Annual Report: Colombia 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Colombia 2010

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Victims or their families participating in the Justice and Peace process, those accompanying them, and judicial officials investigating human rights violations were threatened and killed. This dissuaded many victims from participating in the process.

Guerrilla groups

The FARC and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) continued to commit human rights abuses and serious and repeated violations of international humanitarian law, including the killing of civilians, the recruitment of children and hostage-taking.

Widespread use of anti-personnel mines by the FARC continued. In 2009, more than 111 civilians and members of the security forces were killed and 521 injured by landmines.

The FARC launched indiscriminate attacks in which civilians were the main victims.

  • On 13 January, the FARC launched an attack using explosive devices in the urban centre of Roberto Payán Municipality in Nariño Department. Six people died, including three children.

According to government figures, the overall number of kidnappings fell to 213 in 2009, from 437 in 2008. Most kidnappings were attributed to criminal gangs, but guerrilla groups were responsible for the majority of conflict-related kidnappings.

On 21 December, the FARC kidnapped and killed the Governor of Caquetá Department, Luis Francisco Cuéllar.

In February, the FARC released several high-profile hostages. Among them were Sigifredo López, a Deputy in the Valle del Cauca Assembly, who had been held captive since 2002; and former Governor of Meta Department Alán Jara, held since 2001. That same month, the FARC also released three police officers and a soldier.

Impunity

There was some progress in key human rights investigations, but impunity for human rights violations remained a serious concern.

  • In November, retired army General Jaime Uscateguí was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his part in the 1997 Mapiripán massacre in Meta Department.
  • In September, the Council of State upheld a 1995 ruling by the Office of the Procurator General dismissing General Álvaro Velandia Hurtado and three other officers from the army for their involvement in the enforced disappearance, torture and killing of Nydia Erika Bautista, a member of the M-19 guerrilla group, in 1987.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders, especially those working in more remote areas, were threatened and killed. Community leaders were at particular risk of attack. At least eight defenders and 39 trade unionists were killed in 2009.

Death threats targeting human rights and social activists and organizations increased; most were attributed to paramilitary groups.

Human rights defenders and social activists accused of having links with guerrilla groups continued to face criminal proceedings, often based solely on information from military intelligence files and paid informants. However, long-standing proceedings against some defenders were finally dismissed by the courts. The offices of a number of human rights organizations were broken into and sensitive information stolen.

During a visit to Colombia by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in September, President Uribe said that human rights work was legitimate. However, high-ranking officials, including the President, continued to make statements linking such work with support for guerrilla groups.

US military aid

In 2009, the USA allocated some US$662 million in military and non-military assistance for Colombia. This included US$543.5 million from the State and Foreign Operations funding bill, of which US$305 million was earmarked for the security forces; 30 per cent of this was conditional on the Colombian authorities meeting certain human rights requirements. In August, US$55 million in security assistance withheld in 2008 was released following "positive steps" by the Colombian government on human rights. By November 2009, US$19 million in security assistance funds from 2008 and US$31 million in security assistance funds from 2009 was being withheld by the US Congress because of ongoing human rights concerns.