ON-SITE VISITS OF THE IACHR TO COLOMBIA
A. VISIT BY THE SPECIAL PREPARATORY COMMISSION, DECEMBER 1990
Subsequent to the on-site visit made in 1980, the Commission never again had an opportunity to return to Colombia. As an international body it must have either an invitation or permission, and it had neither until 1991. Nevertheless, it has been vigilant in its observation of and concern for the human rights problem in Colombia.
On April 13, 1989, during the Commission's 75th session, the Government of Colombia, under the administration of President Barco, invited the Commission to visit Colombian territory to observe the general human rights situation in the country. On April 25, 1989, the Commission, through its Executive Secretariat, sent the Government of Colombia its reply proposing October of that year as the date for the on-site visit.
Later, on July 10, 1989, the Colombian Government informed the Commission that while its invitation was still open, it would prefer that the Commission consider a visit sometime in the first quarter of 1990, citing as its reasons, inter alia, the peace negotiations with the M-19 movement and the start of the sessions of the National Congress that would debate the constitutional amendment.
This communication was brought to the Commission's attention during its 76th session. There, the Commission members agreed to change the date of the visit and to suggest March 1990 as a suitable date for the on-site visit.
In answer to that suggestion, on December 15, 1989, the Colombian Government told the Commission that general elections for the deliberative bodies were scheduled for March 1990 and the presidential elections for May. Given that fact, the Government felt that it might be best to consider some other date.
This message was conveyed to the Commission during its 77th session in May 1990. It decided to discuss this topic again at its next session in September of that year. Given the very serious human rights situation in Colombia and the fact that though the invitation was still open the Government, citing a variety of reasons, had not yet specified a date, the Commission decided as follows:
To propose to the Colombian Government that the on-site visit be conducted in March 1991 and that at the end of that visit a special report be prepared.
Should the Government disagree with the suggested date or fail to set an alternative date immediately, the Secretariat would, using the information it had at hand, prepare a report to be examined at the 79th session of the Commission; once that report was approved, it would be added to the Annual Report to be submitted to the General Assembly of the Organization.
When the Commission met again for its 78th session, September 24 through October 5, 1990, it considered the standing but not yet finalized invitation from the Colombian Government to make an on-site visit to the country and suggested that the Government's permission be requested to send a special preliminary and exploratory mission composed of one member of the Commission, accompanied by staff of the Executive Secretariat, to establish direct contact with some government and justice officials and nongovernmental human rights institutions in Colombia.
Duly informed of that decision, the Government of Colombia said that it would be pleased to receive the IACHR's preliminary special mission, scheduled for the first week in December 1990. In effect, the Commission's special preparatory visit took place from December 3 through 7, 1990. It consisted of the Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Deputy Executive Secretary David Padilla, and the Secretariat attorney in charge of Colombian matters, Manuel Velasco Clark. The latter had traveled to Colombia some days in advance to make the necessary arrangements for the visit.
a. Aspects taken into account during the Special Preparatory Commission's visit
With the problems of obtaining an invitation from the Colombian Government behind it, the Special Preparatory Commission knew that the success of its efforts could depend on the recommendations it made to the new Colombian Government regarding fulfillment of its international commitments, in order to secure specific measures to protect human rights. It also intended to learn what measures government officials were considering to improve the existing situation and what the NGOs thought of this issue, of the present situation and of the cases before the Commission.
At the time of this preliminary visit, Colombia was enmeshed in a complex crisis, much of it caused by the many violent elements and causes of violence within Colombia. Impunity was also a problem, and was the result of an ineffectual judicial system. While the major cause of the impunity problem were the threats and intimidation that these violent elements targeted at the members of the judiciary, there were other causes as well: the judiciary did not have sufficient resources and lacked properly trained personnel; there were no guarantees for magistrates and their families; no sweeping, in-depth reform was undertaken to make investigations rapid, effective, and impartial and to punish the guilty. Another potential source of human rights violations and a reason why crime went unpunished were the military courts, which State security agents used to keep those who participated in criminal acts from being prosecuted by the regular courts. Finally, the Special Preparatory Committee wanted to apprise itself fully of the special laws that took effect in a state of emergency. This system of laws, which had become much broader, appeared to be causing and in many cases even legitimizing many abuses.
Apart from examining the situation of human rights in Colombia and conveying to the Government its serious concern over the existing situation, the Special Preparatory Commission also planned to request information and practical findings on certain cases that were being processed with the Commission and to fill in gaps in the information that the Executive Secretariat of the Commission in Washington had in its possession.
The Special Preparatory Commission was also conscious of the special situation in Colombia at the time: the latter was in the process of amending its constitution and installing a constitutional assembly in which various sectors of society participated. This was an opportunity for the Committee to give the Government of President Gaviria some substantive suggestions, as he had repeatedly stated his commitment to the human rights cause.
b. Activities of the Special Preparatory Commission of the IACHR in December 1990
During its visit to Colombia, the IACHR's special delegation had a heavy program that included interviews, audiences and working meetings with Colombia's leading public officials, representatives of nongovernmental human rights organizations, representatives of petitioners in individual cases and plaintiffs in cases with the IACHR, representatives of various sectors of Colombian society, journalists, those sectors of the church involved with programs to protect and defend human rights and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The Special Preparatory Commission met with the following officials:
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Luis Fernando Jaramillo, who was accompanied by his advisers Guillermo Fernández de Soto and Clemencia Forero Ucrós, and the Foreign Ministry's Deputy Secretary for International Organizations, Dr. Luis Guillermo Grillo; Minister of Justice Dr. Jaime Giraldo Angel; the Presidential Security Adviser Dr. Rafael Pardo Rueda and the Presidential Adviser for the Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Dr. Jorge Orlando Melo; in the absence of Dr. Jesús Bejarano, Presidential Adviser for Peace, the Special Preparatory Commission met with Dr. Carlos Eduardo Jaramillo, who was temporarily in charge of that office. The Special Preparatory Commission also met with the Director General for Criminal Investigations, Dr. Carlos Eduardo Mejía, who was accompanied by his principal colleagues: Dr. Víctor Enrique Navarro J., National Deputy Director of National Police; Dr. María Mercedes de Burgos, Assistant with the National Human Rights Unit, and Dr. Luz María Grueso V., Chief of the National Human Rights Unit. It also met with the Attorney General of the Nation, Dr. Alfonso Gómez Méndez; the Attorney Delegate for the Defense of Human Rights, Dr. Jaime Córdoba T.; the Attorney Delegate for the National Police, Dr. Tahí Hernández de Barrios; the Attorney Delegate for the Military Forces, Dr. Plinio Moreno, and with the Chief of the Special Investigations Unit, Dr. Pablo González.
The Special Preparatory Commission met with the President of the Supreme Court, Dr.Jorge Carreño Luengas; the Vice President of the Court was also present. A number of members of the Council of State took part in the Special Preparatory Commission's meeting with the Council's Chairman, Dr. Reinaldo Arciniegas.
The Special Preparatory Commission also had a hearing with Defense Minister General Oscar Botero Restrepo. Participating in that meeting were Major General José Roberto Ibáñez S., Secretary General of the Ministry; Rear Admiral Benjamín Gamarra, Chief of Personnel of the Military Forces, and Col. Jorge Suárez from the Department of Personnel.
The Special Preparatory Commission spent its afternoons interviewing and holding working meetings with various nongovernmental human rights organizations in Colombia, among them the following: the Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales of the National University of Colombia; the Centro de Investigación de Educación Popular (CINEP); the Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos (ASFADDES); the Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CPPDH); the Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (CSPP), and the Asociación de Familiares de Desaparecidos del Palacio de Justicia; the Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo"; the Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz; the Liga por los Derechos y la Liberación de los Pueblos, Colombian Section; CEDAVIDA Social Foundation; the National Steering Committee for Human Rights and Victims of the Dirty War (CONADEHGS); Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos (ANUC); Grupo Prensa Alternativa. It also held hearings with a number of petitioners in individual cases filed with the Commission; the Asociación Nacional de Funcionarios y Empleados de la Rama Jurisdiccional (ASONAL JUDICIAL); the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT); the Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC); the Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE); the Federación Nacional Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENSUAGRO); the Comité del Episcopado Colombiano por la Vida, por la Justicia y por la Paz; Andean Commission of Jurists, Colombian Branch; the Human Rights Committee of García Rovira Province (Santander); a group of journalists representative of the radio, television and the printed media in Colombia; Sindicato de Educadores de Santander (SES); Grupo de Derechos Humanos, operating in the settlement and border areas, which presented testimony on violence in jungle areas; the Unión Patriótica; the Partido Comunista; the Frente Popular; the Fundación para la Promoción de la Cultura y la Educación Popular de Bucaramanga (FUNPROCEP); the Carlos Valencia Garcia Judges Group and the Comité Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Barrancabermeja (CREDHOS); Grupo de Abogados Defensores de Derechos Humanos y Presos Políticos; Comité por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Antioquia; a human rights delegation from Putumayo and another from Valle and Cauca. The IACHR's Special Preparatory Commission also had a meeting with representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Regional Office in Colombia, attended by Mr. Philippe Gaillard, the outgoing representative of that agency, and Mr. Claude-Alain Zappella, the Committee's new representative in Colombia.
c. The conclusion of the Special Preparatory Commission's visit
At the end of the on-site visit, the Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and of the Special Preparatory Commission, Dr. Leo Valladares, delivered to Colombia's Foreign Minister a message for President César Gaviria Trujillo, thanking the Colombian Government for the courtesies and amenities provided during the Special Preparatory Commission's visit from December 4 through 7. Without making any pronouncements concerning the complex and delicate human rights situation in Colombia, the Chairman recommended to the Government that the domestic legal measures be adopted to make its laws conform to the provisions of the American Convention.
B. THE COMMISSION'S ON-SITE VISIT OF MAY 1992
From the outset, the visit that the Commission's Special Preparatory Commission made to Colombia in the first week of December 1990 was regarded as a "preliminary" or exploratory visit. Given that fact, once that Special Commission's visit was at an end, it recommended to the full membership of the Commission that the latter continue to monitor the human rights situation in Colombia.
a. Setting a date
At its 81st session in Washington, February 3 through 14, 1992, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Colombian Government settled upon a suitable date for the IACHR's Special Commission's visit, which was May 4 through 8, 1992. In a note dated February 20, 1992, the Colombian Government formally agreed to the date. In keeping with its Regulations, the full membership of the Commission appointed Drs. Oscar Luján Fappiano, Michael Reisman and Leo Valladares Lanza as the members of that Special Commission.
The Commission also took up the Colombian Government's request that it reconsider reports Nos. 10,319, 10,454, 10,581 and 10,235, which it had approved at its 80th session. When the Commission reached its decision on those reports, it also decided to merge them into a single document numbered 10,235 and to publish that document in its annual report for 1991. After hearing the arguments made by the attorneys for the Colombian Government and by Colombian Ambassador Julio Londoño Paredes, the Commission decided to let stand the reports on cases 10,319, 10,454 and 10,581, to make additional recommendations to the government and to give it a deadline for complying with those recommendations. The Commission also decided that if its recommendations were carried out, the reports would not be published. The members of the Special Commission were then instructed to watch for whether those recommendations were being carried out and, upon their return, to inform the full membership of the Commission. With that it would have the government's version and a report from the Commission's own members and could use that information to reach a final decision during the 82nd session, scheduled for September 1992.
b. Activities of the IACHR during its on-site visit
On April 25, 1992, a staff member of the Executive Secretariat went to Colombia to make the final arrangements for the on-site visit. The Special Commission, which arrived on May 3, was headed by Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, First Vice Chairman of the Commission. Its other members were Dr. Michael Reisman, Second Vice Chairman of the Commission, and Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, the former Chairman of the Commission who had headed the December 1990 visit. Accompanying the Special Commission were the Assistant Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Dr. David Padilla, Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark, the Executive Secretariat attorney in charge of Colombian affairs, and Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer. The Special Committee was also accompanied by Mrs. Gabriela Hageman and Nora Anderson. The visit began on Monday May 4, and ended on Friday May 8.
When it began its visit to Colombia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published the following press release:
At the Colombian Government's invitation, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is sending a Special Commission to make an on-site visit to the country from May 4 through 8. Participating in the visit will be Dr. Oscar Luján Fappiano, Vice Chairman of the IACHR, who will be presiding over the Special Commission, and Dr. Michael Reisman and Dr. Leo Valladares Lanza, Commission members. Accompanying the Special Commission will be staff from the Commission'_ Executive Secretariat: Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark, desk officer in charge of Colombian affairs, Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, and administrative staff Mrs. Gabriela Hageman and Mrs. Nora Anderson.
In extending its invitation for the Commission to conduct this on-site visit, the Colombian Government has given ample assurances that the Commission will be at complete liberty to visit the country and to confer with any individual or institution it deems necessary. It has also given assurances that persons and institutions that wish to speak with the Commission may do so and will encounter no obstacles of any kind. The IACHR's Special Commission will be staying at the Hotel Tequendama in Bogota and will have its offices there as well. During its visit to Colombia, the Commission's Special Commission will meet with officials from various sectors of government, from the legislature, the judiciary, and the military, the clergy, and representatives of labor, indigenous and rural organizations. It will also meet with agencies and individuals representing nongovernmental human rights organizations that have filed complaints on the human rights situation in Colombia, and with representatives and relatives of the alleged victims. The Special Commission will also visit a number of cities outside the capital.
Santafé de Bogotá, May 4, 1992
The following summary of the Special Commission's program during its visit to Colombia in May 1992 is organized according to the order in which the interviews took place:
INTERVIEWS WITH STATE AUTHORITIES: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nohemí Sanín Posada de Rubio. Present at the meeting were Ambassador Clemencia Forero, Adviser to the Minister; Dr. Luis Guillermo Grillo, Director of the Office of Multilateral Affairs, and Mr. Francisco Echeverry, an official with that office. The Presidential Adviser for the Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Dr. Jorge Orlando Melo. The Chairman of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, Dr. Hernando Yepes Arcila. Defense Minister Rafael Pardo Rueda. General Commander of the Military Forces, General Luis Eduardo Rocca Maichel. The meeting with the Minister of Justice, Dr. Fernando Carrillo Flórez, was canceled because the Minister had to make an unexpected trip to Europe. The Attorney General of the Nation (Public Prosecutor's Department), Dr. Carlos Gustavo Arrieta, and Attorneys Delegates for the Defense of Human Rights, Jaime Camacho Flórez (Acting); for the National Police, Mrs. Tahí Barrios Hernández, and for the Military Forces, César Uribe Botero. The Public Defender Jaime Córdoba Triviño. Prosecutor General, Dr. Gustavo de Greiff. President of the Supreme Court, Dr. Pedro Lafont Pianetta, and Dr. Jiménez, President of the Labor Law Chamber. Director of the Administrative Security Department (DAS), Dr. Fernando Brito Ruiz. Dr. Néstor Javier Arango, Director (E); Dr. Alberto Arango Avila, Secretary General; Dr. Maryluz Rubio, Human Rights Assistants, Col. Osvaldo Caraballo, Director of Protection, Col. Manuel González Enríquez, Director of Investigations, Dr. José Elías Munévar, Inspector General; Dr. Carlos Cañizales Ovalle, Central Intelligence. Chairman of the Council of State, Dr. Alvaro Lecompte, and Advisors from the Third Section of the Administrative Chamber. Constitutional Court, Dr. Jaime Sanín, Alejandro Martínez Caballero, Simón Rodríguez and Ciro Angarita. Minister of Government, Dr. Humberto de la Calle Lombana. President of the Congress, Dr. Carlos Espinosa Faccio-Lince. Advisers for Peace, Social Policy and Security, Dr. Horacio Serpa Uribe, Dr. Gilberto Echeverri Mejía, and Dr. Ricardo Santamaría; Dr. Luis F. Londoño Nicholls, Presidential Reassimilation Program for Reinsertion (Office of the President of the Republic). Luis Fernando Londoño (Reassimilation Programs), Tomás Concha (reassimilation into civilian life and agreements). Director of Criminal Investigation, Dr. Carlos Eduardo Mejía Escobar, Dr. Pedro Alonso Arias Hernández, Dr. Raúl Rodríguez Zambrana, Dr. Dib Ali Salek Baquero. Dr. Armando Segovia Ortiz, National Security Chief, Technical Corps of the Criminal Investigations Police; Dr. Francisco Sintura, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Nation. Víctor Navarro, Deputy Director; Mrs. María Claudia Pulido, DIC Human Rights Coordinator, and the Honorable César Gaviria Trujillo, President of the Republic.
Outside the capital, in Medellín (Antioquia): the Provincial Prosecutor of Medellín, Dr. Iván Velázquez. Provincial Prosecutor Dr. Blanca Gil de De Santi; Coordinator of the Human Rights Office, Nilsa Elena Good; Public Magistrate Sergio Estarita Herrera. The Mayor of Medellín, Dr. Luis Alfredo Ramos. Governor of the Department of Antioquia, Dr. Juan Gómez Martínez. Presidential Adviser for Medellín, Dr. María Emma Mejía. In the city of Barrancabermeja (Santander): the city's Mayor, Public Magistrate and Provincial Prosecutor.
INTERVIEWS WITH NONGOVERNMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS: the Colombian Section of the Andean Commission of Jurists, Dr. Gustavo Gallón Giraldo, Director. Comité Permanente para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Committee Chairman Dr. Alfredo Vásquez Carrizosa and other members. Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Dr. Eduardo Pizarro, Dr. Hernando Valencia and Dr. Alejandro Reyes. Centro de Estudios Internacionales de la Universidad de los Andes, Dr. Juan Tokatlián, Director. Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (CINEP), Francisco de Roux, S.J., Director. From its Human Rights Office: Ruth Bastidos Castro, María Eugenia Ramírez and Diego Pérez. Comisión para la Superación de la Violencia, Dr. Alejandro Reyes. A semi-governmental commission created as a result of the peace agreements the Government concluded with the Popular Liberation Army and with the Quintín Lame Armed Movement. Corporación Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo": Dr. Rafael Barrios Mendivil, President, Eduardo Carreño Wilches, Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Daniel Medina González, Eduardo Umaña Mendoza (a legal defense team). Comite de Solidaridad con los Presos Politicos, Dr. Jaime Prieto (a legal defense committee). SEMBRAR Attorneys Group, Dr. Marta Pardo (a legal defense group). Santillana Foundation. Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT). Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE). Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC). Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos Línea Armenia (ANUC). Partido Político Unión Patriótica and the Asociación Colombiana de Asistencia Social (ASCODAS), Héctor Féliz Rivera, Attorney; Miguel Castañeda Agudelo, Deputy Director for Education; Orlando Pérez Rojas, Treasurer; Aladies Parfa Galeano, attorney; Saúl Cruz Rojas, Public Relations. Reinsertados Alianza Democrática M-19, Esperanza, Paz y Libertad (EPL), Partido Revolucionario de Trabajadores (PRT), and Movimiento Indígena Quintín Lame. Ramiro Orjuela Aguilar, Secretary General of the Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria (ANDAS), Piedad Cifuentes Madrid. Fundación para el desarrollo social, la democracia y la paz (Progresar). Silvio Ruiz Grisales, Cooperative Executive Director. Esperanza Paz y Libertad (EPL), Aníbal Palacio Tamayo, Senator of the Republic, Chairman of the EPL, and Carlos Franco Echevarría, National Representative of the EPL. Asociación de Funcionarios y Empleados de la Rama Jurisdiccional (ASONAL Judicial), Dr. Antonio Suárez, President. CEDAVIDA, Dr. Constanza Ardila Galvis. Servicio Universitario Mundial (SUM), Dr. Blanca del Pilar Rueda Jiménez. (Human Rights Program). Asociación Nacional de Recicladores (union), José Daniel García Castaño and Carlos Arturo Alemán Chávez. Partido Comunista Colombiano, Jaime Caycedo Turriago, Deputy Secretary General. Asociación de Familiares de Desaparecidos del Palacio de Justicia, Dr. Enrique Rodríguez. During the hearing they reaffirmed their petition and request for IACHR intervention. Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos, Línea Sincelejo. Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos (ILSA), Amanda Romero Medina and Carlos Alberto Ruiz. Liga Internacional por los Derechos y la Liberación de los Pueblos, Colombian Section, Hernando Gómez Serrano, President, Leopoldo Múnera, Vice President. Comité Nacional de Víctimas de la Guerrilla (VIDA), Fernando Vargas (Chairman) and Angel Escobar and Leonor Galvis (assistants). Vicente Peña, from the newspaper La Prensa, also participated in that meeting. Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia por la Vida, la Justicia y la Paz, Executive Committee, Monsignor Guillermo Vega. Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento Interno (CODHES), Mr. Jorge Enrique Rojas. Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Mrs. Gloria Gómez and Mrs. Gloria Mancilla de Díaz.
In Medellín: the Comité Permanente para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Antioquia, Dr. Jesús María Valle. Archdiocese of Medellín, Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao. Representative of the Episcopal Curia. Instituto Popular de Capacitación, Dr. Pablo Emilio Angarita. Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, Medellín Office, Mr. Jesús Puerta. Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos de Antioquia. Corporación Región, Mr. Carlos Iván Lopera. Antioquia Bar Association, Colegas (ASONAL Judicial) de Antioquia, Dr. Rubén Darío Pinilla. In Barrancabermeja, Santander: Comité Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Barrancabermeja, (CREDHOS), Dr. Jorge Gómez Lizarazo. Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), petroleum workers. Asociación de Usuarios Campesinos (ANUC). Community of the Municipality of Yondó, Puerto Wilches. Comunidad Franciscana Sector Nororiental de Barrancabermeja. Pastoral Social (Catholic Church). Municipalities of Carmen, San Vicente, ANUC, Farm Villages, Proyecto Jurídico Agrario. Bishop of Barrancabermeja, Monsignor Sarasti. Pastoral Social and the Organización Femenina Popular. Community of the Municipality of Sabana de Torres.
Special hearings with relatives and representatives of victims whose cases are being processed with the Commission: the case of Olga Bernal (10,537); the case of Irma Vera Peña (10,456); the case of Valentín Basto Calderón (10,455); the case of Luis Fernando Lalinde (9,620); the case of the 1982 mass disappearance (10,235); the case of Patricia Rivera (9,477); the case of Alirio Pedraza Becerra (10,581); the case of Isidro Caballero Delgado (10,319); the case of Martín Calderón Jurado (10,454). International Federation of Journalists and Bogota Journalists Circle. Mr. Fabián Chacón and others. Institución FECOL (photographers). Rafael Baldovino. Ruby Mora de Torres and Piedad Díaz K., wives of journalists murdered on April 24, 1991. Héctor Rolando Ch., brother of Julio Daniel Chaparro. Guillermo Ala, Colombian Journalists Circle. Hernando Chávez Carrera. Colombian Newspaper Reporters Circle.
To move beyond the perimeter of the capital city, on Wednesday the IACHR's Special Commission divided into 3 working subcommissions. Subcommission A consisted of Dr. Fappiano, Dr. Velasco and Mrs. Anderson and remained in Bogota, where it carried out its own program of activities. Subcommission B, composed of Dr. Leo Valladares, Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer and Mrs. Hageman, went to the city of Medellín, while Subcommission C, composed of Dr. Michael Reisman and Dr. David Padilla, went to Barrancabermeja in the department of Santander in Magdalena Medio.
At the end of its visit, the IACHR's Special Commission held a press conference where it fielded questions from journalists and issued the following press release:
Santafé de Bogota, May 8, 1992
Today, Friday, May 8, 1992, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its on-site visit, which began on May 4, at the invitation of the Colombian Government.
During its stay in Colombia, the Commission met with the President of the Republic, the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Congress, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of the Interior, the Chairman of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, the Minister of National Defense, the Commander General of the Armed Forces, the Prosecutor General, the Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations, Chief of the DAS, Chairman of the Council of State, President of the Constitutional Court, the Public Prosecutor, the special prosecutors for human rights, for the national police, and for the military forces, the Public Defender, and the presidential advisors for human rights, for peace, security and social policy.
Outside the capital, the IACHR's Special Commission went to Barrancabermeja in the Department of Santander, where it met with the city's mayor, its public magistrate and provisional prosecutor. During its visit to the Department of Antioquia, the Special Committee met in Medellín with the departmental and provincial prosecutors, the public magistrate, the city'_ mayor, the Governor of the Department of Antioquia and the Presidential Advisor for Medellín. The Special Commission set up separate offices in Barrancabermeja and Medellín to receive complaints and hold talks with nongovernmental human rights organizations.
The Commission also had meetings with representatives of a number of nongovernmental human rights institutions, representatives of the Church, the press, humanitarian groups, labor, unions, indigenous groups, rural organizations, professional associations and others, all of which furnished important information relevant to the subject matter of the visit.
The Commission is encouraged by and pleased with the positive developments in the country. At all levels, the Presidency included, the Government has acknowledged that many of the patterns of human rights violations in Colombia are grave and widespread. Studies have been ordered to obtain factual data and very promising programs have been created.
The Special Commission took particular note of the establishment of the Public Defender's Office and the creation of the Constitutional Court, the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Nation and the Superior Council of the Judiciary, as well as several special human rights offices in various government ministries. New procedures have also been developed that indicate that the Government is becoming increasingly sensitive to the human rights issue.
The Government itself acknowledges that many of the changes are recent, and it remains to be seen whether they will significantly improve the human rights situation. In the meantime, as the Government's own statistics and those of nongovernmental organizations indicate and as the authorities have confirmed, violence in general and murders remain at alarming levels. In some cases, guerrillas, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers are responsible, but many are attributable to government agents. Very few government agents who commit such crimes are ever brought to trial and convicted. The negative image is compounded by the fact that where there are convictions, the sentences imposed are not publicized. Criminal and disciplinary proceedings also tend to move very slowly.
The Special Commission received testimony and compiled considerable evidence in the following general areas: a) allegations of human rights violations committed against a backdrop of armed conflict by newly formed militarized groups and by guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and paramilitary groups, some of whom, it is alleged, act in concert with the Army or with its acquiescence; b) reports of murders, torture and forced disappearances; c) charges that government agents have threatened and murdered labor leaders, journalists, professionals and human rights activists; d) allegations of violations to the right to due process and use of questionable procedures by the so-called Public Order Courts; e) reports from several groups of the practice known as "social cleansing", where prostitutes, street children, vagabonds, beggars and homosexuals are murdered, and a disturbing pattern of stereotyping adolescent males as "delinquents"; f) information on the successful reassimilation of groups of former guerrilla fighters, though there were also reports that some of the commitments made in the peace agreements have not yet been fulfilled; g) many reports of citizens, most of them peasants, who fled embattled areas only to become displaced persons and refugees in their own country, and h) requests for urgently needed protection and aid to victims of terrorist acts.
Under the Commission's Regulations, the Special Commission cannot advance any opinion regarding the facts in this investigation. The Special Commission will present a report to the Commission's full membership when it meets in Washington in September for its 82nd session. The Commission will examine the information compiled during the on-site visit, the documents and reports supplied to it, and the other sources available, and take the decisions it deems most advisable based on its vested authorities.
The Commission is grateful for the facilities that the Government supplied to enable the Commission to accomplish its mission and would like to thank the authorities, those who provided valuable testimony and the various institutions representative of Colombian society with whom it met, for the information, facilities and courtesies they furnished to the Commission.