The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia

Newsletter 9

Human rights in Colombia under the microscope of the United Nations and European Union Both the follow-up to the conclusions of the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia and the dialogue on human rights between the European Union (EU) and Colombia…

Both the follow-up to the conclusions of the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia and the dialogue on human rights between the European Union (EU) and Colombia offer opportunities to influence policy changes in Bogotá in favour of greater respect for human rights.  We hope that the international community and particularly the EU and its member states will not let this opportunity pass by.

Newsletter 7

Colombia goes before the United Nations Human Rights Council The human rights situation in Colombia was examined on 10 December by the United Nations Human Rights Council through the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The human rights situation in Colombia was examined on 10 December by the United Nations Human Rights Council through the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  Both national and international human rights organisations (in their widest sense) presented reports and now pin their hopes on the outcome of the debate.  However, they are aware of the historic failure of the Colombian government and guerrilla groups to comply with international recommendations, the latter in relation to their responsibility regarding international humanitarian law.

Newsletter 8

Insisting on humanitarian agreements and political negotiation The recent unilateral liberation of 6 people by the FARC-EP is a positive step, made possible by the crucial role played by Colombian civil society.

The recent unilateral liberation of 6 people by the FARC-EP is a positive step, made possible by the crucial role played by Colombian civil society.  It is proof that, in Colombia, humanitarian solutions are possible when humanitarian preoccupations

Newsletter 10

European Union – Colombia free trade treaty: the EU’s prestige at stake The third round of trade negotiations between the EU and the three Andean countries (Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) was held in Brussels from 4 to 8 May.

The third round of trade negotiations between the EU and the three Andean countries (Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) was held in Brussels from 4 to 8 May.  These negotiations have, since January 2009, replaced negotiations for an association agreement between the EU and the Andean Community.

Newsletter 11

When the state intimidates, persecutes and issues threats DAS’s illegal espionage strategy In February 2009, the Colombian press uncovered the scandal of illegal phone-tapping by DAS…

In February 2009, the Colombian press uncovered the scandal of illegal phone-tapping by DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – Administrative Security Department); the targets are human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians, and Supreme Court judges. Since then, more information has come to light and more allegations made, thanks in part to the Fiscalía (Attorney General’s Office) which seized documents from DAS during a formal search.

Newsletter 15

DAS: Operation Europe Although Colombia’s intelligence services have played an active role in the repression of civil society movements and human rights organisations for several decades now, the creation of the G-3 special group by the DAS

Although Colombia’s intelligence services have played an active role in the repression of civil society movements and human rights organisations for several decades now, the creation of the G-3 special group by the DAS (Administrative Department of Security) in 2004 marked a new departure.  From this date onwards, a systematic policy of phone-tapping, harassment and intimidation began, with its main victims being human rights defenders, Supreme and Constitutional Court judges, journalists and members of the opposition.  Because they were critical of government policies, all of them were treated like dangerous criminals and as a threat to state interests, and thus the subject of relentless persecution.

Newsletter 14

The flaws within the security policy Ever since he began his time in office in 2002, President Uribe’s policy has been to improve the country’s security and to end the armed conflict militarily.

Ever since he began his time in office in 2002, President Uribe’s policy has been to improve the country’s security and to end the armed conflict militarily. During his two terms, he has promoted controversial measures, several of which were found to be unlawful by the Constitutional Court and many of them criticised by the United Nations. They include initiatives such as the network of civilian informants, which involves the civilian population in the armed conflict, in total disregard of the fact that they are protected persons in line with the principle of distinction between combatants and non-combatants, and exposing these people to possible reprisals. This policy of informants as well as the policy of paying civilians rewards for information and soldiers for the detention or killing of members of illegal groups has been responsible for many acts of injustice, including mass arbitrary detentions and, even more seriously, systematic extrajudicial executions.

Newsletter 13

Genuine agrarian counter-reform in Colombia That is how many analysts describe what has been happening in the Colombian countryside in recent decades. A few official statistics are enough to show the extent of the problem.

That is how many analysts describe what has been happening in the Colombian countryside in recent decades.  A few official statistics are enough to show the extent of the problem.  In 1984, 32.7% of the country’s cultivable area was concentrated in the hands of 0.5% of landowners; in 1996, 0.4% of landowners held 44.6% of this area; and, currently, 0.43% of them own 44.6% of cultivable land.  In contrast, 57.87% of landowners own barely 1.66% of the land.  Over the course of 25 years, the armed conflict has been used to increase the concentration of land ownership, Colombia being the country with the second highest number of displaced people in the world, after Sudan.  The displacement of campesinos, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians has not been simply a by-product of the conflict but rather a specific war aim.  In the banana-growing areas of Antioquian Urabá, armed men offered campesinos 250,000 pesos per hectare of land, when the price was four times this figure; those who would not sell up were threatened, suffered extortion and were frequently murdered.  The paramilitary leader known as ‘HH’ admitted to having murdered almost 1,600 people in the region in just two or three years.  Through massacres committed in full view of the population, thousands of people were displaced, with their lands falling into the hands of the killers, or those who succeeded them.  Raúl Emilio Hazbún Mendoza, another paramilitary leader and owner of a banana company, who controlled the region for over 10 years, has admitted to close and longstanding links with the army and the police, with the large landowners and multinationals which had invested in the area under his control.  Chiquita Brands was fined 25 million dollars in the United States for making payments to the paramilitaries, but its directors have never been brought to justice in Colombia.