The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a report on Wednesday which criticized the ongoing violations of human rights and abuses of power taking place in Colombia.
The report acknowledged that while security has improved in the country, a “climate of terror” still exists for certain groups, including union members, indigenous community leaders, Afro-Colombians, representatives of displaced populations, judges, lawyers, and journalists.
Pillay noted that civil society groups in Colombia seeking to defend human rights are often threatened, sometimes by the government.
The Administrative Department of Security (DAS) wiretapping scandal was singled out as an example of abuse of power.
According to Pillay, information obtained illegally by the government body was used to initiate judicial proceedings against political activists, and that even now certain public institutions are using illegally obtained evidence against politicians that disagree with the current government.
The report also criticized the government’s portrayal of critical civil organizations as no different from state enemies or even guerillas. Pillay said that government officials who make such statements should be punished.
The report also said that the independence of the country’s judicial branch was under attack in the form of verbal threats from the executive branch, as well certain judges being wiretapped by DAS after charging members of the executive branch with crimes.
The report cautioned Colombians to pay special attention to this year’s elections to help avoid a repeat of the parapolitics scandal, in which many Colombian politicians were arrested for ties to paramilitary groups.
Vice President Francisco Santos, who was Geneva earlier this month to discuss the report with Pillay, issued a statement in response. He said that while he recognized the gravity of the report’s findings, he also noted that it contained evidence of “great advances” that Colombia has made.
Santos said that information collected by DAS illegally is in the process of being purged from the system, and that the organization is being dismantled and reformed.