Colombia’s human rights record improved very little over the past year, according to Amnesty International’s annual report released Thursday.
The report said some progress had been made under the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos, but that “there were few tangible improvements in the overall human rights situation.”
The report applauded the Victims and Land Restitution Law, which came into effect this year, but expressed concern over the inefficient process of returning land and that property had not been returned to its rightful owners.
Those working toward land restitution remained largely unprotected and vulnerable to extrajudicial killings, “undermining the implementation of the law,” notes the report.
It also found that “progress was made in some emblematic cases,” citing the convictions of retired generals Jesus Armando Arias and Alfonso Plazas Vega, both charged with involvement in the forced disappearance of 11 people after the army stormed the Palace of Justice, which the M-19 guerrilla group took hostage in November 1985.
The case of eight Colombian soldiers who were sententced to between 28 and 55 years in prison in July 2011 for killing two young men in the department of Santander in 2008 was also highlighted.
Nonetheless Amnesty International said that impunity remained high and was “exacerbated by threats against, and killings of witnesses, lawyers, prosecutors and judges.”
It claimed that in the first six months of 2011 there were 17 cases of extrajudicial killings in which the victim was later presented as a member of an insurgent force, higher than for the same period in 2010.
“The military justice system regularly has closed such investigations without a serious attempt to hold those responsible to account,” read the report.
The report condemned the acquittal of General Ivan Ramirez who was also involved in the raid of the Palace of Justice, as well as opposed the proposed “Framework for Peace” legislation, which would “allow human rights abusers, including members of the security forces, to benefit from de facto amnesties.”
According to the report, victims of human rights crimes are largely members of indigenous communities, people of Afro-descent, peasants and community activists such as human rights defenders and trade unionists.
The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia reported that between January and November last year, 111 members of their communities died from violent causes.