The United States State Department announced Thursday that it had legally certified an improvement in Colombia’s human rights record, allowing the U.S. Congress to disperse the 2011 fiscal funds allocated for the Colombian Armed Forces.
According to a U.S. State Department press release, the department “determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian government is meeting statuary criteria related to human rights.”
The determination and certification “permits full balance of the [fiscal year] 2011 funds for the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.”
The State Department commended important steps to combat human rights abuses taken by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos since he took office one year ago. President Santos “signed the new Military Penal Code, facilitated the appointment of a Prosecutor General after a 16-month vacancy, supported judicial authorities’ efforts to vigorously combat corruption, strengthened efforts to dismantle illegal armed groups, and passed legislation stiffening penalties for crimes against human rights defenders.”
The president has also been attributed with “eliminating judgmental commentary by government officials” about human rights groups and NGOs.
The most significant step taken by President Santos, according to the State Department, was the June signing of the Land and Victims’ Law, which provided land restitution and reparation for victims of Colombia’s historic armed struggle.
However, the State Department acknowledged that there are still setbacks; threats against human rights proponents, particularly land activists, are rampant, and the Colombian prosecutor general’s office faces a substantial backlog of human rights cases.
Critics say that human rights abuses in Colombian remain widespread. Nongovernmental organizations “claim that the government is not effectively protecting human rights defenders and have underlined the importance of designing and putting in place a comprehensive security strategy to ensure effective implementation of the Land and Victims’ Law.”