Report offers insight on human rights in Colombia

Colombia has suffered the consequences of more than 40 years of internal armed conflict, which has affected the country’s human rights situation. A new report published by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia analyses human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law, and makes recommendations to the Government, civil society and the international community.

Public presentation of the 2010 OHCHR-Colombia report © Credit OHCHR-Colombia “This is a very important report because I don’t think there is a single family in Colombia that has not had issues with illegal or legal armed groups,” says Juana*, a victim of violence. “For example, in the Madres de la Candelaria** group we have terrible cases of extrajudicial executions. This report is very useful for raising awareness about these cases and defending the rights of victims.” Juana’s daughter was murdered and her mother wants to claim her right to the truth and reparation for her murder.

The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, considers the report to be “very objective”. “The report on Colombia is positive for the most part: it recognizes our efforts, but it also highlights problematic areas where we also acknowledge more work should be done,” said President Santos at a public presentation in Colombia.

The report mentions seven specific human rights challenges for Colombia. The UN Human Rights office advises the Government to work to end extrajudicial executions but also to carry investigations, and prosecute and sanction perpetrators. It also stressed the importance of protecting farmers claiming their lands and enacting a new law recognizing victims’ rights; investigating illegal wiretapping carried out by State agents; concerns over threats to the upcoming electoral process in October; and prior, free and informed consultation with indigenous people and Afro-descendant communities. The Government should also fight groups that emerged after paramilitary demobilization; and respect for international humanitarian law, which applies to situations of internal armed conflict.

“The report explains particular issues we are not aware of and, in general, are not published in the media”, said a young political science student who attended the presentation of the report in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city.

A human rights defender from Valle del Cauca believes that the report is “an essential document for the advocacy and lobbying work that we do. It’s not the same when human rights defenders denounce what is happening, especially because we are putting our lives in danger. When the UN speaks, it is the international community that is speaking, and that commands respect and credibility. This, among other reasons, is why this Report is so important”.

The report has been produced annually since 1997. In addition to the analysis of human rights violations, it also details the main accomplishments of the UN Human Rights office in Colombia including the results of technical cooperation activities and advisory services provided by the office.

*Assumed name.

**Madres de la Candelaria is a group of women created in 1999 with the purpose of finding their relatives who had been forcibly disappeared, executed or kidnapped. Every Wednesday they carry out demonstrations (called “plantones”) in front of the La Candelaria Church in Medellin, demanding that they be returned “alive, free and in peace”.

17 June 2011