of labor union members. On April 24, 1997, the Commission requested the adoption of such measures to protect the life and physical integrity of Sergio Jaramillo Pulgarín, co-founder and ex-Secretary of the labor union formed by the workers at the Porce II Consortium plant in Amalfi, Antioquia. A month before the Commission requested these measures, the labor union's president had been killed by armed men who had pulled him from a vehicle carrying several other workers, making reference to a list in their possession which included his name. Afterwards, unknown men had appeared at Mr. Jaramillo's house asking for him by name.

11. The Commission also requested the adoption of precautionary measures to protect the life and physical integrity of Domingo Rafael Tovar Arrieta, member of the Executive Committee of CUT. Mr. Tovar had been attacked and threatened on several occasions. In May 1997, an attempt on his life was made. He left the country for a time and, upon his return at the end of September 1997, the threats were renewed. The Commission requested the adoption of precautionary measures on his behalf on November 21, 1997. The Commission lifted these precautionary measures on January 29, 1997 after receiving information indicating that Mr. Tovar had decided to again leave the country for safety reasons.

12. The Commission has received information indicating that armed dissident groups sometimes threaten or attack labor union members. For example, on May 21, 1997, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - "ELN"), issued a declaration over the radio threatening oil company workers with reprisals if they continued with their employment. These threats were issued in the municipality of Yopal in the Department of Casanare. Armed dissident groups have also attacked unionized banana workers in the Urabá region of the Department of Antioquia with some frequency.( 4 ) When armed dissident groups attack labor union members, they act in a manner incompatible with the rules for protection of civilians established in international humanitarian law.

13. The information available to the Commission indicates, however, that acts of violence against labor union members are most frequently committed by paramilitary groups. The Commission has obtained copies of several written threats against labor union members signed by different paramilitary groups. These groups identify themselves as "social cleansing entities" and refer to labor union leaders as members of the urban units of armed dissident groups. One of these notes names specific members of the Good-Year labor union and is signed by "Colombia without War" (Colombia sin Guerra - "COLSINGUE"), a well-known paramilitary group believed to be responsible for killings of labor union leaders and human rights defenders in the past.

14. The Commission has also received complaints regarding State involvement in intimidation of and/or attacks against labor union members. To support their allegations, these complaints point to a convergence of violent attacks by paramilitary organizations and State-initiated criminal proceedings against labor union members. The case of the petroleum workers union, the Workers' Labor Union (Unión Sindical Obrera - "USO"), provides a particularly clear example of this convergence.

15. Members of the USO have frequently been the objects of threats and attacks. The USO has fought to prevent privatization of the State oil company, ECOPETROL. During this political struggle, the USO has seen more than 70 of its members and leaders murdered over the past decade. On October 9, 1995, a fax arrived at the headquarters of the CUT threatening 24 union leaders. The fax was signed by the "Henry Pérez Association of Self Defense Groups of the Middle Magdalena Region." In addition to listing the names of the threatened individuals, the fax included their places of residence and the guerrilla organizations with which they were allegedly involved. Nineteen members of the USO were listed in the fax.

16. At the same time that the USO has suffered these threats and acts of violence, legal proceedings have been initiated against many members of the organization in the regional justice system. These proceedings led to the detention, on December 5, 1996, of fourteen leaders and workers of the USO on charges of rebellion and terrorism. It was later discovered that prosecutors had manipulated this proceeding by duplicating the testimony of one anonymous witness to make it appear that various witnesses had provided similar incriminating information against the members of the labor union. That testimony had provided the basis for the detention of the labor union members.

17. The persons detained in this proceeding included former USO president César Carrillo. Mr. Carrillo also appeared on the list of threatened union members sent to CUT in October of 1995. The discovery of the manipulated testimony eventually led to his release.

18. The apparent convergence of interests between the paramilitary groups which attack labor unions and official persecution lends credence to allegations that State agents are either directly involved in the violent attacks against labor union members or encourage and support such attacks. It is suggested that, at a minimum, the initiation of criminal proceedings against union members serves to identify them as "enemies of the State" or guerrilla collaborators and encourages their treatment as targets by paramilitary groups. It is also suggested that paramilitary groups receive intelligence information necessary to carry out attacks against union member targets from the State's security forces. These allegations are further supported by the fact that the State's security forces have in fact prepared intelligence reports, sometimes made public or used in criminal proceedings in the regional justice system, which identify labor union leaders as guerrilla collaborators based on their union work.

19. The Commission also understands that the labor unions have generally denounced the threats and violent attacks against their membership before the competent authorities. However, the Commission has not been informed of any convictions of individuals responsible for murdering labor union members.

20. Based on this information, the Commission must conclude that the State is internationally responsible for at least some of the crimes against labor union members committed by paramilitary groups, through its acquiescence or tolerance if not active involvement. The State is thus responsible for violation of the rights to life and physical integrity of these union members, as well as the right to freedom of association protected in Article 16 of the Convention. The right to association, particularly when viewed in light of the Protocol of San Salvador, clearly includes the right to form and participate in labor unions. The Commission has previously noted that, where the legitimate exercise of a right protected in the Convention provokes attacks, reprisals or sanctions, that right is violated.( 5 )

21. The Commission notes that civilian authorities have taken some steps to protect labor union members. The Committee for Evaluation of Risks (Comité de Evaluación de Riesgos) of the Protection Program in the Ministry of the Interior has acted to provide some protection to labor union members. For example, after the death of Mr. Garzón, General Secretary of FENSUAGRO, the Committee arranged personal security for several other threatened leaders of the organization, including the assignment of bodyguards and a vehicle.

22. In May of 1997, then President Samper issued a decree establishing an interinstitutional commission for the promotion and protection of workers.( 6 ) The commission included representatives of various offices of the Government and was headed by the Minister of Labor and Social Security. The commission also included five labor union representatives as well as representatives from various non-governmental human rights organizations. The commission was asked to study the various criminal proceedings initiated in cases of violence against labor union members and to make recommendations regarding the protection and promotion of workers.

23. However, until now, the measures taken by the State have not been sufficient to combat the seriousness of the situation. The Commission is extremely concerned by the violence against unionized workers and calls upon the Colombian State to ensure the life and physical integrity of labor union members as well as their right to freedom of association.


24. Teachers, as an occupational group, exemplify the effects of the widespread violence that prevails in Colombia today on the right to freedom of association as well as on the effective enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Teachers are subject to acts of intimidation, often ending in death or displacement. In this context, the deterioration in the security situation, the maintenance of which is an essential obligation of the State, directly affects the right to association, specifically the right to participate in trade unions, as well as several economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to work and the right to public education.

25. Teachers affiliated with the Colombian Teachers Federation (Federación Colombiana de Educadores – "FECODE") have been among the preferred targets of violence. In 1997 alone, at least 56 teachers who were FECODE members were assassinated, and four more were disappeared. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the "Court") has already held Colombia liable for the forced disappearance of one teacher, Isidro Caballero Delgado.( 7 ) Recently, the Commission decided to send the Court an additional case regarding the extrajudicial execution of a teacher from Las Palmeras, in the municipality of Mocoa, Department of Putumayo. The senseless violence against teachers is such that the Commission has received information indicating that the causes of the deaths of and threats against teachers range from the stigma attached to trade union activity, the treatment of teachers as allies of the subversives and the placement of schools in areas affected by very serious armed combat, to problems associated with internal conflicts within the schools or even grades.

26. Threats have forced many teachers to request transfers to other schools. From 1995 to 1997, in the Department of Antioquia alone, 686 teachers were forced to abandon their work posts to be relocated elsewhere. As a result, according to information available to the Commission, there is a lack of teaching personnel in some especially violent areas due to the displacement of teachers who were working in those areas.

27. The situation for teachers reached the point that on October 9, 1992 the President of Colombia issued Decree 1645/92, to establish mechanisms for resolving the situation of teaching personnel who were directly threatened. That decree sought specifically to provide the means to expeditiously relocate teaching personnel to places where their lives would be safeguarded. Especially important was the creation of the Special Committee for Threatened Persons, whose main purpose was to implement measures aimed at guaranteeing the lives and personal integrity of teachers facing threats.

28. The auspicious goals which led to the creation of that Committee have not produced the expected results, especially in Antioquia, where teachers have been most threatened. According to information received by the Commission, at least 12 threatened teachers did not receive adequate attention from the Committee. Another 48 were relocated, with a diminution in their labor rights and the loss of premiums and bonuses, in remote areas, thereby destroying their family unity, or in the same geographic area where the threat took place. At least 15 teachers were sanctioned for not abiding by the Committee's decision on relocation, even when that decision would not guarantee their safety or would diminish their labor rights. The seriousness of the situation led the Office of the Regional Human Rights Ombudsman to make a public statement maintaining that the Departmental Committee for Threatened Persons and the Departmental Board of Education take actions without regard for the law, the Constitution, or international treaties.( 8 )

29. The Commission recommends that the State adopt forceful measures to investigate and punish the persons responsible for acts of violence against teachers, especially in the Department of Antioquia. In addition, so long as this situation persists, the State should adopt the measures necessary to ensure that departmental authorities bring their conduct into line with the letter and spirit of Decree 1645/92.

30. Beyond the provisions of this decree, the Commission believes that the State has a central non-derogable obligation to provide education in every region of the country. While the situation of violence persists, the State must take as many measures as necessary to ensure that teachers can practice their profession without being exposed to threats that endanger their lives or physical integrity. The displacement and relocation of teachers is a short-term stop-gap measure, but it cannot serve as the complete or final response of the State. The State’s general obligations to guarantee and protect rights and to prevent violations of those rights require it to take measures to prevent acts of violence against teachers, and to investigate and punish the persons responsible for those acts which take place. The State must guarantee the teachers’ ability to carry out their educational work freely and safely while, at the same time, comply with its obligation to provide a free education to all inhabitants of the country, independent of the region in which they live.


31. Participation in government and in electoral processes in Colombia is a dangerous endeavor. According to a report prepared by the Ministry of the Interior, during the first eight months of 1997, 196 crimes were committed against local candidates for election and active mayors and city council members. These crimes included 78 kidnappings, 72 murders, 33 terrorist acts, 21 attacks and 4 disappearances.( 9 )

32. In 1997 and 1998, Colombia celebrated three important elections. On October 26, 1997, the Colombian people elected mayors, local council members and other local officials. Members of the Colombian Congress were elected on March 8, 1998. Finally, the first round of the presidential elections took place on May 31, 1998, followed by the second and final round on June 21.

33. Throughout this entire electoral period, and particularly in the months leading up to the October 1997 elections, armed dissident and paramilitary groups attempted to interfere with the electoral process. In the month of April 1997, various armed dissident factions operating in Colombia announced their intention to boycott the October elections. These groups interfered by attacking candidates and announcing a prohibition on political proselytizing by candidates. Members of armed dissident groups also kidnapped numerous candidates to give them the message that they must propose certain platforms or resign. Armed dissident groups also insisted that all passenger and cargo transportation be suspended throughout the country in the days before the elections.

34. A particularly serious incident occurred on October 23, 1997. On that day, members of the ELN captured two elections observers sent by the Organization of American States ("OAS") along with a departmental government official, in the outskirts of the municipality of Granada, in the Department of Antioquia. Numerous local and international organizations, including the Commission, issued press releases condemning this act.( 10 ) The kidnapped OAS observers were not released until November 1, 1997.

35. By these kind of acts, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - "FARC") dissident group forced 80% of the candidates for local election in southern Colombia to withdraw their candidacies. The violence and threats by armed dissident groups led to the resignation, before the October election, of a total of 10% of the candidates for mayor throughout the country. In 22 municipalities, the massive withdrawal of candidates was such that there remained no candidates either for mayor or for city council. The threats led to the withdrawal of all candidates for mayor in 97 municipalities.( 11 )

36. At the same time, paramilitary groups threatened certain candidates and warned residents in certain areas of the country that they should not vote or otherwise take part in the elections. The influence of the paramilitaries in the elections was most significant in the Atlantic Coast region, particularly in Urabá, Córdoba, Magdalena and the south of the Department of Cesar. The interference by paramilitary groups prevented almost entirely the inscription of leftist parties in the elections in the Urabá region. In prior years, members of alternative parties such as the Patriotic Union had succeeded in gaining notable political influence in this area.

37. After the October elections, the armed dissident groups took a less aggressive role in the remaining two elections. Several days before the presidential elections, the FARC announced that they would not boycott the elections but would simply call on the citizenry to abstain from voting.

38. The acts of violence carried out by armed dissident groups and paramilitary groups against electoral candidates are inconsistent with the rules for the protection of civilians set forth pursuant to international humanitarian law. As the Commission explained in Chapter IV of this Report, political candidates and elected officials may not be treated as legitimate military targets based on their mere participation in the electoral process. In addition, many of the kidnappings would constitute hostage takings, which are expressly prohibited under international humanitarian law in all cases. Finally, as the Commission pointed out in its press release issued at the time of the ELN kidnapping of OAS election observers, these acts by armed dissident groups interfere with the free exercise of the right of Colombians to vote and to participate in politics. The Commission reiterates its condemnation of all acts that interfere with this important right guaranteed in Article 23 of the American Convention.

39. The Commission notes that the Colombian State took measures to ensure that each of the elections would go forward. The Government implemented a strategy referred to as "Plan Democracy" and called upon the State's public security forces to preserve the public order during the elections. These efforts enjoyed significant success. The disturbances on each of the election days were relatively minor, although armed combat did prevent access to the polls in some areas and armed dissident groups destroyed some polling areas. Other polling areas had to be moved or eliminated, because residents named to work at the polls refused to appear after receiving threats from armed dissident groups.

40. Ex-President Samper also ordered local police units to provide protection, and even lodging, to threatened candidates. The Commission nonetheless received numerous complaints indicating that the State did not provide adequate protection for the candidates and electoral officials in the period leading up to the elections, particularly the October election. The Commission believes that the importance of the right to political participation, set forth in Article 23 of the American Convention, places upon the State a special obligation to act affirmatively to do everything feasible to ensure that candidates for election are protected and that elections may go forward without interference.

41. As a positive element in the elections, the Commission notes that the Government resisted calls to declare a state of emergency for the electoral period. The President instead limited special actions to the issuance of Decree 2007 of 1997, which ordered governors and mayors to keep local security councils and public order committees in session and active. The Commission did, nonetheless, receive a few complaints indicating that local officials had acted illegitimately to limit rights during the electoral period. For example, residents of Puerto Asís, Department of Putumayo complained about a communication sent from the commander of the XXIV Brigade to the mayor of Puerto Asís. In that communication, the commander ordered the cancellation of a manifestation which had been scheduled in Puerto Asís to petition for the postponement of the October elections.

42. In the end, the efforts by various armed groups to interfere with the elections failed to achieve their broadest objectives. The Commission congratulates the Colombian State on its success in holding elections with high participation in the face of significant efforts to derail the electoral process. Each of the three elections enjoyed strong voter participation, with higher turnouts than in previous elections in recent years.

43. Almost 50% of registered voters went to the polls in the October elections. As the OAS observer mission final report noted, in relation to the October elections, that "[d]espite the fact that voting is not mandatory and the repeated intimidation by insurgent forces, citizens demonstrated their political will exercising a right indispensable for the survival and the consolidation of democracy."( 12 )

44. As is traditional, the rate of voter abstention was higher for the congressional elections in March 1998. Approximately 30 to 35% of all registered voters participated in that election.

45. Voter participation was again strong for the presidential elections. Approximately 52% of registered voters, or 10,900,000 individuals, cast their ballots in the first round. Voter participation in the second round was even greater, reaching 12,000,000 votes. Andrés Pastrana obtained the presidency with 50.3% of these votes.

46. The Commission notes that, even after the elections, elected officials, particularly at the local level, have continued to be the victims of threats, kidnappings and other attacks. The responsibility for most of these attacks has been attributed to armed dissident groups. Less than a week after the mayors assumed their positions in January of 1998, the new mayor of Colosó, Department of Sucre, was killed by the FARC. Armed dissident groups kidnapped mayors repeatedly after the October elections. The mayors were frequently sent back with political messages for the President or for other local officials.

47. These incidents follow a pattern of violence against elected officials in Colombia. Official sources estimate that, between 1995 and 1997, 28 mayors were killed. In 1995, 18 mayors were kidnapped and, in 1996, 23 were kidnapped. Between November 1996 and September 1997, 41 mayors were kidnapped and 40 were victims of threats or attacks.( 13 ) Between January 1995 and July 1997, 140 local city council members were killed.( 14 )

48. The Commission is extremely concerned that these consistent attacks, in violation of international humanitarian law, may eventually lead to a situation in which the Colombian citizenry does not have effective access to the right to vote and direct or representative political participation. The Commission calls upon the State to take all measures necessary to ensure that these rights to political participation are protected in order to ensure that Colombia remains a fully democratic State.


49. The first report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia noted that political activity in Colombia "is characterized by a high degree of intolerance in relation to opposition parties and movements."( 15 ) The most dramatic example of violence against alternative political parties is the case of the Patriotic Union political party ("UP").

50. The Patriotic Union was formed as a political party on May 28, 1985 as a result of peace negotiations between the FARC and the State of Colombia presided over by President Belisario Betancur Cuartas. The Patriotic Union was not conceived as a political party in the strictest sense of the term, but more as a political alternative to the traditional power structure that would serve as a vehicle for the various manifestations of civil and popular protest. The Patriotic Union was also envisioned as the political vehicle of the FARC for possible reassimilation into civilian life.

51. The newly established party received support from opposition left-leaning political movements, such as the Communist Party, and quickly obtained significant electoral success in elections in 1986 and 1988. However, members of the party soon began to be the objects of violent attacks.

52. The Commission described the mass killings against members of the Patriotic Union political party in its "Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia" as well as in the report on Colombia included in the 1996 Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. More than 1500 members of the Patriotic Union political party have allegedly been killed since the party's formation in 1985.( 16 ) In its 1996 Annual Report, the Commission noted that the leadership of the Patriotic Union political party estimates that, in 1996, "a member of the party was killed every two days."( 17 ) That year, Pedro Malagón, a UP member of Congress from the Department of Meta, was killed. Josué Giraldo, also a UP member and member of the Civic Committee for Human Rights for Meta, was killed that same year.( 18 )

53. Almost all of the members of this party who have been elected to important positions, such as in the Congress, have been killed. The murder of Senator Manuel Cepeda constitutes one of the most well-known killings of Patriotic Union members. Other members have been forced to abandon their political positions and flee the country to live in exile. For example, Aida Abella, UP president and ex-member of the Bogotá City Council, was almost killed in an attack on April 1996. As a result, she was forced to flee to Switzerland. In October of 1997, UP Senator Hernán Motta Motta, was forced to leave his post in the Senate and flee the country as a result of threats against him and his family.

54. The Commission has declared admissible a petition regarding the persecution of the Patriotic Union political party.( 19 )( 20 ) That petition alleges that members of the Colombian State security forces have committed some of the acts of persecution carried out against the members of the Patriotic Union. The petitioners also allege that the State of Colombia has tolerated or acquiesced in the persecution of the political party through its failure to adequately investigate and sanction the crimes committed against its members and its failure to take other effective measures to prevent these crimes.

55. In its decision on admissibility, the Commission held that the petitioners had set forth facts which, if proven, would tend to establish violations of the American Convention. Specifically, sufficient facts were alleged to allow the Commission to analyze possible violations of the right to freedom of association and the right to participate in government, set forth in Articles 16 and 23 of the Convention, as well as the right to juridical personality, the right to life, the right to humane treatment, the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial and judicial protection.

56. The Commission has placed itself at the disposition of the parties for the purpose of arriving at a friendly settlement of the case relating to the Patriotic Union political party. The Colombian State and the petitioners have begun to discuss the possibilities relating to such a friendly settlement.


Based on the foregoing, the Commission makes the following recommendations to the Colombian State:

  1. The State should take immediate and effective steps to protect the life and physical integrity of labor union members. These steps should include, as a crucial means of providing protection, the investigation and sanction of the perpetrators of attacks against labor union activists.

  2. The State should take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of teachers throughout the country.

  3. The State should take all measures necessary to ensure respect for the right of the citizenry to political participation. In this regard, the State should do everything feasible to ensure that candidates for election are protected and that elections may go forward without interference.

  4. The State should take immediate and effective steps to protect the life and physical integrity of elected officials. These steps should include, as a crucial means of providing protection, the investigation and sanction of the perpetrators of attacks against elected officials.

  5. The State should take effective measures to ensure that political parties, which serve as an alternative to the two traditional parties, may freely and fully participate in electoral politics.

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 ( 1 ) El Espectador, June 14, 1997.

( 2 ) National Labor Union School, Human Rights Situation of the Colombian Workers in 1997, at 3 [hereinafter Labor Union School Report].

( 3 ) Id., Annex 1.

( 4 ) Some of these attacks are described in Chapter IV of this Report.

( 5 ) IACHR, Report 32/96, Case No. 10.553 (Guatemala), October 16, 1996, par. 63; Application to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Baena, et al Case (Panama), January 16, 1998, at 49.

( 6 ) Decree No. 1413, May 27, 1997.

( 7 ) See I/A Court H.R., Case of Caballero Delgado and Santana, Judgment of December 8, 1995.

( 8 ) Note from the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, Medellín, October 15, 1997.

( 9 ) See Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, E/CN.4/1998/16, March 9, 1998, par. 56.

( 10 ) See IACHR, Press Release, No. 16/97.

( 11 ) See Republic of Colombia, Electoral Organization, National Civil Status Registry, Public Order Report, October 16, 1997.

( 12 ) Report of the General Secretariat on the Mission of Solidarity with Colombian Democracy, OEA/Ser.G, CP/doc. 3066/98, May 20, 1998, at 26.

( 13 ) See "Alcalde en Colombia, profesión peligro," El Tiempo, January 29, 1998.

( 14 ) Letter signed by the National Federation of Councils (Federación Nacional de Concejos), July 16, 1997.

( 15 ) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, par. 58.

( 16 ) See id., par. 56.

( 17 ) 1996 Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.95, Doc. 7 rev., March 14, 1997, at 663.

( 18 ) These killings are described in other relevant Chapters of this Report.

( 19 ) See Report No. 5/97, On Admissibility, Case 11.227 (Colombia), March 12, 1997.