to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from Sens. Edward M. Kennedy
(D-Massachusetts) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), December 22, 1999
December 22, 1999
The Honorable Madeleine Albright
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
It has been reported that
the Administration may submit a supplemental request to provide as much
as $600 million in counter narcotics assistance to Colombia, primarily
assistance to the Colombian Armed Forces.
We are deeply concerned about
the threat to Colombia's democracy and economic development from narcotics
traffickers, rebel forces, and paramilitary groups. However, it is clear
that our current policy, which has already involved hundreds of millions
of dollars in assistance to the Colombian security forces, has not reduced
coca cultivation in Colombia, the flow of cocaine or heroin to the U.S.
from Colombia, to the profits of drug traffickers. Rather than increase
funding for a strategy that has, not proven effective and presumes even
larger amounts of military assistance for the foreseeable future, we believe
the U.S. and other friends of Colombia must provide stronger support for
diplomatic efforts to strengthen the peace process and thereby create
the conditions necessary for a more effective counter-narcotics strategy,
which should include alternative development programs.
We are also concerned about
providing substantial assistance to the Colombian Armed Forces, which
have a long history of human rights violations, including support (or
paramilitary groups, Our concern is compounded by the lack of accountability
in the Colombian military for human rights violations committed by its
personnel. Even when Government prosecutors have abundant evidence showing
that high-ranking military personnel have committed serious violations,
these officers are rarely prosecuted fully or punished. Recent measures
by Colombia's leaders to reform the Military Penal Code and criminalize
torture, genocide, and forced disappearance are important steps forward,
but are not yet final and do not adequately address other crimes against
humanity, such as extrajudicial killings, or the continuing lack of accountability
of military tribunals.
Because of the need for accountability,
if the United States does provide assistance it should be conditioned
on the rigorous application of the August 1997 ruling of Colombia's Constitutional
Court, which requires that crimes against humanity allegedly committed
by military personnel be investigated and tried in civilian courts. Neither
the military nor the Superior Judicial Council charged with resolving
jurisdictional disputes have abided by this Constitutional Court ruling
and have continued to refer human rights cases to military tribunals.
Therefore, we believe that as a condition of U.S. assistance to the Colombian
Armed Forces, the Government of Colombia should take the necessary measures
to require the military to support civilian jurisdiction in cases involving
credible allegations of human rights abuse by military personnel, including
cases where officers are accused of conspiring to commit or facilitate
murders and massacres. In this way, President Pastrana can ensure that
all cases involving human rights abuses by military personnel are sent
to civilian courts, which are best equipped to investigate them impartially
and guarantee due process.
To assess the extent of accountability
by military personnel for human rights violations, the Administration
should also provide periodic reports to Congress on the number of Colombian
military and police personnel who are investigated, prosecuted, and convicted
of human rights violations in both the civilian and military justice systems,
as well as the sentences they receive, and the number suspended from active
duty pending the outcome of such proceedings.
We also believe that U.S.
assistance should be conditioned on actions by the Colombian Government
to ensure that all links, at all levels, between the Colombian security
forces and paramilitary groups are severed. U.S. assistance should not
be provided to those who aid or abet the activities of paramilitary groups,
which are responsible for human rights violations as well as illegal narcotics
trafficking. The capture of paramilitary leaders would be an important
measure of the Colombian government's commitment to this goal.
To assess the extent to which
the links between the military and paramilitary groups have been severed,
we would appreciate the Administration providing us with periodic reports
on the enforcement by the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces of
outstanding arrest warrants against paramilitary leaders and members,
the suspension from active duty of military personnel credibly alleged
to have aided or abetted the activities of the paramilitaries, and the
prosecution in the civilian justice system of military personnel for human
rights violations, including murder and conspiracy to commit murder, committed
in the course of their support for paramilitary groups.
These conditions would help
promote a credible and open system of accountability for members of the
security forces who violate human rights and support paramilitary groups.
However, M accountability for human rights violations requires a civilian
court system that functions effectively. Our assistance therefore should
include, finds to strengthen Colombia's civilian justice system, including
reform of the rules governing disciplinary proceedings carried out by
the Colombian Government's Office of the Procuraduria against members
of the military and police. These reforms should include the elimination
of the statute of limitations on crimes against humanity and the establishment
of a policy to immediately dismiss and prosecute in civilian courts any
officers found responsible for such crimes.
Our assistance should also
be used to protect human rights defenders, and to monitor the use of U.S.
assistance and enable U.S. Embassy personnel to investigate reports of
human rights violations in accordance with the purposes of the Leahy Laws
(Section, 564, P.L. 106-113; Section 8098, P.L. 106-79).
Thank you for your consideration
of these important issues. We look forward to working with you to achieve
the goals we share.
Edward M. Kennedy
As of March 13, 2000, this
document is also available at http://www.amnesty-usa.org/countries/colombia/senate12221999.html