Amnesty International called on the Colombian government give “clear and unequivocal backing” to the work of human rights organizations. The declaration comes days after new revelations that suggests the army was responsible in extrajudicial executions.
The human rights organization said it regretted recent comments made by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos that accused NGOs of trying to discredit the Colombian government, reported Spanish press agency EFE.
In a letter dated Sept. 22 and revealed in Amnesty International’s newsletter, the organization’s regional director wrote that although the group feels “satisfaction that the Colombian government has expressed publicly its interest in improve the human rights crisis” in the country, it also looks “with profound worry at the form in which their words (those of Santos) could be interpreted to discredit and delegitimize the work of non-governmental organizations.”
Santos had said at the beginning of September that “there’s a deliberate policy of certain organizations. What they want is to condemn… and when one goes to verify these claims, what they really mean, nothing is found, one finds that there are people interested in simply inflating the figures” of dead, he said.
“In your speech Sept. 9, you recognized the existence of the problem of extrajudicial executions in Colombia by members of the security forces and stressed the commitment of the Colombian government to correct this problem,” Lee wrote in the letter.
“During a forum on the National Human Rights Day, Santos said his office had an ongoing concern. He said his office had a policy to combat cases of presumed homicides committed by the members of the military forces. He also complained that some NGOs, which he did not specify, announced that these killings were a policy of the Colombian state,” the letter continued.
“An important step of the solution to this problem (of extrajudicial executions) implies permitting human rights NGOs can bring to light the conclusions of their investigations without being their work being disqualified or delegitimized,” Lee wrote.
“Amnesty International wants to call on the Colombian government to pronounce in a clear and unequivocal form backing for the legitimate job of the defenders of human rights in Colombia and their organizations,” said the letter.
“This pronouncement would be interpreted as a sign of real political will of the government and their firm commitment to human rights,” the director wrote.
Press reports did not include a government response to the letter.