Kyung-wha Kang, the UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Wednesday presented the body’s annual report on the situation in Colombia to the UN Council in Geneva, commenting that it “highlights the increasing threats against human rights defenders” in the country.
The report, released earlier in March, expresses concern about civil and military officials directly accusing or suggesting that certain human rights defenders support guerrilla groups, or work against the interests of the Colombian state. These accusations can put the human rights workers’ lives in danger.
Kang explained that such allegations risk preventing NGO workers from doing their jobs, and are “accentuating the distrust between the state and the civil society.”
Colombia’s vice minister of foreign relations, Adriana Mejia Hernandez, insisted that the government had made efforts to eliminate such abuses as spying on NGOs by the Colombian intelligence services. She nevertheless admitted to “serious delays to the legal investigations and a lack of unity in jurisprudence criteria,” which have allowed impunity to the officials harassing NGO workers.
Ana Maria Rodriguez, a representative of the Colombian Jurist Commission, indicated that there was enough proof to “demonstrate the government’s responsibility in the illegal activities of the Colombian Security Agency (DAS) against human rights defenders, magistrates of the Supreme Court, political opposition and journalists.”