International human rights group Amnesty International (AI) wrote an open letter to the Colombian presidential candidates on Wednesday, asking them to make human rights a top priority in their campaigns, and to outline specific policies on guaranteeing full respect for human rights in Colombia.
The letter, signed by AI’s Americas director, Susan Lee, came in response to what the NGO views as a “shocking” lack of emphasis placed on the issue of human rights so far in the campaign for the May 30 presidential elections.
“Although the candidates briefly referred to human rights in a questionnaire published last week by the Colombian weekly Semana, it is still frankly shocking that, in a country where human rights are routinely abused by those participating in the 45-year old internal armed conflict, the issue has not been given the priority it deserves,” Lee said in a comment posted on AI’s website.
According to the letter, there are two main issues on which AI is urging the candidates to clarify their positions: “First, the abject and repeated failure of all the parties to the conflict to protect civilians from the human rights consequences of the conflict and to respect their right not to be drawn into the hostilities. Second, on the vexed question of impunity, which arguably more than any other factor has been responsible for prolonging the country’s 45-year-old internal armed conflict.”
Amnesty International has monitored Colombia’s human rights situation for over 30 years. In February, they published a report blasting Colombia for its treatment of indigenous communities, to which Colombia responded by saying that the NGO was being too critical of the government, ignoring the work President Alvaro Uribe’s administration has done to guarantee indigenous rights.