IACHR seeks justice for victims of Patriotic Union genocide

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has filed an application in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court H.R.) regarding the genocide committed against Colombian political party the Patriotic Union (UP) during the 1980s and 1990s.

The UP was formed by demobilised guerrillas, communists and other left-wing activists as part of the 1984 peace process between the FARC and the government of Belisario Betancur. Following some electoral successes across Colombia, the UP was subjected to intense repression as around 5,000 of its members and supporters were murdered by the Colombian security forces and paramilitary groups in what is often referred to as a ‘political genocide’.

The IACHR has found more than 6,000 cases of extreme human rights violations including murder, forced displacement, forced disappearance, torture and intimidation. According to the IACHR, these were committed by the state, in collusion with the state or with its tolerance. The state also promoted discourse that encouraged violence against the UP. Subsequent investigations conducted by the Colombian state have been deliberately weak and failed to provide justice to families of victims. The main factor in the persecution was victims’ affiliation to the UP. The Colombian state acknowledges failing to protect UP members but has not admitted its own proactive role in the genocide.

The IACHR’s findings recommend that the state pay compensation to the families of victims and coordinate the identification and return of victims’ bodies to their families. In addition, it should open criminal prosecutions against those guilty of human rights violations against the UP. All investigations should be conducted under fully transparent conditions.

Furthermore, following the signing of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, it is imperative to implement non-repetition measures to ensure that a repeat of the violence against the UP cannot occur. All legal political actors must be able to organise and campaign without threats of violence against them.

The IACHR submitted the application to the court on 29 June 2018. The court will now make a decision on what further action to take.