A coalition of NGOs released a report Monday condemning a rising state role in violence and ongoing paramilitary activity in Colombia during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, a release timed to coincide with the head of state’s meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The wide-ranging and highly critical report, which will be sent to the U.N. Council on Human Rights in December, reports paramilitaries have continued to operate since the demobilization, state forces are responsible for nearly three-quarters of reported violence, including extrajudicial executions and torture, and government-paramilitary links persist, reported French press agency AFP.
13,634 killed during terms Uribe
At least 13,634 people were killed in Colombia between 2002 and 2007, and a total 23,000 if armed conflict is included, charges the report, a product of 1000 NGOs including the Alliance of Social Organizations, the Assembly of Civil Society for Peace and the Colombian Platform for Human Rights.
In its response to the report, the Colombian government noted that during Uribe’s presidency homicides have fallen from 27,837 in 2002 to 17,198 last year and kidnappings from 1,708 to 226 over the same span. Press reports did not include further government response.
While press reports did not say whether the report’s authors responded to this breakdown, the report notes that the state was responsible directly or indirectly for 75 percent of the identified murder cases, reported Diario Jornada. Guerrillas were responsible for the other 24.5 percent, while press reports did not say what group made up the rest, nor how the breakdown had changed.
“Cases of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention and displacement have dramatically increased” among the rural poor, accused the text.
“What is worrying and indicates a retrogression, is that there is greater participation of members of the armed forces and organisms of the State” in the human rights violations, said political analyst Alvaro Villarraga, who helped edit the report.
Causes of violence not attended
Director National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, Iván Cepeda, said the problem was “the structural factors that cause violence and violations of human rights, such as poverty, social discrimination, are still present.”
Other charges include that “contrary to the government’s position, paramilitaries have not been dismantled,” and 9,000 members continue fighting, despite the 2006 demobilization, which disarmed 31,000 paramilitary members.
Only 116 of these paramilitaries are being investigated for their crimes and “none have been convicted, showing they have not guaranteed victims rights,” continued the report.
“Meeting went well”
Colombian foreign minister Jaime Bermúdez said the meeting went well with the high commissioner.
“The president spoke calmly with her. He explained the progress made in this area and concerns as well. And she expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Government of Colombia was so frank and sincere, that there is concrete progress. But also difficulties,” he said.
Analyst Villaraga argues that the broad public support for Uribe, registered at 78 percent in September, is the result of a concerted relations strategy of the government, which publicizes every crime of the FARC and every minor government success in the fight against the guerrilla group.
“The government has employed a very skillful strategy of creating a monster of the FARC that prevents seeing the Holocaust provoked by the paramilitaries: thousands of graves, thousands of victims, millions of displaced,” he said.