The United States said on Friday that the way is clear for the delivery of full military aid to Colombia’s armed forces this year now that they have met human rights criteria. Washington still has lingering concerns over Colombia’s human rights’ record however.
“There is no question that improvement must be made in certain areas,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement.
“However, the Colombian government has made significant efforts to increase the security of its people and to promote respect for human rights by its armed forces and has thereby met the certification criteria,” Kelly added.
The statement said the certification made to Congress on Tuesday “permits the full balance of FY (fiscal year) 2009 funds designated for assistance to the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.”
The statement did not reveal the amount it will receive this year.
It said that not only have years of reform and training boosted respect for human rights by armed forces personnel, but the prosecutor general’s office has forged ahead with investigating and prosecuting human rights cases.
It cited the arrest of several generals on human rights charges and the decision to charge five army members with collusion with paramilitary forces and the homicide of 20 civilians.
“While these advances are positive, Colombia continues to face several disquieting challenges,” it said.
It said that there is evidence the “far-reaching reforms” have failed to take full hold with revelations of extrajudicial killings.
It also said it found “troubling and unacceptable” allegations by the media and non-government organizations of illegal domestic wiretapping and surveillance by Colombia’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS).
It urged the prosecutor general’s office to “conduct a rigorous, thorough and independent investigation in order to determine the extent of these abuses and to hold all perpetrators accountable.”
“The United States remains concerned by both extrajudicial killings and the allegations against the DAS, and will continue to push for improvements in Colombia’s human rights situation,” according to Kelly’s statement.
It pledged that Washington will “enhance the investigation and prosecution capabilities” of prosecutors, “foster constructive dialogue” between Bogota and civil society, and back “independent and swift” probes into the DAS scandal.
From Washington and the US embassy in Bogota, the State Department said it will cooperate with Colombian, international human rights groups and its civil society to improve Colombia’s human rights performance.