IACHR Condemns Colombian Army for Ongoing Murders

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 6 April 2008

In their new report on the human rights situation in the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has included a harsh condemnation of the Colombian Army for continuing to regularly murder civilians. The Commission talks of "a 92% increase in the number of extrajudicial executions committed by the military and police forces" and adds that "members of the military and police continue to be involved in crimes, human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed against the civilian population".

In their harshest criticism the IACHR says that the Colombian Government is violating the American Convention by allowing military, rather than civilian, courts to investigate the killings. The report adds that "the Commission is compelled to reiterate" to the Colombian State that it is their responsibility to protect the lives of citizens and prosecute and punish those responsible for such killings.

Despite claims by the Colombian Government that the human rights situation is improving the new report includes a scathing section on the continuing phenomenon of extra-judicial executions by the state security forces. Justice for Colombia has reproduced the section in full here:

"Based on testimony and meetings with municipal authorities, the international mission of experts identified a number of patterns followed when extrajudicial executions are committed. Among the patterns described in the preliminary report are the following: extrajudicial executions committed in the course of anti-insurgent military operations, although witnesses state that no combat was involved; in many instances, the victim is unlawfully taken into custody at his home or workplace and taken to the place of execution; persons executed or disappeared are generally campesinos, indigenous persons, laborers, disadvantaged persons or community leaders; the military or police report the victims as being insurgents who died in combat; often the victims turn up wearing uniforms and with arms and military equipment of various kinds, even though, according to the testimony, at the time of their disappearance they were wearing their customary attire and unarmed; occasionally the victims are fingered beforehand by anonymous informants wearing hoods, or re-assimilated persons who would readily provide false information because of their situation; at other times, the victims are selected at random; the inspection of the body is done by the same military or police force that had previously listed the victims as "fallen in combat"; the crime scene is not preserved nor is any evidence or proof; frequently the body shows signs of torture; they are stripped of personal objects and their identification papers are disposed of; the bodies are taken to places far from where the abduction occurred and there are serious difficulties locating family members to identify the body; bodies are buried as unidentified persons, even when they have been identified by family members or third persons; members of the military and police are given financial and professional incentives and rewards for producing "positives"; from the outset, military criminal courts have jurisdiction over such cases and often the Prosecutor's Office does not challenge the military court's jurisdiction; relatives of the victims, witnesses and human rights defenders trying to solve such cases are threatened and intimidated; the percentage of those convicted for such crimes is infinitesimal."

For the full report see: http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/2007eng/Chap.4.htm

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