Colombia’s government “wanted to completely erase my report,” the United Nations special rapporteur on the situations of human rights defenders told weekly Semana.
Special Rapporteur Michael Forst was additionally refused entry to the country while studying the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia, Semana reported.
The Foreign Ministry fiercely disputed a preliminary 2018 version of the report whose final version will be presented in Geneva on March 4 in a letter sent to the General Assembly, the weekly reported last month already.
According to Semana, the government’s 20-page letter said Forst sought to “examine if the State is facilitating a safe and supportive environment for defenders” of human rights and “observe the efforts of the new administration.”
If so, Duque is in for more international scorn as his administration’s failures are painfully evident.
The Foreign Ministry objected to the UN rapporteur’s use of independent information provided by Colombian and international NGO’s while omitting “reports and data produced by state entities,” Semana reported last month.
Duque has consistently distorted the truth, making government statistics hardly reliable.
“When I learned of the government’s remarks, I felt that they wanted to erase my report completely,” Forst told Semana.
Forst and Semana confirmed how relations between the government of President Ivan Duque and the UN have deteriorated since the president took office in August 2018.
Tensions between the UN and member states are common, but in Colombia’s case have been become particularly problematic in relation to the verification of elements of the ongoing peace process that is fiercely opposed by Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party.
According to political scientist Laura Gil, the president’s attempts to keep the UN out are “an eternal deja vu,” but go even further than those of his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe.
The government is “closing the doors, closing itself from scrutiny. But Uribe never acted like this. He gave the UN a hard time, but kept his cool. This government isn’t,” Gil said in a debate.
Over the past year, the Duque administration has clashed with the UN’s human rights office and limited the mandate of the Office on Drugs and Crime.
Both offices verify elements of the peace process that, according to NGOs, the government is failing to comply with.
The UN agencies additionally have been providing data that either contradicts government claims or demonstrate the failure of policies.
Colombian NGOs and parties other than that of the government have spoken out in support of the UN.