|International Lawyers? Delegation to Colombia|
|Friday, 23 April 2010 22:41|
Follow-up Report #6
April 23rd 2010
This report starts by providing an overview of some of the current social and political issues in Colombia. The report also provides an update on specific cases of human rights violations which were presented to the International Lawyers Delegation which visited Cali, Southwest Colombia, in August 2008.
President Alvaro Uribe will leave office in August after the Constitutional Court ruled against a referendum over a proposed constitutional amendment which would have allowed him to stand for re-election for a second time. The Court pointed to serious irregularities in the referendum project, and said that the proposed constitutional amendment was unconstitutional.
Evidence shows that huge electoral fraud took place March's congressional elections. Sections of the media are referring to the scandal as ‘votegate'. Votes from more than 12,000 voting stations from around the country are being recounted in Bogota.
A prosecutor's report released in April concludes that illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court magistrates, journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians by the state intelligence agency DAS was directed from the Casa de Narino (presidential headquarters). The former head of the DAS, Jorge Noguera, testified that he supplied President Uribe with regular reports on trade union activity. Documents revealed by journalist Hollman Morris show an official DAS policy of ‘political warfare' against those deemed to be President Uribe's adversaries.
In March the Prosecutor General revealed a foiled plot to assassinate three Supreme Court magistrates. Supreme Court magistrates continue to receive death threats.
In March the FARC guerrilla movement made two more unilateral hostage releases, including that of Pablo Moncayo, a soldier who was kidnapped on 21st December 1997 at the age of 19. However, the actions and positions of the government, the FARC and all of the candidates in the presidential election mean that a political negotiation in the armed conflict remains distant.
Even by Colombia's standards, March and April have been particularly bloody months in terms of political assassinations and massacres. The increase can probably be explained by the fact that the country is in a period of elections, and possibly as a violent reaction by Uribe-aligned paramilitary groups to the Constitutional Court's decision to reject the re-election referendum.
Because of their rural locations, Colombia's indigenous populations continue to suffer disproportionately the impacts social and armed conflict. On 30th January the Colombian Air Force bombed the indigenous community of Alto Guayabal, killing a 20-day old baby. The Air Force claim it was a mistake, however indigenous authorities believe the attack was a deliberate attempt to displace them from their territory.
The armed and social conflict has intensified in Northern Cauca, with serious repercussions for the mainly indigenous local population. Neither the army, FARC guerrillas nor paramilitaries are respecting the human rights of the civil population or abiding by International Humanitarian Law.
Indigenous leader and spokesperson of the Minga of Social and Communitarian Resistance Feliciano Valencia was arrested and charged with kidnap and aggravated assault in relation to a punishment given to a soldier who infiltrated the 2008 Minga protests to carry out military intelligence activities. Feliciano was later released, but the case against him continues. The case has been classed as ‘a savage blow to the autonomy of indigenous justice' by ex-Constitutional Court magistrate Carlos Gaviria.
In February Mario Uribe, cousin and closest political ally of President Alvaro Uribe, was arrested for alleged links to paramilitaries groups. On 12th March, 30 local politicians from Uraba and Santander departments were arrested for alleged links to paramilitary groups.
In February, soldiers on trial for the 2005 massacre in San Jose de Apartado peace community testified that ex-army commander and current Colombian ambassador to the Dominican Republic, General Mario Montoya, participated in the planning of the atrocity. Paramilitary chief Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias ‘Don Mario', testified in March that he paid $700,000 dollars to General Montoya in return for ensuring army support in battles against rival drugs traffickers and paramilitaries. Herrera also testified that his paramilitary forces helped the army to commit 180 false positive extrajudicial executions between 2002 and 2005.
A report released in February by the Berkeley Law School International Human Rights Clinic analyses what has happened since the Colombian government extradited fourteen paramilitary chiefs to the United States in May 2008. Colombian authorities have had huge difficulties in getting access to the paramilitaries, and many investigations into links between paramilitaries and politicians, senior military figures and business have been stopped in their tracks.
The US and UK governments continue to demonstrate their desire to deepen trade ties with Colombia, whilst at the same time expressing concern about the human rights situation in the country. The proposed Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Colombia could be signed in May.
See attachment for the complete report