Item 3: Situation of human rights in Colombia (Translation from original Spanish)

March 16 - April 24, 1998
Palais des Nations, GenevaMr. Chairman,

Franciscans International would like to take this opportunity to speak on item 3 of the agenda on the situation in Colombia.

At its 53rd session, the Commission adopted a declaration requesting the High Commissioner, Ms. Mary Robinson, to present an analytical and complete report on the establishment and functioning of her Office in Colombia as well as on the development of the human rights situation in Colombia.

Ms. Robinson’s report enables us to state that the human rights situation in Colombia is more and more delicate. Though this is one of the countries with the highest amount of governmental mechanisms for the protection of human rights, it registers at the same time one of the highest numbers of violations, which means that the established procedures to protect human dignity are not effective, but only formal.

According to different NGOs’statistics, during 1997, the number of victims of human rights violations for political persecution increased: 1,213 extrajudicial killings, 192 enforced disappearances, 150 cases of torture, more than a million of displaced persons. Impunity surpasses 90% of the cases and the paramilitary groups grow in every part of the country.

Though we cannot think that the High Commissioner’s Office in Colombia might solve on its own the grave human rights situation, we hope that this mechanism will produce a concrete step forward in the implementation of the recommendations repeatedly addressed to the Colombian government by different organs of this Commission.

We request the High Commissioner’s Office in Colombia to be credible as it plays an important role in the creation of the conditions for the protection and implementation of the human rights situation. It would be a grave precedent for this international body, and to all human beings in general if this mechanism does not fulfill its goal and offer any concrete results.

We believe that the agreed mandate between the Colombian government and the High Commissioner presents good opportunities that can help to diminish the levels of human rights violations. For this reason we urge that reports, public declarations and recommendations favor implementation and the commitment of the international bodies. We propose a close monitoring of the Office in Colombia by the High Commissioner herself, with personal visits to the country.

Though it is undeniable that the country is facing an armed confrontation, this is not the main cause of the human rights violations. But the historical deep economic, political and social disparities are the origin. So, we are convinced that the defense, respect and promotion of human rights is the most important contribution in order to find a long, lasting peace. We believe that the mandate of the Office is a positive contribution offered by the international community for the enjoyment of peace in Colombia. In addition, the guarantee of fundamental freedoms by States is a universal imperative and cannot be set aside in particular situations by a government using the conflict as an excuse.

In the context of the Commission on Human Rights, we would like to report that the government of Colombia has not fulfilled the majority of the recommendations made over the past years by different UN bodies, namely:

  • it has not adopted clear and effective measures to fight, dismantle and bring to justice the paramilitary groups. On the contrary the links are stronger between the armed forces and these criminal organizations,
  • it has not adopted legislation declaring that enforced disappearances are a crime in accordance with the definition given by some international legal instruments ratified by the government itself,
  • it has not implemented the reform of the penal military code in view of excluding the “obediencia debida” despite the numerous recommendations received in this regard,
  • it has not decided that the military penal jurisdiction (a branch of the executive) gives back to the ordinary jurisdiction all the trials caused by human rights violations and war crimes despite a sentence of the Constitutional Court,
  • it continues to utilize (till 1999) the regional court jurisdiction or faceless justice,
  • in most cases, it has not suspended members of the public security when there is gross evidence of their responsibility in massacres, enforced disappearances and other crimes,
  • it maintains special services and private forces even though it knows fully well the irregularities and crimes attributed to many of these services,
  • it has not taken adequate measures to prevent enforced displacements,
  • it has not implemented a serious program of protection and support for the displaced persons.

We would like to draw your attention to the persecution of human rights defenders by different state agents who consider their work a subversive or criminal activity. Many defenders are killed or obliged to abandon the country with their family. We are concerned about the increasing danger of this attitude. We call the High Commissioner to monitor the relationship between the government and the NGOs in view of guaranteeing the free and legitimate work of the human rights defenders.

The above mentioned situation indicates an increase in human rights violations, a profound disrespect for international agreements and recommendations agreed to by the Colombian government and a difficult situation for NGOs and social organizations. There must be a reinforcement of the role of the High Commissioner’s Office in Colombia and we urge Ms. Mary Robinson to present her report to the UN General Assembly on the activities of the Office and the human rights situation in Colombia.

Mr. Chairman, we respectfully urge this Commission to appoint a Special Rapporteur who directly informs the Commission about the human rights situation in Colombia and the obstacles impede the full accomplishment of international accords.

Franciscans International wishes that this and other recommendations of the Commission, the rapporteurs and the working groups will be taken into account and monitored in their development.

Thank-you, Mr. Chairman.
Oral, Written or Summary: 
Meeting Year: 


UN Commission on Human Right: Fifty-fourth Session
Meeting Name: 
UN Commission on Human Right: Fifty-fourth Session