The director of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) in
Colombia told BBC Mundo that he is “concerned” about increasingly polarized views
on human rights and peace in the country.
Christian Salazar, who has just started as director of the UNHCHR in Colombia, said extra judicial execution committed by the army, illegal wire-tappings, forced displacements and paramilitary violence are of primary concern to his office.
He said that Colombia was “divided and polarized” over key issues such as peace and human rights.
The Colombian government is at odds with NGOs over the country’s human rights record.
Prosecution investigators have revealed that Colombia’s intelligence
service DAS was wiretapping Latin America director of Human Rights Watch (HRW),
José Miguel Vivanco.
The road to peace has also been a polarizing issue in Colombia. Peace activist group ‘Colombians for Peace’ wish to start a dialogue between guerrillas and the government and have been active in trying to negotiate FARC hostage negotiation.
However the government has refused to allow opposition senator and ‘Colombians for Peace’ leader Piedad Cordoba to mediate such negotiations.
The government has accused Cordoba and other ‘Colombians for Peace’ activists of collaborating with the FARC. The Prosecutor General started a preliminary investigation
into the alleged ties of Piedad Cordoba and three other opposition
Senators to the guerrilla group.
The UNHCHR director also said that the reassembly of paramilitary groups following their demobilization is a concern. He said that the UNHCHR believes that paramilitary groups “operate in 15 percent of municipalities in Colombia” and that their influence “is growing rapidly, affecting the civilian population and generating a wave of violence that worries us greatly”.
He stressed that it was very important for the government to implement concrete methods to prevent further cases of ‘false positives’ – extra judicial executions of civilians passed off as guerrillas by the military
Salzar also told BBC Mundo that the Colombian government has “maintained an open and close dialogue” with the UNHCHR, “which is very positive”.
He said that the Colombian government was open to recommendations from the UN. He recognized that “frankly it is very difficult to implement such a large number of such diverse recommendations”.