RAPPORTEUR CONCLUDES WORKING VISIT TO THE REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA
this date, Professor Robert K. Goldman, member of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and rapporteur for matters relating to
the Republic of Colombia, concluded a 10-day working visit to that
country. The Commission is a principal organ of the Organization of
American States, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is charged with
promoting and protecting human rights in the Americas.
It is a collegiate body composed of seven experts chosen in their
individual capacity by the OAS member states.
Its jurisdiction is derived from the Charter of the Organization
and from the American Convention on Human Rights, treaties to which
Colombia has been a party for decades.
member Goldman, who had technical and logistical support from three staff
members of the Commission’s Executive Secretariat, held meetings with
national and local officials, visited the Departments of Antioquia, Córdoba,
and Chocó, and took various statements from individuals, community
representatives, and members of civil society organizations.
His main objectives were to obtain in-depth information on the
situation at Comuna 13 in the city of Medellín and to verify compliance
with the precautionary measures granted to the Embera Katío indigenous
community and the Afro-Colombian communities resettled in the Cacarica. Precautionary measures are mainly aimed at protecting the
life and physical well-being of persons or groups.
They are granted by the IACHR, at the request of the parties
affected, when the Commission determines that the urgency of a situation
of imminent danger and the severity and irreparability of its potential
consequences justify requesting the state to take special protective
measures and to conduct judicial inquiries into acts of violence that
demonstrate the pertinence of such measures.
During its visit, the IACHR delegation was provided with guarantees
enabling it to conduct its observation tasks with complete freedom and
security, and the ministers, officials, and law enforcement personnel
interviewed were entirely cooperative.
IACHR delegation was able to visit various neighborhoods within Medellín’s
Comuna 13 and to take testimony from members of the community on selective
murders, forced disappearances, and other acts of violence and
intimidation allegedly perpetrated by paramilitary groups despite the
presence of law enforcement personnel.
The Commission heard consistent reports that many of these events
had not been reported to judicial authorities because the population
feared reprisals. The IACHR completed its observation in a series of interviews
with officials of the Medellín City Hall, staff of the local
inspector’s and prosecutor’s offices, the commander of the Fourth Army
Brigade, and the police chief.
Commission’s Rapporteur for Colombia recognized the efforts of law
enforcement personnel, in particular the National Police, to restore order
and the authority of the state in this outlying district, whose
inhabitants have been plagued for years by the activities of criminal
groups such as the FARC and the ELN.
Nevertheless, it expressed concern over the potential consolidation
of paramilitary groups who would continue to commit serious crimes in
Comuna 13. Professor Goldman
urged the authorities to take the necessary measures to dismantle
paramilitary structures operating in the area, to establish the state as
the sole authority, and to end the climate of insecurity and fear which is
interfering with judicial inquiries into the selective killings and
disappearances perpetrated since a law enforcement presence was
established in the area. Also
raised were concerns relating to judicial proceedings against the
detainees in a series of law enforcement operations carried out with the
participation of the CTI and the Inspector’s Office.
IACHR delegation also traveled to Tierralta, in the Department of Córdoba,
to visit the Embera Katío indigenous community.
Traditional officials, leaders, and members of the various Embera
Katío communities are being threatened and singled out by the FARC and
other armed outlaw groups intending to seize control of their ancestral
lands. These communities have
been under the protection of precautionary measures since June 4, 2001,
following the disappearance of indigenous leader Kimy Pernía Domicó.
The IACHR delegation received information on compliance with
protective measures and judicial investigations into the acts of violence
and intimidation perpetrated against this community.
Reports indicate that, despite the precautionary measures in
effect, the Embera Katío remain in imminent danger.
This is evidenced by the murder of the governor of the Porremía
community, Augusto Lana Domicó, on April 18, 2003, and by death threats
leveled at various governors and leaders, who have been forced to leave
the working visit to Tierralta, the IACHR delegation held meetings with
traditional authorities and leaders of the Embera Katío people.
Isabel Madariaga, attorney for the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples, entered one of their safe havens.
As part of its observation efforts, the delegation interviewed both
civilian and law enforcement officials in Tierralta and Montería,
enhancing the dialogue on the difficulties encountered in implementing the
precautionary measures. As a
result of its observation, the IACHR urged both local and national
authorities to agree with the indigenous communities upon, and immediately
implement, a protection plan appropriate to the special relationship the
indigenous peoples have with their land.
In this connection, the IACHR appreciated Circular 2064, issued on
March 4, 2003, by the Ministry of Defense to strengthen policies for the
promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples by law
enforcement personnel and called for its effective implementation.
IACHR delegation also traveled to the shores of the Cacarica River, in
northern Chocó, to visit the “New Life” residential and working
community, whose members have been under the protection of precautionary
measures since December 1997. This
community of African descent is resettled on collectively deeded lands,
after several years of displacement initially resulting from a 1996
bombing in the Riosucio area. During
its stay, the delegation received information and statements on murders,
torture, and acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against members
of the community by paramilitary groups operating in the area despite the
presence of the XVII Army Brigade. In
addition, representatives of the communities in Dabeiba and Naya, also
protected by precautionary measures, and Jugiamiandó and Curbaradó,
protected by provisional measures granted by the Inter-American Court of
Human Rights, appeared during the Commission’s visit to report on their
IACHR Rapporteur noted with concern consistent reports of attacks by
paramilitary groups, allegedly carried out with the acquiescence and
collaboration of law enforcement personnel operating in the region.
It also received information on the deforestation of the collective
lands and on acts of harassment intended to force some of these
communities to accept the planting of African palm–a classic prelude to
the introduction of illicit crops. He
also emphasized the vital importance of the follow-up tasks carried out by
Peace Brigades International in support of the communities of African
descent in Chocó and their positive effect on the protection of these
his meetings in Bogotá with the Vice President of the Nation, Francisco
Santos; the Minister of Foreign Relations, Carolina Barco; the Minister of
the Interior and Justice, Fernando Londoño; the Vice Minister of Defense,
Andrés Peñate Giraldo; and the Attorney General of the Nation, Luis
Camilo Osorio; the Commission’s Rapporteur for Colombia expressed his
concerns over these matters and over the implementation of the
precautionary measures mechanism in general; such measures are now in
effect for dozens of situations in which indigenous communities,
communities of African descent, human rights defenders, social leaders,
unionists, journalists, and others are in grave peril.
The Rapporteur stressed the importance of effective implementation
of these measures by all parties involved, in a climate of negotiation and
dialogue. He also offered his
good offices in helping to overcome a degree of tension between state
institutions involved in fighting impunity and representatives of victims
of violence, thereby paving the way for the achievement of common goals.
of these precautionary measures have had to be granted to prevent violence
by paramilitary groups, often in areas of the country where law
enforcement personnel are present. The
IACHR delegation expressed concern over continuing reports of acquiescence
by law enforcement personnel or their cooperation with the self-defense
groups in committing acts of intimidation and violence against persons or
groups protected by these measures, and over the lack of effective
judicial inquiries, which has prevented clarification of the facts and
reparations in many of these cases.
delegation availed itself of this contact to raise other issues and
concerns, such as the need to support human rights defenders in their
work, in keeping with resolutions both of the Organization of American
States and of the United Nations. He
also reaffirmed that it was important that any measure to regulate the
fight against armed outlaw groups be kept within the parameters
established by the American Convention on Human Rights and the
interpretation presented by the Commission in its recent Report on
Terrorism and Human Rights. Here
he assured the authorities that he would closely monitor the approval and
application of such regulations.
The delegation also had a cordial meeting
with the President of the Constitutional Court, Dr. Eduardo Montealegre
Lynett, the purpose being to comment on the latest developments in
jurisprudence promoted by the Court and to express its support for the
important work of the judges. It
also met both with the Defender of the People and with the Director of the
office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights, to discuss matters of common interest.
Salient among the working meetings held during this visit was one
intended to consolidate the efforts toward a friendly settlement in the
Patriotic Union case, which was declared admissible by the Commission in
1997 and has been the subject of intense negotiations since 1998, under
the good offices of the Commission. Both
the IACHR delegation and the representative of the Special Rapporteur for
Indigenous Peoples held a series of meetings with indigenous leaders and
organizations from vast regions of the country, during which information
was received on murders, massacres, displacements, and the precarious
food, health, and education situation that jeopardizes indigenous
people’s right of cultural survival.
the end of the visit, the IACHR Rapporteur called attention to the
challenges facing the Government of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez as it
seeks to establish peace and to demobilize the members of armed outlaw
groups. In this context, he emphasized the state’s obligation to
refrain from adopting measures that would leave crimes against humanity
and other serious violations of international humanitarian law unpunished.
the Rapporteur expressed his appreciation for the cooperation extended
during his visit, for the willingness to engage in constructive dialogue
on the situation of human rights in Colombia, and for the improvement
measures proposed by the Government.
Bogotá, June 27, 2003