Annual Report: Colombia 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Colombia 2010

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  • On 26 August, 12 Awá, including six children and an eight-month-old baby, were killed by gunmen on the resguardo (Indigenous reservation) of Gran Rosario in Nariño Department. One of the victims, Tulia García, had been a witness to the killing of her husband, Gonzalo Rodríguez, by the army on 23 May.
  • On 4 February, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revoluncionarias de Colombia, FARC) killed 15 Awá, including two pregnant women, in Barbacoas Municipality, Nariño Department. Indigenous leaders and their families were also threatened.
  • On 11 May, the 12-year-old daughter of Indigenous leader Aída Quilcué was threatened at gunpoint outside her house. Aída Quilcué had been receiving protection ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since her husband was killed by soldiers in December 2008.

In January, the Constitutional Court issued Order 004/09, which concluded that the survival of some Indigenous Peoples was at risk because of the armed conflict.

In April, the government endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2007, Colombia had abstained when the Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

The civilian intelligence service

In April, the media revealed that the DAS, which operated under the direct authority of the president, had been involved in massive, long-standing, illegal espionage against human rights defenders, opposition politicians, judges and journalists to restrict or neutralize their work. The operation was reportedly carried out in close co-operation with paramilitary groups. Members of the diplomatic community in Colombia and international human rights defenders were also targeted.

In May, the Attorney General charged one former DAS director, Jorge Noguera, with homicide and membership of paramilitary groups. Some of the activists intercepted by the DAS had been subjected to death threats and spurious criminal charges. In September, President Uribe said the DAS would be abolished and a new intelligence service created.

In March, Congress approved an Intelligence Law, which outlawed intelligence gathering on individuals on the grounds of their political affiliation or membership of a trade union or social or human rights organization. In September, a decree implementing the Intelligence Law ordered a review of intelligence files compiled on those grounds by all the security services, including the military. Such files had often been used to mount unfounded criminal proceedings against activists. By the end of the year, no information was made available on the results of the review.

The ‘parapolitical' scandal

Some 80 Members of Congress were under criminal investigation in 2009 for their alleged links to paramilitary groups.

In September, the Supreme Court ruled it was competent to investigate Members who had resigned their posts in an effort to ensure that their cases were investigated by the Attorney General's Office, where they hoped to be treated more leniently.

Several of the magistrates involved in investigating the scandal who had been threatened and harassed continued to receive protection measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Extrajudicial executions by the security forces

Revelations in 2008 that the security forces had extrajudicially executed more than a dozen young men from Soacha, near the capital, Bogotá, forced the government to adopt measures to combat the problem. The number of cases of extrajudicial execution fell sharply in 2009 compared with 2008. Some 2,000 extrajudicial executions carried out by army personnel over a number of years were under investigation by the Attorney General's Office in 2009, but progress was slow. There was renewed resistance from within the military justice system to civilian jurisdiction in cases where military personnel were accused of human rights violations.

Witnesses to extrajudicial executions as well as relatives of those killed were threatened and attacked.