Annual Report: Colombia 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Colombia 2013

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The guerrilla

The FARC and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including killings, hostage-taking, forced displacement, recruitment of children, and the use of indiscriminate weapons. In the first seven months of 2012, landmines, laid mostly by guerrilla groups, killed 25 civilians and 22 members of the security forces.

In February, the FARC announced it would end the kidnapping of civilians for ransom, but failed to make a commitment to end all abuses. More than 305 people were kidnapped in 2012, mainly by criminal groups but also by guerrilla groups.

  • On 24 July, journalist Élida Parra Alfonso and engineer Gina Paola Uribe Villamizar were kidnapped by the ELN in Saravena, Arauca Department. Both women were released a few weeks later.
  • In April, the FARC released six police officers and four soldiers the group had held captive since the 1990s.

The FARC were responsible for indiscriminate attacks that placed civilians at risk.

  • In July, the FARC attacked an oil field in Putumayo Department, killing five civilians.

Impunity

There were some successes in holding to account perpetrators of human rights abuses.

  • In August, a civilian court convicted retired General Rito Alejo del Rio to 26 years in prison for the murder of a peasant farmer by paramilitaries. The court found that Rito Alejo del Río did not participate directly in this and the many other killings committed in the area under his command, but maintained close links with paramilitaries, allowing them to commit abuses with impunity.

The vast majority of those responsible for human rights abuses continued to evade justice. Those involved in human rights-related criminal cases, such as lawyers and witnesses, were threatened and killed.

  • On 10 October, a man aimed a gun at Alfamir Castillo, the mother of a man killed by soldiers in 2009 in Valle del Cauca Department, and threatened to kill her and her lawyers, Jorge Molano and Germán Romero. The attack took place days before a court hearing into the involvement of four army officers in the case; seven soldiers were already serving long prison terms for the killing.

Two laws threatened to exacerbate impunity. In June, Congress approved the “legal framework for peace”, which could allow human rights abusers to evade justice. In December, Congress approved a reform to the Constitution which will give the military greater control over criminal investigations implicating members of the security forces in human rights violations and could see many cases of human rights violations transferred to the military justice system, contrary to international human rights standards. In October, 11 UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts criticized the reform.

Human rights defenders

Despite the government’s public condemnation of attacks against them, human rights defenders continued to suffer attacks, threats, judicial persecution and the theft of sensitive case information. In 2012, at least 40 human rights defenders and community leaders and 20 trade union members were killed.

  • On 28 February, the Black Eagles Capital Bloc paramilitaries sent death threats to several human rights NGOs, including women’s organizations and those working on land restitution issues, accusing them of “brainwashing the displaced, acting as if they were Human Rights Defenders”, and told them to “stop making trouble over the issue of land restitution”.

Women human rights defenders were targeted, principally by paramilitary groups. Some were raped in order to punish and silence them.