Department Human Rights Report for 2001, March 4, 2002
Country Reports on
Human Rights Practices - 2001
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 4, 2002
Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty democracy in which the Liberal
and Conservative parties have long dominated politics. In 1998 citizens
elected President Andres Pastrana of the Conservative Party and a bicameral
legislature controlled by the Liberal Party in generally free, fair, and
transparent elections, despite attempts at intimidation and fraud by paramilitary
groups, guerrillas, and narcotics traffickers. The Government continued
to face serious challenges to its control over the national territory,
as longstanding and widespread internal armed conflict and rampant violence--both
political and criminal--persisted. The principal participants in the conflict
were government security forces, paramilitary groups, guerrillas, and
narcotics traffickers. The country's internal conflict caused the deaths
of between 3,000 and 3,500 civilians during the year, including combat
casualties, political murders, and forced disappearances. The civilian
judiciary is largely independent of government influence; however, the
suborning or intimidation of judges, witnesses, and prosecutors is common.
Ministry of Defense (MOD) is responsible for internal security and oversees
both the armed forces (including the army, air force, navy, marines, and
coast guard) and the National Police. In the past, civilian management
of the armed forces has been limited; however, over the past few years,
the professionalism of the armed forces has improved, and respect for
civilian authority on the part of the military has increased. In addition
to the armed forces and the National Police, the public security forces
include armed state law enforcement and investigative authorities, including
the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) and the Prosecutor General's
Technical Corps of Investigators (CTI). The DAS, which has broad intelligence
gathering, law enforcement, and investigative authority, reports directly
to the President but is directed by a law enforcement professional. The
police are charged formally with maintaining internal order and security
but in practice often share law enforcement responsibilities with the
army in both rural and urban areas. There are approximately 192 municipalities
that lack a state security presence. Many observers maintain that government
action to combat paramilitarism has been inadequate, and in the past security
forces regularly failed to confront paramilitary groups. However, the
security forces confronted and detained significantly more members of
paramilitary groups during the year compared with the previous year. Nevertheless,
members of the security forces sometimes illegally collaborated with paramilitary
forces. Members of the armed forces and the police committed serious violations
of human rights.
The country's population
is estimated at 41,713,000. Despite years of drug- and politically related
violence, the economy is diverse and relatively advanced. Crude oil, coal,
coffee, and cut flowers are the principal legal exports. In 1999 the country
suffered its first recession in over 60 years, with a decrease in gross
domestic product (GDP) of 4.3 percent and record unemployment of over
18 percent. The economy grew approximately 2 percent during the year,
and unemployment stood at 16.8 percent at year's end. The inflation rate
at year's end was 7.65 percent. Since 1999 the Government has adopted
fiscally austere budgets and floated the peso. High levels of violence
greatly inhibit business confidence. Narcotics traffickers continued to
control large tracts of land and other assets and exerted influence throughout
society, the economy, and political life. Income distribution is highly
skewed; much of the population lives in poverty. Per capita GDP was approximately
human rights record remained poor; there were continued efforts to improve
the legal framework and institutional mechanisms, but implementation lagged,
and serious problems remained in many areas. A small percentage of total
human right abuses reported are attributed to state security forces; however,
government security forces continued to commit serious abuses, including
extrajudicial killings. Impunity remained a problem. Despite some prosecutions
and convictions, the authorities rarely brought higher-ranking officers
of the security forces and the police charged with human rights offenses
to justice. Members of the security forces collaborated with paramilitary
groups that committed abuses, in some instances allowing such groups to
pass through roadblocks, sharing information, or providing them with supplies
or ammunition. Despite increased government efforts to combat and capture
members of paramilitary groups, security forces also often failed to take
action to prevent paramilitary attacks. Paramilitary forces still find
support among the military and police, as well as among local civilian
populations in many areas.
The revised Military
Penal Code, which took effect in August 2000, provides for an independent
military judicial corps and for legal protection for troops if they refuse
to carry out illegal orders to commit human rights abuses; the code also
precludes unit commanders from judging subordinates. A series of military
reform decrees, signed by the President in September 2000, provided greater
facility for the military to remove human rights abusers or paramilitary
collaborators from its ranks and provided for the further professionalization
of the public security forces. The military judiciary continued to demonstrate
an increased willingness to turn cases involving security force officers
accused of serious human rights violations over to the civilian judiciary,
as required by a 1997 Constitutional Court ruling, the new Military Penal
Code, and an August 2000 presidential directive.
Police, prison guards,
and military forces tortured and mistreated detainees. Conditions in the
overcrowded and underfunded prisons are harsh; however, some inmates use
bribes or intimidation to obtain more favorable treatment. Arbitrary arrest
and detention, as well as prolonged pretrial detention, are fundamental
problems. The civilian judiciary is inefficient, severely overburdened
by a large case backlog, and undermined by intimidation and the prevailing
climate of impunity. This situation remains at the core of the country's
human rights problems. At year's end, the Superior Judicial Council (CSJ)
reported that the judicial system was extremely overburdened; it received
a total of 8.6 million suits in 1994-2000, of which 226,783 were criminal
cases filed during 2000.
The authorities sometimes
infringed on citizens' privacy rights. A number of journalists were killed,
and journalists continued to work in an atmosphere of threats and intimidation,
in some instances from local officials, but primarily from paramilitary
groups and guerrillas. Journalists practice self-censorship to avoid reprisals.
The paramilitaries and guerrillas targeted religious leaders. There were
some restrictions on freedom of movement, generally because of security
concerns. Violence and instability in rural areas displaced between 275,000
and 347,000 civilians from their homes in during the year. Almost one-fourth
of these movements occurred in massive displacements. Exact numbers of
displaced persons are difficult to obtain because some persons were displaced
more than once, and many displaced persons do not register with the Government
or other entities. However, while no consensus exists regarding the exact
number of internally displaced persons (IDP's), observers agreed that
there has been a significant increase in displacements over the past 3
years. The total number of internally displaced citizens during the last
6 years may exceed 1 million. There were reports that security force members,
paramilitaries, and guerrillas killed, threatened, and harassed members
of human rights groups. Violence and extensive societal discrimination
against women, abuse of children, and child prostitution are serious problems.
Extensive societal discrimination against indigenous people and minorities
continued. Labor leaders and activists continued to be targets of high
levels of violence. Child labor is a widespread problem. Trafficking in
women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a problem. "Social
cleansing" killings of street children, prostitutes, homosexuals,
and others deemed socially undesirable by paramilitary groups, guerrillas,
and vigilante groups continued to be serious problems.
a large majority of political killings, social cleansing killings, and
forced disappearances to paramilitary groups. According to military estimates,
the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary umbrella
organization has a membership of between 8,000 and 11,000 combatants.
The AUC exercised increasing influence during the year and fought to extend
its presence through violence and intimidation into areas previously under
guerrilla control while conducting selective killings of civilians whom
it alleged collaborated with guerrillas. Throughout the country, paramilitary
groups killed, tortured, and threatened civilians suspected of sympathizing
with guerrillas in an orchestrated campaign to terrorize them into fleeing
their homes, to deprive guerrillas of civilian support and allow paramilitary
forces to challenge the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
and the National Liberation Army (ELN) for control of narcotics cultivations
and strategically important territories. They also fought guerrillas for
control of some lucrative coca-growing regions and engaged directly in
narcotics production and trafficking. The AUC increasingly tried to depict
itself as an autonomous organization with a political agenda, although
in practice it remained a mercenary vigilante force, financed by criminal
activities and sectors of society that are targeted by guerrillas. Although
some paramilitary groups reflect rural residents' desire to organize solely
for self-defense, most are vigilante organizations, and still others are
actually the paid private armies of narcotics traffickers or large landowners.
Popular support for these organizations grew as guerrilla violence increased
in the face of a slowly evolving peace process.
The Government continued
to insist that paramilitary groups, like guerrillas, were an illegal force
and significantly increased efforts to apprehend paramilitary members.
State security forces captured three times as many paramilitaries during
the year as during the same period in 2000; however, the public security
forces' record in dealing with paramilitary groups remained mixed, and
in some locations elements of state security forces tolerated or even
collaborated with paramilitary groups.
In April the U.N.
Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, presented a report that strongly
criticized the rising number of massacres and disappearances, and the
growth of paramilitary forces in the country. In her annual report to
the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Ms. Robinson criticized the Government
for failing to fight the paramilitaries. In addition, she expressed alarm
at apparent links between paramilitary groups and members of the armed
The FARC and the
ELN regularly attacked civilian populations, committed massacres and summary
executions, and killed medical and religious personnel. The FARC continued
its practice of using gas canisters as mortars to destroy small towns,
indiscriminately wounding government officials and civilians in the process.
Guerrillas were responsible for the majority of cases of forcible recruitment
of indigenous people and of hundreds of children. Guerrillas also were
responsible for the majority of kidnapings. Guerrillas were responsible
for forced disappearances of soldiers and police and continued a policy
of killing, attacking, and threatening off-duty police and military personnel,
their relatives, and citizens who cooperated with them. In many places,
guerrillas collected "war taxes," forced members of the citizenry
into their ranks, forced small farmers to grow illicit crops, and regulated
travel, commerce, and other activities. Business owners have been kidnaped
or threatened for refusing to comply with the FARC's "Law 002,"
announced in March 2000, which demanded that anyone with assets of $1
million pay taxes to the FARC or risk kidnaping. The FARC routinely committed
abuses against citizens who resided in the demilitarized ("despeje")
zone consisting of 5 southern municipalities, with a total population
of approximately 120,000 persons. Numerous credible sources reported cases
of murder, rape, kidnaping, extortion, robbery, threats, detention, and
the forced recruitment of adults and children, as well as impediments
to free speech and fair trial, and interference with religious practices.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN
Section 1 Respect
for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary and
Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Political and extrajudicial
killings continued to be a serious problem. During the year, NGO's estimated
that over 3,700 citizens died in such acts, committed principally by nonstate
agents. Members of the security forces continued to commit extrajudicial
killings. An analysis of data from the Center for Investigations and Popular
Research (CINEP), published by the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ),
a nongovernmental organization (NGO), claimed that from June 2000 to June
2001, state forces committed 100 reported extrajudicial killings, including
deaths that resulted from police abuse of authority. CINEP reported that,
from January through September, state security force members committed
92 "intentional homicides of protected persons," and caused
the deaths of 25 civilians during combat. CINEP reported that security
forces were responsible for 119 intentional homicides of protected persons
during the same period in 2000. Most of the incidents cited by the CCJ
and CINEP were under investigation by military and civilian authorities
at year's end. Civilian courts tried an increasing number of cases of
military personnel accused of human rights violations (see Section 1.e.).
Members of the security forces sometimes illegally collaborated with paramilitary
forces, and the authorities continued to investigate past cases of collaboration
with or failure to prevent massacres by paramilitaries. There were some
reports that police and former security force members committed social
cleansing killings. Investigations of past killings and massacres proceeded
On December 31, 2000,
a soldier tossed a grenade at a group of civilians, killing three and
injuring three more. On January 29, the authorities dismissed him from
the army, and he then pled guilty to aggravated homicide and illegal weapons
The authorities continue
to investigate the murder on April 4 of policeman Carlos Ceballos Gomez,
who testified in the investigation of illegal wiretapping by the Medellin
GAULA kidnaping force (see Section 1.f.).
There continued to
be reports that an undetermined number of off-duty policemen committed
"social cleansing" killings, or that the police deliberately
failed to prevent such killings.
The CCJ reported
161 massacres (defined as the simultaneous or nearly simultaneous killing
of 3 or more persons outside of combat at a single location or at several
nearby locations), in which 1,021 victims died, during the period from
January through September, and estimated that the total number of massacres
during the year exceeded 200. The CCJ attributes four massacres to acts
of negligence or deliberate omission by state security forces. According
to the MOD, during the year, 493 persons were killed in massacres (defined
as 4 or more persons killed in 1 incident). The MOD figure does not include
persons killed in prison riots; NGO's include such incidents in their
statistics. The CCJ analyzed CINEP data from June 2000 to June 2001 and
attributed 3 percent of civilian victims and persons killed outside of
combat to state security forces.
A court of the first-instance
ruling exonerated the soldiers involved in the August 2000 killing of
six children by an army unit; however, the Superior Military Tribunal
returned the case for reconsideration (see Section 1.g.).
General (Inspector General), which conducts disciplinary investigations
of all public sector employees, received 228 complaints against members
of state security forces during the year, compared with 201 during 2000.
The Inspector General's office investigated 183 members of state security
forces on disciplinary charges related to massacres and forced disappearances.
Of this number, the Inspector General sanctioned 20 members of the army,
14 members of the police, and 1 marine. The office exonerated 20 accused
persons. As in the previous year, the office continued to refer all cases
involving human rights violations to the Prosecutor General for criminal
investigation. Five generals remained under investigation by the Inspector
General during the year for failure to prevent paramilitary massacres
in 1998 and 1999; one was convicted.
As of December, the
human rights unit of the Prosecutor General's office reported that it
had approximately 788 open investigations of human rights violations by
1,342 individuals, including 234 members of the military and police, 770
presumed members of paramilitary groups, 240 presumed guerrillas, and
98 other civilians. As of December, the unit had arrested 1,293 persons,
and another 891 arrest warrants for persons remained outstanding, of which
39 are for members of the military, the police, and the DAS. Prosecutors
placed under arrest 132 members of the army, 97 police, 9 members of the
DAS, and 7 members of the CTI during the year.
The Institute for
Forensic Medicine reported 25,351 homicides for the year, 792 fewer cases
than in 2000. The police and the Prosecutor General's office have insufficient
resources to investigate most killings adequately. The Superior Judicial
Council estimated based on a 1997 survey that 63 percent of crimes go
unreported, and that 40 percent of all reported crimes go unpunished.
According to a March
2000 report by the MOD, during the first half of 1999, the most recent
year for which information was available, the military judiciary convicted
and sentenced 206 members of the National Police, army, and navy for serious
offenses that the Ministry identified as violations of human rights: Homicide,
bodily injuries, rape, attempted murder, illegal detention, and abuse
of authority. Of the total number of convictions, 66 were for homicide
and 113 were for bodily injuries. The average sentences issued in 1998
were 58 months' imprisonment for homicide and 15 months' imprisonment
for bodily injuries, although sentences ranged from 2 years to 64 years
for homicide, and 2 months to 2 years for bodily injuries. The civilian
Criminal Procedure Code authorizes restriction to a military base as an
acceptable substitute for imprisonment when military jails or prisons
In 1997 the Constitutional
Court more narrowly defined the constitutional provision that crimes by
state agents unrelated to "acts of service" must be tried in
civilian courts (see Section 1.e.). As of November, the military judiciary
had turned 1,373 cases, of which an estimated 41 percent were possible
human rights violations, over to the civilian judiciary for investigation
and possible prosecution, including cases involving high-ranking officers.
The new Military Penal Code reiterates that the crimes of genocide, forced
disappearance, and torture must be tried in civilian courts. In August
2000, the President reaffirmed these new legal norms through a directive
sent to the military high command and the commander of the National Police
(see Section 1.e.).
During the year,
the military judiciary turned 66 cases over to the civilian judiciary,
compared with 496 cases during 2000. The decrease does not reflect a reduced
willingness to transfer such cases; a large backlog of cases from previous
years were transferred during 2000. The Supreme Council of the Judiciary
ruled on 31 conflicts of jurisdiction involving cases against the military
during the year. Of these, 11 cases were assigned to the military judiciary
and 20 were assigned to civilian courts.
The CCJ in its analysis
of data from CINEP and other sources attributed four massacres during
the year to state security forces. In none of these cases were killings
attributed directly to members of the state security services; CCJ and
CINEP attributed three of these massacres to state negligence, while the
fourth was attributed to deliberate failure to prevent paramilitary violence.
Of these four incidents, three involved prison riots, in which guerrilla
and paramilitary inmates killed one another (see Section 1.c.). CCJ and
CINEP concluded that prison guards were at fault in failing to prevent
The fourth incident
was a March 17 paramilitary massacre in San Carlos, Antioquia, which resulted
in the deaths of 13 persons. CCJ and CINEP charged that army and police
troops deliberately withdrew from the area of the attack 3 days prior
to the massacre. At year's end, the office of the Inspector General was
conducting a disciplinary investigation of 10 members of the military
and police, regarding allegations that they permitted a truck that was
carrying 15 hostages being held by paramilitaries to pass unchallenged.
A separate investigation by the Prosecutor General's office also was in
progress at year's end.
In May the authorities
detained two army Fourth Brigade corporals on suspicion of having participated
in the January 2000 murder of Uberney Giraldo and Jose Evelio Gallo, both
long-demobilized guerrillas of the Socialist Renewal Current (CRS) and
two others, after abducting them from the village of San Antonio, Antioquia
department. Although two other army officers and four other soldiers were
not detained, they remained under investigation. The Inspector General's
office and the Prosecutor General's office continue to investigate the
case at year's end.
In June a Rionegro,
Antioquia department, court convicted in absentia army major David Hernandez
Rojas and army captain Diego Fino Rodriguez of aggravated homicide in
the 1999 murder of Antioquia peace commissioner (and former Vice Minister
for Youth) Alex Lopera and two other persons, and sentenced them to 50
years in prison. A former member of the army's Fourth Brigade, Raul Gallego,
was absolved. Two other soldiers were convicted of committing the killings
and were serving prison sentences at year's end. Captain Fino and Major
Hernandez remained at large at year's end following their escapes from
military detention in March 2000 and June 1999 respectively. Another soldier
and a civilian were convicted and sentenced in absentia for obstruction
of justice and for assisting in Fino's escape.
In November retired
army Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Plazas Acevedo, former chief of intelligence
of the army's 13th Brigade, stood trial for the 1998 kidnaping and 1999
murder of Jewish business leader Benjamin Khoudari. At year's end, the
court had not yet issued a final ruling. Civilian Jhon Alexis Olarte Briceno
and army sergeant Guillermo Lozano Guerrero also remained on trial at
year's end. Two other suspects were appealing their convictions for aggravated
kidnaping and homicide to the Bogota Supreme Court.
to investigate the May 1998 Barrancabermeja massacre, as well as the July
2000 murder of Elizabeth Canas Cano, a key eyewitness. The Inspector General's
office also was conducting an inquiry into the death of Canas. In August
2000, the Inspector General had sanctioned eight service members in connection
with the massacre, including members of the army, the police, and the
DAS, of which three--army Captain Oswaldo Prada Escobar, Lieutenant Enrique
Daza and Second Lieutenant Hector Guzman Santos--were discharged. A police
lieutenant colonel, captain, and lieutenant, as well as two DAS agents
At year's end, the
civilian trial continued of retired Colonel Bernardo Ruiz Silva, former
commander of the army's now disbanded 20th Brigade (military intelligence)
for allegedly organizing the 1995 Bogota killing of Conservative Party
opposition leader Alvaro Gomez Hurtado. In March the judge reported a
death threat against her (see Section 1.e.). The trial continued at year's
end. Also on trial are army intelligence agents Henry Berrio Loaiza and
Carlos Gaona Ovalle, retired army warrant officers Omar Berrio Loaiza
and Franklin Gaona Ovalle, and civilian accused killers Hector Paul Florez
Martinez, Manuel Mariano Montero Perez, Gustavo Adolfo Jaramillo Giraldo,
and Hermes Ortiz Duran.
At year's end, marine
Colonel Jose Ancizar Molano Padilla (then-commander of the 2nd Marine
Infantry Battalion) as well as marine Corporals Javier Fernando Guerrero,
Eduardo Aristides Alvarez, and Jose Milton Caicedo were standing trial
in a civilian court in Pasto for the 1995 social cleansing killings of
alleged thieves Sifredy and Fredy Arboleda. The authorities continued
to seek the capture of marine Sergeant Francisco Duarte Zuniga. A disciplinary
investigation by the Inspector General continued at year's end.
The Supreme Court
is expected to rule on the appeal of 5 army officers and 4 paramilitaries
of their 1998 convictions in the case of the 1988 Nuevo Segovia paramilitary
massacre, in which 43 persons were killed and 45 injured, and their sentence
of 18 to 30 years' imprisonment for terrorism.
The Prosecutor General's
office continued to investigate the 1987 kidnaping, torture, and death
of Nydia Erika Bautista de Arellano, a member of the M-19 guerrilla group.
The case was reassigned to civilian justice in July 2000. In 1994 the
Inspector General had removed Brigadier General Alvaro Velandia Hurtado
from the armed forces and sanctioned a sergeant in the case. In 1996 the
Government had complied with a court order to pay compensation to Bautista's
family for the involvement of MOD officials.
of cooperation with paramilitary groups, including instances of both passive
support and direct collaboration by members of the public security forces,
in particular the army, continued. Evidence suggests that there were tacit
arrangements between local military commanders and paramilitary groups
in some regions, and paramilitary forces operated freely in some areas
despite a significant military presence. Members of the security forces
actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups--passing them
through roadblocks, sharing intelligence, providing them with ammunition,
and allegedly even joining their ranks while off duty.
The military high
command, under the leadership of Minister of Defense Gustavo Bell and
General Fernando Tapias, stated repeatedly that it would not tolerate
collaboration between military personnel and paramilitary groups, and
that the army would combat paramilitary groups. Although state security
forces doubled operations against paramilitaries during the year and tripled
the number of paramilitaries captured since 2000 (see Section 1.g.), security
force actions in the field were not always consistent with the leadership's
positions, and members of the security forces sometimes illegally collaborated
with paramilitary forces. Credible reports persisted of paramilitary installations
and roadblocks near military bases; of contacts between paramilitary and
military members; of paramilitary roadblocks unchallenged by military
forces; and of military failure to respond to warnings of impending paramilitary
massacres or selective killings. Military entities often cited lack of
information, manpower, and mobility to explain this situation. Impunity
for military personnel who collaborated with members of paramilitary groups
In October Human
Rights Watch issued "The Sixth Division," a report that stated
that the army maintains close operational ties to paramilitary groups.
The report highlighted reports from 1999-2001 of collaboration with paramilitary
forces or acts of omission in preventing paramilitary crimes by officers
of the army's 3rd, 5th, and 24th Brigades. Human Rights Watch sharply
criticized the Government for failing to address effectively the problem
of continued military-paramilitary cooperation and general impunity for
human rights violators and also charged that the Government exaggerated
the effectiveness of its actions against paramilitarism with "a sophisticated
public relations campaign." Presidential Human Rights Program Director
Reinaldo Botero vigorously denied that his office published distorted
information and criticized the "immoderate tone" of the report.
However, Botero welcomed the NGO's statement that high level Government
officials clearly and publicly stated their policy to combat paramilitarism.
Brigadier General Martin Orlando Carreno, commander of the Fifth Brigade,
said that Human Rights Watch's allegations were based on erroneous information
and noted that the Fifth Brigade had captured 147 members of paramilitary
groups and killed 18 others in combat during the year.
In September 2000,
the President signed military decrees that allowed for the dismissal of
members of the public security forces who were complicit in paramilitary
or other illegal activities; government agencies actively investigated
allegations of collaboration or complicity with paramilitary groups by
members of the security forces. From October 2000 through the end of 2001,
the military dismissed approximately 600 members; however, it was not
known how many discharges were for collaborating with paramilitary groups
(see Section 1.e.).
On January 17, approximately
80 paramilitaries killed 27 civilians in Chengue, Sucre department. Early
in the investigation, paramilitary Elkin Antonio Valdiris Tirado was captured
and confessed to a role in the massacre. Valdiris also implicated two
active duty marine sergeants; one was charged and was awaiting trial at
year's end, while the other was detained pending formal charges. A civilian
suspect also was awaiting trial at year's end. On August 29, in Sincelejo,
Sucre department, presumed paramilitaries killed Yolanda Paternina, a
prosecutor working on the case. Two CTI investigators on the case disappeared
in mid-April near Berrugas, Sucre department and are presumed dead. The
Inspector General's office opened a disciplinary investigation of then-Marine
First Brigade commander Rodrigo Quinones, five other marine officers,
the marine sergeants, and a police officer for possible acts of omission
in failing to prevent the massacre.
The Government is
investigating a March 5 paramilitary incursion in the "peace community"
of San Jose de Apartado, in Uraba region, Antioquia department, in which
both residents and international observers were threatened, and a number
of buildings were burned. Community members alleged that members of the
army's 17th Brigade were involved in the raid. On July 30, 15 armed paramilitaries
killed 1 man and displaced 64 families from the peace community of La
Union, Uraba region, and announced a paramilitary takeover of the community,
although they did not maintain control. Both FARC and paramilitaries are
present in the mountains above this community. At the request of the peace
community, 17th Brigade troops did not enter San Jose. Witnesses reported
that the paramilitaries who entered San Jose in July 2001 identified themselves
as the same persons who had committed the July 2000 massacre in the same
community. The murder is under investigation. The authorities also are
investigating the December 15 murder of a resident of San Jose de Apartado
by three armed men in civilian clothing; the victim was not a member of
the peace community. An NGO attributed the killing to paramilitaries;
however, it remains unclear who was responsible.
continue to investigate two paramilitary massacres in February 2000 in
San Jose de Apartado and in July 2000 in neighboring La Union, in which
11 persons were killed. Members of the San Jose de Apartado peace community,
as well as NGO's, accused the 17th Brigade of complicity in the attacks.
On February 19, 2000, unidentified presumed ACCU paramilitaries killed
five persons in San Jose de Apartado, and wounded three others; there
were reports that the men wore the insignia of the 17th Brigade on their
uniforms. On July 8, 2000, approximately 20 paramilitary assailants murdered
6 peasants in La Union, part of San Jose de Apartado. The attackers reportedly
gave the citizens 20 days to leave the town. NGO's alleged that the 17th
Brigade was complicit in both attacks, that army members were near La
Union prior to the July 8 attack, and that a military helicopter hovered
over La Union during the massacre. Government investigators continued
to investigate complaints of military-paramilitary collusion in these
massacres at year's end.
On February 19-20,
2000, a large group of AUC paramilitary attackers killed 42 persons, whom
they accused of being guerrillas or guerrilla sympathizers at El Salado,
Bolivar department. A military investigation did not find any substantiation
for complaints that the military purposely failed to prevent the attack,
or that the navy blocked relief groups from entering. An investigation
by the Prosecutor General's office continued, and by year's end, 16 paramilitary
suspects were detained and standing trial. (An arrest warrant remained
outstanding for AUC leader Carlos Castano.) The Inspector General's office
continued a disciplinary investigation of navy Rear Admiral Humberto Cubos
Padilla and navy Rear Admiral Rodrigo Quinones, five other navy officers,
and two police officers, but at year's end, had not yet charged any service
member in the case.
In March 2000, the
human rights unit of the Prosecutor General's office ordered the detention
of army Captain Luis Fernando Campusano Vasquez and sought the capture
of 15 other civilians, including Carlos Castano, who remained at large.
They are suspected of being affiliated with area units that collaborated
with a 300-person paramilitary group based at Vetas, Norte de Santander
department, which committed 15 massacres in and around the towns of La
Gabarra and Tibu between May and September, 1999. More than 145 persons
whom the attackers claimed were guerrillas or guerrilla supporters were
killed. Nearby elements of the army's 46th counterguerrilla battalion
(Tibu) and 5th mechanized group (Cucuta), as well as police, did not intervene.
In December the authorities arrested army Colonel Victor Matamoros and
Captain Juan Carlos Fernandez, the former commander and the former intelligence
director of the Fifth Mechanized Group, respectively. The two are charged
with collaboration with and the formation of illegal paramilitary groups
between 1997 and 1999.
The Prosecutor General's
office has charged one army captain and two civilians for failing to prevent
a paramilitary massacre of 22 persons in August 1999 in La Gabarra, Norte
de Santander department. However, it did not file charges against retired
army Brigadier General Alberto Bravo Silva, Colonel Roque Sanchez, and
two other army officers. (Bravo retired in 1999 on orders from the President.)
The Prosecutor General's office is trying in absentia AUC leader Carlos
Castano and 14 others for homicide and subversion related to this massacre.
The May 29, 1999,
paramilitary massacre in which six persons in Los Cuervos (near La Gabarra)
were killed also remains under investigation; two former members of the
military, two prison guards, and five civilians are under arrest and in
detention. The Inspector General's office continued its investigation
of (but had not charged) Bravo, Roque, army Colonel Victor Hugo Matamoros,
army major Mauricio Llorente Chavez, and army lieutenant Luis Fernando
In March the Prosecutor
General charged former Tibu military base commander Mauricio Llorente
Chavez, former Tibu police commander Major Harbey Fernando Ortega Ruales,
and 13 police agents with homicide and complicity in a July 17, 1999,
paramilitary massacre in Tibu. The suspects remained under arrest at year's
In April the Prosecutor
General's office ordered the detention of Colonel Rafael Alfonso Hani
Jimeno, who was arrested later and charged with collusion with paramilitaries.
Hani was the commander of the army's Palace de Buga Battalion, located
in Tulua, Valle del Cauca department, during a period in 1999 when paramilitaries
conducted a series of killings and displaced hundreds of peasant farmers.
He also was alleged to have permitted a known paramilitary (whom Hani
claimed was an informant) to live at battalion headquarters for months.
At year's end, the charges against Hani had been overturned on appeal,
but Hani remained under investigation. There were reports of threats against
investigators and witnesses in this case. In February the Inspector General's
office opened a separate disciplinary investigation of Hani.
On July 27, 2000,
the Inspector General's office formally charged 5 army officers, including
4 generals, for failing to prevent the massacre of 19 persons in May 1998
in Puerto Alvira, Meta department. The five charged are former commanders
of the army's Fourth Division, retired Major General Augustin Ardila Uribe
and General Jaime Humberto Cortes Parada (the army's Inspector General);
former commander of the 7th Brigade, retired Brigadier General Jaime Humberto
Uscategui; commander of the 2nd Brigade, General Fredy Padilla de Leon
(also the former head of the 7th Brigade); and the commander of the "Joaquin
Paris" battalion, Colonel Gustavo Sanchez Gutierrez. Those involved
denied the charges. The Inspector General's investigation was still in
progress at year's end. In March the Superior Military Tribunal confirmed
the June 2000 first instance military court's ruling to close the case.
At year's end, the human rights unit of the Prosecutor General's office
had under arrest one paramilitary, had released another suspect for lack
of evidence, and had outstanding arrest warrants for AUC leader Carlos
Castano and seven others.
In December 2000,
the Inspector General's office charged 17 police and 9 army officials
with collusion with paramilitary groups in approximately 160 social cleansing
murders by members of paramilitary groups in northeastern Antioquia (including
the communities of La Ceja, Guarne, and El Penon) during 1995-98. The
Inspector General also charged two municipal officials with omission.
The Prosecutor General's office also charged 21 of the 26 officials who
faced disciplinary charges, as well as a suspected paramilitary. All of
the individuals charged either were standing trial or awaiting court dates
at year's end.
In April a military
tribunal convicted Brigadier General Jaime Uscategui and sentenced him
to 40 months' imprisonment for failing to prevent the July 1997 AUC paramilitary
massacre of dozens of persons in Mapiripan, Meta department. The court
also convicted Lieutenant Colonel Hernan Orozco (a primary witness against
Uscategui) and sentenced him to 38 months in prison. Orozco was released
in September, having served his entire sentence. Uscategui's sentence
subsequently was reduced for time served and work performed, and he was
released in July. In the view of many human rights groups, the term of
Uscategui's sentence and early release, although legal, severely undercut
the message sent by his conviction. In addition, human rights organizations
criticized the sentence given to Colonel Orozco as punishment for his
having come forward with the facts and the General's involvement in the
massacre. A civilian judge hearing the case against other military and
civilian defendants was threatened during the year (see Section 1.e.).
In November the Constitutional Court announced that it would rule that
Uscategui's case should be assigned to civilian jurisdiction. The court
had not issued or implemented the ruling at year's end. The ruling is
expected to nullify the military tribunal's conviction. The ruling is
also an implied exoneration of Orozco because the Prosecutor General's
office had decided in March 1999 not to press charges against Orozco.
In 1999 the CSJ had
sent the cases of all other defendants in the Mapiripan case to the civilian
courts for action, including charges against Lieutenant Colonel Lino Hernando
Sanchez Prada for facilitating the massacre, which was determined not
to be an act of service. At year's end, Lieutenant Colonel Sanchez and
the five other defendants (two noncommissioned officers and three commercial
pilots) remained on trial in the civilian judiciary. Two other civilian
paramilitary defendants were indicted in December 2000 and remained on
trial and in detention at year's end. In November 2000, the Prosecutor
General indicted in a separate process Lieutenant Colonel Sanchez, two
army sergeants, and eight members of paramilitary groups (including two
The military judiciary
announced no new developments during the year in its ongoing investigation
of retired Brigadier General Fernando Millan Perez regarding allegations
that he armed and equipped a paramilitary group in Lebrija, Santander
department in 1997, which was believed to be responsible for at least
11 killings. In October 1998, the Superior Judicial Council had determined
that Millan's alleged actions constituted an act of service and turned
the case over to the military judiciary for prosecution. In July the Inspector
General's office charged army General Fernando Millan Perez, army Colonel
Hernando Sanchez Salamanca, and army lieutenant Oscar Esteban Hernandez
In late July, the
CTI detained General Rito Alejo del Rio, former commander of the 17th
Brigade, on suspicion of illegal collaboration with paramilitaries in
Uraba in 1995-97. Newly named Prosecutor General Luis Camilo Osorio publicly
criticized the decision to arrest del Rio and complained that he had not
been consulted. Human Rights Unit coordinator Pedro Diaz insisted that
the Human Rights Unit prosecutor on the case had legal authority to issue
the warrant. In early August, a Bogota judge freed del Rio under a habeas
corpus ruling that claimed irregularities in the processing of the arrest
warrant. The judge also ruled (under a highly controversial interpretation
of Article 235 of the Constitution) that jurisdiction for the case rested
exclusively with Osorio, not the Human Rights Unit prosecutor. Both Diaz
and Deputy Prosecutor General Pablo Elias Gonzalez resigned shortly afterward.
General Del Rio remained free; however, in November the office of the
Prosecutor General summoned General del Rio to inquest. The investigation
was still in progress at year's end. The office of the Inspector General
continued a separate disciplinary investigation of del Rio.
An appeals court
confirmed charges of collusion with paramilitaries in the 1996-97 social
cleansing killings in La Ceja, Antioquia department, against army Lieutenant
Colonel Jesus Maria Clavijo Clavijo, soldier Carlos Mario Escudero, and
police agent William Mora; all three were awaiting trial in a civilian
court at year's end. Clavijo remained detained at 5th Brigade headquarters.
In two separate cases related to the same series of crimes in Antioquia,
prosecutors also charged police agents Luis Alfredo Castillo Suarez, Juan
Carlos Valencia Arbalaez, Carlos Maria Tejada, and Olimpo Rivera; and
soldiers Javier Antonio Gomez Herran, and Osvaldo Leon Beltran, all of
whom were awaiting trial at year's end. Prosecutors also arrested army
Major Alvaro Cortes Murillo and army Lieutenant Colonel Alfonso Zapata
Gaviria. Paramilitary Ricardo Lopez Lora was sentenced to 16 years in
the La Ceja killings, another paramilitary is being tried in absentia,
and a third has been absolved.
The case of retired
army Colonel Jose Ancizar Hincapie Betancurt for collaboration in 1993-94
with a paramilitary group that killed 11 persons remained pending before
civilian courts at year's end.
committed numerous extrajudicial killings, primarily in areas where they
competed with guerrilla forces for control, and often in the absence of
a strong government security force presence. Several major paramilitary
campaigns during the year included massacres in Sucre, Norte de Santander,
Magdalena, and Valle del Cauca departments. The office of the Human Rights
Ombudsman received complaints regarding 125 massacres during the year.
The MOD reported that paramilitary forces were responsible for the deaths
of 1,015 civilians in the period from January to November. According to
the MOD, during the year, the paramilitaries killed 281 persons during
massacres. The CCJ reported 161 massacres during January-September, of
which 102 massacres (representing 671 victims) are attributed to paramilitaries.
The CCJ attributes a total of 1,929 political killings and 319 social
cleansing killings to paramilitary groups in the period from June 2000
to June 2001. Paramilitary activities also included kidnaping, intimidation,
and the forced displacement of persons not directly involved in hostilities
(see Sections 1.b., 1.c., 1.g., and 2.d.). Paramilitary groups targeted
journalists and teachers (see Section 2.a.), human rights activists (see
Section 4), labor leaders (see Section 6.a.), community activists, national
and local politicians (including the President), peasants, and other persons
whom they accused of supporting or failing to confront guerrillas. Paramilitary
forces killed indigenous people (see Section 5).
groups were suspected of hundreds of selective killings throughout the
country, especially in Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Norte de Santander,
Bolivar, and Sucre departments. The FARC, the ELN, or both had a strong
presence in these areas as paramilitary forces vied with them for control
of territory or resources, including coca cultivation. Paramilitary groups
continued to kill political leaders and peace activists, including Ismael
Valencia, the former mayor of Calima Darien, Valle del Cauca department;
and nun and human rights activist Yolanda Ceron in Tumaco, Narino department.
Six members of the CTI were killed during the year in various parts of
the country; paramilitary forces were suspected of responsibility in two
of these killings; in the others the responsible group had not been identified
at year's end.
and incursions continued in Antioquia, Sucre, and Bolivar departments
as part of an ongoing paramilitary effort to wrest territorial control
from the guerrillas. A similarly fierce struggle for control continued
in Norte de Santander, Cauca, and Valle del Cauca departments.
On January 5, presumed
paramilitaries killed 14 persons in the villages of Chiquinquira and Mesetas,
Penol municipality, Antioquia department.
On February 13, gunmen
shot and killed Ivan Villamizar, a former regional ombudsman, in Cucuta,
Santander department. One presumed paramilitary was captured and charged
with the murder.
On March 21, a suspected
paramiltary gunman shot and killed business owner and farmer Gonzalo Rodrigez,
brother of ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez, in Socorro. The victim reportedly
had no involvement with guerrillas.
On March 24, paramilitaries
reportedly kidnaped between 24 and 30 persons in La Llorente, Narino department.
Three persons, not among those reported kidnaped, were killed in separate
incidents and confirmed dead after this incursion. The identity and fate
of the other persons reportedly kidnaped has never been confirmed.
From January through
April, the AUC mounted a successful offensive to displace the ELN from
the northeastern neighborhoods of Barrancabermeja, Santander department.
By April, more than 180 civilians had been killed and another 4,000 displaced.
The human rights NGO CREDHOS reported at year's end that 360 persons were
killed in political violence in the period from January to November in
Barrancebermeja and surrounding areas. The Prosecutor General's office
and Inspector General's office are investigating numerous complaints of
military and police collusion with paramilitaries in Barrancabermeja.
On April 14, in the
Alto Naya region (on the border of Cauca and Valle del Cauca departments),
paramilitaries murdered 20 persons with machetes and guns (reportedly
raping at least 1 victim first), and displaced hundreds more. Responding
to the massacre, the army and navy captured 70 paramilitaries, including
a paramilitary bloc commander, in a joint operation. All of the suspects
were under arrest and awaiting trial at year's end. The Prosecutor General's
office and the Inspector General's office also are investigating allegations
that army troops may have been guilty of failing to prevent the massacre.
No charges have been filed against any service member.
On July 4, a large
group of AUC paramilitaries kidnaped 43 young men in Peque, Antioquia
department and forced them to herd stolen cattle. Seven of the men later
were found dead and severely mutilated. As some of these victims were
taken into an area where there was AUC-FARC combat, it remains unclear
whether the paramilitaries or the FARC killed them. FARC guerrilla troops
arrived in Peque following the incident and offered security to its residents.
The guerrillas departed later on July 11, after which the army and police
arrived. Vice President and Minister of Defense Bell also visited Peque
on July 12. Most of the 3,500 persons displaced by this incident returned
by late July. The army reported that limited manpower and mobility, as
well as other demands on army resources at the time, prevented rapid reaction
to the crisis in Peque. The Inspector General was investigating complaints
of military omission or collusion, but has not identified individual suspects
in the case.
On September 5, presumed
AUC paramilitary gunmen killed Congressman and Lower House Peace Committee
Acting Chairman Jairo Hernando Rojas. The Prosecutor General's Human Rights
Unit was investigating the case.
On September 15,
approximately 20 AUC paramilitaries killed 9 persons in Frias, Magadalena
department, accusing them of being guerrilla informants. Contrary to some
press reports alleging slow military reaction, international organizations
verified that the army arrived promptly at the scene. There had been no
previous threats or warnings reported for that location.
In October presumed
paramilitaries kidnaped 13 fishermen in Cienaga de Santa Marta, Magdalena
department; the bodies of 6 were found (see Section 1.b.).
On October 10, AUC
paramilitaries shot and killed 24 persons in the communities of La Habana
and Alaska, near the city of Buga in Valle del Cauca department. Human
Rights Ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes publicly accused the army's Palace
de Buga battalion of omission in failing to reach the area until the following
morning. According to the army, this area, contested between the FARC
and paramilitaries, was difficult to reach quickly in combat conditions.
In late October, army troops captured 10 civilian paramilitary suspects,
and the case remained under investigation by the Prosecutor General's
office at year's end.
On December 1, AUC
paramilitaries shot and killed 15 persons on a remote country road in
Boyaca department. According to press reports, local officials said that
the mass slaying signals a possible push by the AUC into the mineral rich
region that had been a bastion of guerrillas.
The Prosecutor General's
office continues to investigate a series of attacks in November 2000,
when paramilitary forces killed 15 fishermen in Nueva Venecia (La Cienaga
de Santa Marta), Magdalena department, and kidnaped another 22 persons,
whose bodies later were discovered.
to investigate an April 2000 massacre of 21 men by approximately 50 paramilitary
attackers at Tibu, Catatumbo region, Norte de Santander department.
to investigate the February 2000 ACCU massacres in five neighborhoods
of Las Ovejas.
In May 2000, a paramilitary
group that identified itself as the "Calima Front" claimed responsibility
for the killings of 12 civilians in the village of Sabaletas, Valle del
Cauca department. The group also claimed to have killed 14 other persons
it suspected of being guerrillas in the same area. According to Human
Rights Watch, the army's 3rd Brigade created and supports the Calima Front,
which Human Rights Watch believes was responsible for at least 200 killings
between July 1999 and July 2000, as well as the displacement of over 10,000
persons. The Prosecutor General's office and the Inspector General's office
continue investigating claims of continued military collusion with the
At year's end, paramilitary
and "La Terraza" gangster Juan Pablo Ortiz Agudelo (alias "Bochas"),
already convicted and imprisoned for another murder, was appealing charges
filed against him for the 1999 murder in Bogota of journalist, comedian,
and human rights activist Jaime Garzon Forero. Under the law, a defendant
has the right to appeal charges; if the charges are confirmed, the case
proceeds to trial. AUC leader Carlos Castano has been charged with ordering
the killing, but remains at large.
Mario James Mejia ("el Panadero") was convicted of eight murders
and sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment for the February 1999 "Barrancabermeja
II" massacre, which left nine persons dead. Pedro Mateo Hurtado Moreno
and three other paramilitary suspects in the massacre remained at large
at year's end.
In July a Bogota
judge, citing lack of evidence, acquitted five suspects in the 1998 killing
of Eduardo Umana Mendoza, perhaps the country's best-known and most controversial
human rights lawyer. The five were released, after 3 years in detention.
In March a Medellin
court sentenced two paramilitaries to 35 years' imprisonment for the 1998
killing of human rights activist Jesus Maria Valle, the president of the
Antioquia Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. Seven other
suspects were exonerated, and AUC leader Carlos Castano was convicted
in absentia of the formation of paramilitary groups but absolved of the
Ivan Urdinola Grajales remained in detention in connection with the 1989-90
"Trujillo I" massacres in Valle del Cauca department, and also
is implicated in the 1994 "Trujillo II" massacre. Prosecutors
also have an outstanding warrant for the detention of one other paramilitary
member in the Trujillo I case. In May 2000, a court upheld charges against
paramilitary Norberto Morales Ledesma for involvement in the Trujillo
II massacre. Two other members of paramilitary groups implicated in both
Trujillo I and Trujillo II remain at large.
In November Carlos
Castano admitted in his published memoirs that he was responsible for
the 1990 murder of presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro, among other
have captured several regional commanders, top paramilitary leaders largely
remained beyond the reach of the law. MOD figures published in July indicated
that 954 paramilitaries were captured between January and November (a
3-fold increase over the same period in 2000) and 109 were killed. The
Ministry of Defense also reported in mid-October that 24 soldiers were
killed and 31 wounded in clashes with the AUC.
In January police
in Barrancabermeja arrested Franklin Eugenio Aguilar Rengifo in connection
with a kidnaping. On January 12, police captured Danilo Cordoba Moya,
presumed regional AUC commander for the northern part of the country,
in Zambrano, Bolivar department. On January 28, the CNP arrested paramilitary
leader Gustavo Adolfo Soto Garcia in San Carlos de Guaroa, Meta department.
On March 22, Roberto Carlos Delgado, leader of the AUC's Southern Liberators
bloc, was captured along with five others including retired army colonel
Jesus Uruena Paz. In May the police captured Dumar de Jesus Gerrero, commander
of the AUC's forces in the central regions of the country. On May 19,
military units captured Francisco Javier Correa Gonzalez, leader of AUC
forces in the northeastern neighborhoods of Barrancabermeja.
The guerrillas of
the FARC, the ELN, and the People's Liberation Army (EPL) continued to
commit killings, often targeting noncombatants in a manner similar to
that of paramilitary groups. The MOD attributed a total of 1,075 civilian
deaths to guerrillas between January and November. According to the MOD,
during the year, guerillas killed 158 persons during massacres. The CCJ
reported that guerrillas were responsible for 458 political killings in
the period from June 2000 to June 2001, the most recent period for which
figures are available, compared with 236 political killings in the period
from October 1999 through March 2000. The Ministry of Defense attributed
880 civilian deaths in massacres to guerrillas during 2000. The Human
Rights Ombudsman attributed 22 massacres to the FARC during the first
6 months of 2000 and 9 massacres to the ELN. The Ombudsman also attributed
89 killings to the FARC and 31 killings to the ELN during the first 6
months of 2000.
targets included local elected officials and candidates for public office,
teachers (see Section 2.a.), civic leaders, business owners, and peasants
opposed to the guerrillas' political or military activities. Guerrilla
groups also killed religious leaders (see Section 2.c.), members of indigenous
groups (see Section 5), and labor leaders (see Section 6.a.). Some communities
controlled by guerrillas also experienced social cleansing killings of
criminal or other "undesirable" elements. The CCJ reported 10
such killings for the period of June 2000 to June 2001. Guerrilla campaigns
around the demilitarized area, in the Norte de Santander, Antioquia, and
southern departments often involved significant civilian casualties and
prompted significant displacements (see Section 1.g. and 2.d.).
On January 18, guerrillas
of the FARC's 57th front shot and killed Henry Perea Torres, the mayor
of Jurado, Choco department. Perea, who had taken office on January 1,
represented the Indigenous Social Alliance and had criticized the murder
several days earlier of fellow indigenous leader Armando Achita.
On February 6, presumed
ELN guerrillas killed nine farmers who actively opposed the creation of
an ELN encounter zone, in La Cristalina community near Puerto Wilches,
On February 13, FARC
guerrillas killed nine young hikers in the Purace National Park in Huila
department. The FARC stated that they had mistaken the hikers for paramilitaries
and promised the victims' relatives that the culprits would stand revolutionary
trial. The killers remained at large at year's end.
From May 22-29, FARC
guerrillas kidnaped and killed approximately 23 peasants in Alto Sinu,
Cordoba department. An estimated 110 families were displaced following
these attacks. The attacks appeared to have been part of an AUC-FARC struggle
to control territory and coca cultivation, and to terrorize the local
In August presumed
ELN guerrillas set off a series of bombing attacks in Medellin, Marinilla,
and San Francisco, Antioquia department. Two persons were killed and approximately
81 persons were injured.
On September 6-7,
FARC guerrillas killed 10 coca leaf pickers. As many as 40 other persons
were reported dead, but the FARC prevented government authorities and
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from recovering the
bodies. The attacks appeared to be an effort by the FARC to take back
the area around La Gabarra, which had been seized by paramilitaries in
a series of attacks in 1999 that included three large massacres. This
area remains hotly contested between illegal armed groups, both for coca
cultivation and for access to the Venezuelan border.
On September 24,
the FARC kidnaped and later killed Consuelo Araujo, a former Minister
of Culture and the wife of the Inspector General (see Section 1.b.). Other
kidnap victims were released or rescued.
In October ELN guerrillas
destroyed a building in El Penol, Antioquia department, killing a policeman,
his wife and child, and two other civilians.
On November 16, FARC
units at an illegal checkpoint at Santuario, Putumayo department executed
an unarmed soldier from the 12th Brigade and a taxi driver.
The authorities blamed
FARC guerrillas for the December massacre of 15 farmers in Samana, Caldas
The human rights
unit of the Prosecutor General's office continues to investigate deaths,
disappearances, and kidnapings of off-duty army and police personnel (see
Section 1.b.). For example, in late July, the authorities discovered the
bodies of army Sergeant Eliud Sarmiento Ruiz and soldiers Eduardo Barreto,
Moise Murcia Robayo, and Carlos Coronado Lopez in a common grave in Cundinamarca
department. The four men, whose hands were bound and whose bodies showed
signs of torture, had been kidnaped by the FARC on July 1 while they were
off-duty, out of uniform, and unarmed.
reported killings by FARC members within and on the periphery of the despeje
continued. The investigation continued of the December 2000 killing of
congressional peace commission chairman Diego Turbay Cote, his mother
councilwoman Ines Cote, and five other persons in Caqueta department (near
the FARC demilitarized zone). In November three suspects in the Turbay
killings were released for lack of evidence.
In early October
2000, the FARC attacked the remote village of Ortega and killed eight
persons, including two women and two children. The guerrillas also burned
20 homes, a school, and a church. In June 2000, the FARC massacred at
least 11 civilians at Nutibara, Antioquia department, and injured 15 other
The ELN is suspected
of involvement in the February 6 killing of nine farmers in the La Cristalina
community, in Santander department (Magdalena Medio region). Some of the
victims were members of a civil society organization opposed to a proposed
demilitarized zone for the ELN in southern Bolivar and Antioquia departments.
One of the victims was a young pregnant woman.
The authorities charged
in absentia FARC 34th front member Fernando Zapata Hinestroza for the
killing of 21 police officers and 8 civilians, including 2 children, during
the March 2000 attack on the twin towns of Vigia del Fuerte, Antioquia
department, and Bellavista, Choco department. The authorities also are
seeking the arrest of three other FARC members in this case. Seven police
officers captured in the assault were released individually during the
citizens using bombs, artillery and antipersonnel land mines, and continued
their practice of using gas canisters to attack small towns, thereby killing
civilians indiscriminately (see Section 1.g.).
The authorities still
have not captured FARC eastern bloc commander German Briceno Suarez ("Grannobles")
and U'wa tribe member Gustavo Bocota, who have been indicted for involvement
in the March 1999 killings of kidnaped foreign activists for indigenous
rights Terence Freitas, Lahe'ena'e Gay, and Ingrid Washinawatok near Saravena,
Arauca department. The investigation of the case continued at year's end.
At year's end, the
authorities had not yet captured Arley Leal and Milton de Jesus Tonal
Redondo ("Joaquin Gomez" or "Usurriaga") of the FARC's
32nd Front in connection with the 1998 murder of Father Alcides Jimenez
in Putumayo. The Inspector General's office continued to investigate possible
government negligence in failing to prevent the killing.
In July the MOD reported
that, from January through November, security forces killed 979 and captured
1,623 guerrillas. The Prosecutor General's office reported that as of
December it had 98 open investigations against 240 guerrillas, had 227
guerrillas in custody, and had 262 warrants outstanding for the capture
cases regarding the country were before the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights (IACHR) at year's end. The great majority involved violations
of the right to life. At year's end, the IACHR was expected to make a
decision about whether to move a case involving paramilitary and military
involvement in the 1996 killing of 19 merchants to the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights.
In response to the
killings of thousands of members of the Patriotic Union (UP) leftist coalition
(see Section 1.g.), a May 2000 law classified "political genocide"
as a crime; however, it provided that political genocide could be committed
only against members of legally constituted (i.e., nonguerrilla) groups.
The IACHR continued
the process of trying to reach an amicable settlement of the UP's 1996
complaint charging the Government with "action or omission"
in what the UP termed "political genocide" of the UP and the
Communist Party. As part of the process, since June 2000, the Government
has provided protection through the Interior Ministry to surviving UP
and Communist Party members. Despite these efforts, NGO's reported to
the IACHR that at least 20 persons associated with the UP were killed
during the year.
There continued to
be incidents of social cleansing--including attacks and killings--directed
against individuals deemed socially undesirable, such as drug addicts,
prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, beggars, and street children.
The CCJ attributed one social cleansing killing to security forces during
the period from June 2000 to June 2001; it attributed 319 killings to
paramilitary groups, and 10 to the guerrillas. AUC social cleansing killings
of homosexuals, prostitutes, drug users, and mentally ill persons were
reported in Barrancabermeja, Cucuta, and numerous other municipalities.
Barrancabermeja residents also have reported AUC attempts to impose "social
controls" (such as curfews or dress codes) and the exercise of vigilante
justice (see Section 1.e.).
The 1991 Constitution
and the Criminal Code explicitly prohibit forced disappearance; however,
it continued to be a problem. In May 2000, Congress passed legislation
that criminalized forced disappearance, genocide, torture, and forced
displacement by putting them into the Criminal Code. The law entered into
effect in July 2000, allowing these crimes to be tried in civilian courts.
Human rights activists noted that the final law did not require that military
defendants be tried in civilian, rather than military, courts; however,
the reformed Military Penal Code, which entered into effect in August
2000, did include such a requirement (see Section 1.e.). More than 3,700
cases of forced disappearance have been reported formally to the authorities
since 1977. Very few have been resolved. Many of the victims disappeared
in the course of confrontations between illegal armed groups and the State,
or between paramilitaries and guerrillas. The great majority of victims
of forced disappearance have never been seen or heard from again. The
human rights NGO CREDHOS reported at year's end that 71 persons disappeared
between January and November in Barrancabermeja and surrounding areas.
The CCJ attributed
five forced disappearances to state security forces in the period from
June 2000 to June 2001. The Inspector General's office investigated 183
members of state security forces on disciplinary charges related to massacres
and forced disappearances (see Section 1.a.).
The CCJ attributed
296 forced disappearances to paramilitaries in the period from June 2000
to June 2001. In many instances persons kidnaped by paramilitary groups
later were found dead (see Section 1.a.).
In mid-April two
investigators working on the January massacre in Chengue, Sucre department,
disappeared (see Section 1.a.).
The law prohibits
kidnaping; however, it remained an extremely serious problem. According
to the Free Country Foundation (Fundacion Pais Libre), 3,041 persons,
or 8 persons per day, were kidnaped during the year, compared with 3,706
in 2000. Paramilitary groups kidnaped 9 percent of these persons. Guerrilla
groups were responsible for 63 percent of the kidnapings. Criminals kidnaped
10 percent. An estimated 205 minors were in captivity as of October. Members
of the Government's elite antikidnaping squads known as GAULA (a combined
police and military unit) and other units of the security forces freed
697 persons during the year. The Free Country Foundation reported that
98 persons died in captivity during the year. Arrests or prosecutions
in kidnaping cases were rare.
According to the
MOD, 22 police hostages remain in captivity, and the FARC and ELN were
responsible for the forced disappearances of 40 others. The army reports
that the FARC kidnaped 24 soldiers and was responsible for the forced
disappearances of 51 other soldiers outside combat; the ELN was responsible
for the forced disappearances of 8 soldiers. During the year, the FARC
released 189 captured soldiers and police (see Section 1.d.). However,
the FARC captured 20 soldiers and police in combat. FARC and ELN guerrillas
kidnaped 22 police officers and were responsible for the forced disappearances
of 40 others. At year's end, the FARC and ELN reportedly held 22 police
and 44 soldiers captive.
On March 24, paramilitaries
reportedly killed or kidnaped between 24 and 30 persons in La Llorente,
Narino department; however, the identities of these persons, their number,
and their fate was never confirmed (see Section 1.a.).
On May 16, AUC paramilitaries
kidnaped 190 farm workers in southern Casanare department and stated they
would begin forcible recruitment in the area. Under pressure from army
troops, the AUC released the hostages unharmed after 36 hours.
On June 2, six unidentified
assailants kidnaped Embera-Katio indigenous leader Kimi Domico Pernia
in Tierralta, Cordoba department. Local Embera-Katio members believe that
local paramilitary groups kidnaped Pernia as retaliation for Embera-Katio
participation in FARC attacks (see Section 5). In December AUC military
commander Salvatore Mancuso told the press that Pernia had been killed.
In October presumed
paramilitaries kidnaped 13 fishermen in Cienaga de Santa Marta, Magdalena
department. By October 10, the bodies of 6 of the kidnap victims had been
found (see Section 1.a.), while another 3 hostages had escaped.
On November 19, the
AUC in a letter to the Governor of Antioquia department reported that
on November 18, it had abducted six mayors from eastern Antioquia, as
well as their human rights adviser. The kidnaping apparently was in retaliation
for meetings that the mayors had held with representatives of the ELN
to seek respect for the lives of the civilian population in their municipalities.
The ELN unilaterally had committed to a truce until April 2002, demanding
in turn that the mayors request that the Government withdraw police from
their towns. The paramilitaries released the hostages on November 20.
In March 2000, a
paramilitary group led by Jhon Jairo Esquivel Cuadrado kidnaped seven
members of the CTI at Minguillo, Cesar department. Esquivel was captured
in July 2000 and was awaiting trial at year's end. There were no indications
that the abducted investigators were still alive.
to be an unambiguous, standing policy and major source of revenue for
both the FARC and ELN. According to the Free Country Foundation, politicians,
cattlemen, children, and businessmen were the guerrillas' preferred victims.
The Foundation reported that guerrillas committed 63 percent of the 3,041
kidnapings reported during the year; ransom payments continued to serve
as an important source of revenue for the FARC and the ELN. The FARC often
purchased victims kidnaped by common criminals and then negotiated ransom
payments with the family. In March 2000, the FARC announced "Law
002," which required persons with more than $1 million in assets
to volunteer payment to the FARC or risk detention. There were many reports
that guerrillas tortured kidnap victims (see Sections 1.c. and 1.g.) Several
released kidnap victims claim that the FARC are holding more than 200
persons in the despeje zone.
On March 14, ELN
guerrillas attacked a wellhead belonging to Occidental Petroleum Colombia
and kidnaped an unarmed guard, who was released uninjured a week later.
On April 16, the
ELN kidnaped 130 employees of Occidental Petroleum. They released all
hostages by April 19.
On July 15, the FARC
kidnaped former Meta governor Alan Jara, as he was riding in a U.N. vehicle
with the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) Director and government officials.
In response to strong and widespread criticism, the FARC alleged falsely
that Jara was collaborating with paramilitaries and said that he would
be subjected to a "revolutionary trial." At year's end, Jara
still was held by the FARC, reportedly in the despeje.
On July 28, the FARC
kidnaped 15 persons, including the wife and two sons of a congressman,
from a residential building in Neiva, the capital of Huila department
(near the border of the despeje). The FARC released six of the captives;
however, it reportedly took nine remaining hostages to the despeje.
On September 20,
the FARC kidnaped 11-year-old Laura Ulloa from her school bus in Cali.
She remained in captivity at year's end.
The FARC also kidnaped
Consuelo Araujo, former Minister of Culture and wife of the Inspector
General and at least 10 others on September 24 near Valledupar, Cesar
department. The other victims were quickly released or rescued by the
army, but a guerrilla killed Araujo on September 29 (see Section 1.a.).
Within a few days of the Araujo kidnaping, the FARC also took another
65 hostages near Valledupar, who were released quickly due to heavy pressure
on the FARC by the army.
On July 26, approximately
70 guerrillas from the FARC's Teofilo Forero Front stormed an apartment
complex in Neiva, Huila department and kidnaped 15 persons. Six hostages
quickly were released, but the remaining nine reportedly were taken to
On November 7, FARC
guerrillas kidnaped Mireya Mejia Araujo, a peace counselor in Cesar department.
The guerrillas released her on November 29 with a message to the governor
that the FARC was concerned over the growth of paramilitary forces and
about the need for more social spending.
Andres Felipe Navas,
kidnaped at 21/2 years of age by the FARC in April 2000, was released
in November. (The FARC continued to hold an adult member of the same family
at year's end.)
Early in the year,
the FARC released Juliana Villegas, daughter of the head of the National
Association of Industrialists, whom they had kidnaped in November 2000.
The FARC refused
repeated calls from relatives, humanitarian groups, and the public to
release police Corporal Norberto Perez, whose 12-year-old son Andres Felipe
Perez died of cancer in December.
journalists (see Section 2.a.).
to kidnap political leaders (see Section 3). During the year, the FARC
kidnaped Liberal Congressman Orlando Bernal Cuellar in August, Liberal
Congressman Luis Eladio Perez in June, and Huila department Congressman
Consuelo Gonzalez in September. At year's end, all three remained in captivity,
along with Conservative Party Congressman Oscar Lizcano, who was kidnaped
in June 2000. In May the FARC kidnaped Jairo Antonio Correa, the mayor
of Dabeiba. The Federation of Colombian Municipalities reported the kidnaping
of at least 10 mayors, (3 by guerrilla groups, the rest by unidentified
groups) during the year (see Section 3).
The FARC, the ELN,
and other guerrilla groups regularly kidnaped foreign citizens throughout
the year; some were released after weeks or months of captivity. On July
18, the FARC kidnaped three German nationals (a German government development
official, his brother, and a friend). On September 23, the official's
brother escaped and reported that the development official was in poor
health due to long forced marches and lack of medical attention for a
heart condition. The two remaining German hostages were released on October
12. A Slovak priest was kidnaped in September but quickly released. In
July 2000, a representative of the NGO Doctors without Borders was kidnaped
by a fringe guerrilla group. The victim was released in January and reportedly
left the country.
search efforts and continued pressure by the Government on the FARC to
account for three American missionaries kidnaped by FARC guerrillas in
January 1993, their whereabouts and condition remained unknown.
c. Torture and Other
Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
and criminal law explicitly prohibit torture, as well as cruel, inhuman,
or degrading treatment or punishment; however, there were reports of police
and military torture and mistreatment of detainees. In May 2000, Congress
criminalized torture (see Section 1.b.), and the reformed Military Penal
Code directed that trials of members of the military and police accused
of torture be held in civilian, rather than military, courts (see Section
1.e.). The Inspector General's office received 29 complaints of torture
by state agents during the year, compared with 101 during 2000. CINEP
reported that between January and September state security forces tortured
six persons; five cases were attributed to the police, and one case was
attributed to the army.
Colonel Jose Ancizar
Molano Padilla (then-commander of the 2nd Marine infantry battalion),
Captain Alvaro Hernando Moreno, Captain Rafael Garcia, Lieutenant Carlos
Eduardo Jaramillo, and four noncommissioned officers were on trial at
year's end for torturing 12 marines with asphyxiation and electric shocks
in December 1995.
CINEP reported 158
cases of torture by paramilitaries in the period from January through
increasingly used threats both to intimidate opponents and to raise money.
Letters demanding payment of a war tax and a threat to mark victims as
a military target if they failed to pay were typical. In 1999 CINEP reported
that nearly half of those threatened were public school teachers and that
approximately half of all threat recipients were residents of Antioquia
also tortured and abused persons. The bodies of many persons kidnaped
and subsequently killed by guerrillas showed signs of torture and disfigurement.
CINEP reported 40 cases of torture by guerrillas during the period from
January through September. Numerous former kidnap victims and hostages
taken by the guerrillas during combat reported severe deprivation, denial
of medical attention, and physical and psychological torture during captivity
(see Section 1.b.). The MOD also reported numerous cases of soldiers and
policemen tortured or mutilated and killed after surrendering (see Section
are harsh, especially for those prisoners without significant outside
support. Severe overcrowding and dangerous sanitary and health conditions
remained serious problems. In early June, the Supreme Court of Valledupar,
Cesar department, ruled in favor of Valledupar prison inmates who had
filed a writ of appeal complaining of lack of water, sanitation, natural
light, and prolonged isolation from contact with relatives. The court
ordered the Prison and Penitentiary Institute (INPEC) to resolve these
problems. There are approximately 7,000 prison guards from the INPEC who
report to the Ministry of Justice. Guards and prison staff frequently
are untrained or corrupt.
Only three prisons--Valledupar,
Bogota's La Picota prison, and Acacias--appear to meet international standards
for treatment of prisoners. In the country's other prisons, inmates pay
to eat, drink, sleep on a mattress, wash clothes, or make telephone calls,
and also pay protection fees to fellow inmates or to corrupt prison guards.
According to the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, outside,
private sources continued to provide the majority of prisoners' food in
most prisons. In 1999 INPEC reported that the daily food allowance for
each prisoner was $1.44 (2,700 pesos). In late November, the director
of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country,
Anders Kompass, described the country's overcrowded prisons to a news
conference as terrible.
According to INPEC,
in September the country's prisons and jails held approximately 51,251
inmates, 24 percent over their capacity of 41,191; the occupancy rate
was 37 percent over capacity at the end of 2000. According to INPEC figures,
overcrowding has improved, but remains severe. Medellin's Bellavista prison,
the country's largest, housed 6,219 inmates at year's end although it
originally was built to house 1,800 inmates (a 245 percent occupancy rate).
Bogota's La Modelo prison had a 160 percent occupancy rate, compared with
169 percent in 2000, and the Palmira prison outside Cali held 14 percent
above its planned capacity, compared with a 192 percent occupancy rate
An estimated 17.8
percent of the country's prisons were between 40 and 80 years old, 3.5
percent between 80 and 201 years old, and 2.4 percent more than 201 years
old. The Justice Ministry made significant progress in implementing its
plan, announced in February 2000, to renovate prisons and build 11 new
prisons and expand prison capacity by 18,000 persons by 2003. During the
year, the Government renovated prisons in Valledupar, Acacias, Popayan,
Barne, and the high security pavilion in Bogota's La Picota penitentiary.
The Government already had completed, had under construction, or had contracted
to add 10,600 beds at the end of the year.
An estimated 42 percent
of all prison inmates (21,364 persons) are pretrial detainees. The remaining
58 percent (29,887 persons) are split roughly between those appealing
their convictions, and those who have exhausted their appeals and are
serving out their terms. There are no separate facilities for pretrial
detainees and convicted prisoners. According to the MOD, in 2000 a total
of 4,145 persons (8 percent of inmates) were in pretrial detention in
police stations. Despite a 1999 Constitutional Court ruling that ordered
the transfer of detainees from overcrowded police station holding cells
to prisons, Bogota's 21 police stations still held 1,657 prisoners awaiting
transfer to prisons at the end of 2000, the most recent estimate available.
Local or regional
military and jail commanders did not always prepare mandatory detention
registers or follow notification procedures; as a result, precise accounting
for every detainee was not always possible.
The Government frequently
failed to prevent deadly violence among inmates. In the period from January
through September, INPEC reported 19 disturbances and 62 violent deaths
in the penitentiary system. For example, in January two inmates were killed
and one wounded during paramilitary-guerrilla fights at the prison in
Bucaramanga, Santander department. In June the ELN kidnaped five paramilitaries
from municipal prisons in El Bagre, Antioquia department. Also in June,
three inmates died and four more were injured in fighting at the Palmira
prison, Valle del Cauca department. On July 2-3, 10 persons were killed
and 23 injured in an armed battle between paramilitary and guerrilla convicts
in Bogota's La Modelo prison. State security forces were unable to reestablish
control for 17 hours. Sixteen inmates reportedly remain unaccounted for
following April 2000 fighting between paramilitaries and organized crime
groups, which left 27 dead and 43 wounded in Bogota's La Modelo prison.
Escapes from prison
continued to be a very serious problem; from January through September,
INPEC reported 168 escapes. A total of 781 inmates escaped during 2000,
most when granted 72-hour passes to leave the prisons. The Prosecutor
General's office and the Inspector General's office continued to investigate
abuse of these passes. Some of those who escaped during the year were
highly dangerous criminals. On February 19, 20 prisoners escaped from
the prison in Neiva, Huila department, when the FARC blew a hole in the
wall with a rocket. In early May, Omar Yesud Lopez Alarcon, the head of
the northern branch of the paramilitaries who is accused of masterminding
a number of massacres, escaped from the Modelo de Cucuta prison. On May
7, the FARC released 65 prisoners from a prison in Caloto, Cauca department,
during a FARC attack. On June 23, 98 inmates (including 19 guerrillas)
escaped from La Picota prison by blowing a hole in a wall with a gas cylinder.
FARC inmates said that FARC commanders had orchestrated the escape. The
La Picota incident prompted the resignation of the director of INPEC.
On July 22, 73 prisoners escaped from prison when 300 FARC troops attacked
the town of Bolivar, Cauca department.
Key narcotics traffickers
and some guerrilla leaders obtain cells with many comforts, some of which--such
as access to two-way radios, cellular telephones, and computers--allowed
them to continue their illegal activities from inside jail. However, the
high security wing of La Picota prison in Bogota has undergone renovations
that have altered considerably this comfortable lifestyle.
There are separate
prison facilities for women, and in some parts of the country, separate
women's prisons exist. Conditions at women's prisons are similar to those
at men's prisons but are far less violent. According to the Criminal Procedures
Code, no one under the age of 18 may be held in a prison. Juveniles are
held in separate facilities operated by the Colombian Institute for Family
The ICRC continued
to have routine access to most prisons and police and military detention
centers. The ICRC continues to have ad hoc access to civilians held by
paramilitary groups and guerrilla forces. However, the FARC and ELN continue
to deny the ICRC access to police or military hostages (see Sections 1.b.
d. Arbitrary Arrest,
Detention, or Exile
includes several provisions designed to prevent illegal detention; however,
there continued to be instances in which the authorities arrested or detained
The law prohibits
incommunicado detention. Anyone held in preventive detention must be brought
before a prosecutor within 36 hours to determine the legality of the detention.
The prosecutor must then act upon that petition within 36 hours of its
submission. Despite these legal protections, instances of arbitrary detention
In August the office
of the Human Rights Ombudsman, a group of NGO's, and two private individuals
filed four Constitutional Court challenges to the 2001 Law on Security
and National Defense on the grounds that, among other things, it would
infringe on the right to due process of persons detained or investigated
by the military (See Section 1.e.). The law does not specify the maximum
period detainees may be held before being turned over to civilian authorities.
release is available under certain circumstances, for example, in connection
with minor offenses or after unduly lengthy amounts of time in preventive
detention. It is not available in cases of serious crimes, such as homicide
in the northeastern neighborhoods of Barrancabermeja, Magdalena department
illegally exercised "social controls," such as curfews for young
persons and punishing domestic violence. In May police had to rescue a
man who was kidnaped by the militias and beaten for fighting with his
wife in the street.
the FARC, pressed the Government and Congress to adopt a permanent prisoner
exchange law. Initiating regular prisoner exchanges remained a top guerrilla
priority and featured prominently in the FARC's negotiating points at
the peace talks. Neither the Congress nor the Government attempted to
pass such legislation, and there was minimal popular support for it during
much of the year. In June the FARC released 42 captured soldiers and police
in exchange for 15 imprisoned FARC members, then unilaterally released
an additional 247 soldiers and policemen (see Section 1.d.). During the
year, 145 soldiers and police either were captured in combat or kidnaped
while off-duty are presumed to be held by the FARC or the ELN. The ICRC
was not permitted access to them.
prohibits exile, and forced exile is not practiced by the State. However,
there were numerous instances of individuals pressured into self-exile
for their personal safety. Such cases included persons from all walks
of life, including politicians, journalists, human rights workers, slum-dwellers,
business executives, farmers, and others (see Sections 2.a. and 4). The
threats came from various quarters: Some individual members of the security
forces, paramilitary groups, guerrilla groups, narcotics traffickers,
other criminal elements, or combinations of the above.
e. Denial of Fair
The civilian judicial
system, reorganized under the 1991 Constitution, is independent of the
executive and legislative branches both in theory and in practice; however,
the suborning or intimidation of judges, witnesses, and prosecutors by
those indicted or involved is common. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office
reported receipt of 568 complaints of denial of the right to due process
during 2000, the most recent year for which statistics were available.
The office received 773 such complaints in 1999. Judges, prosecutors,
and defense attorneys continued to be subjected to threats and acts of
The judiciary includes
the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Council of
State (the appellate court for civil cases), the Superior Judicial Council,
and lower courts. The CSJ, which oversees the administration of the judiciary,
also has responsibility for determining whether cases involving members
of the security forces are to be tried in civilian or military courts.
The Prosecutor General's office is an independent prosecutorial body that
brings criminal cases before the courts.
Court adjudicates cases of constitutionality, reviews all decisions regarding
writs of protection of fundamental rights ("tutelas"), and reviews
all decisions regarding motions for cessation of judicial proceedings.
Jurisdictional clashes among the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court
of Justice, the Council of State, and the CSJ were common, due to the
lack of a single supreme judicial authority capable of deciding issues
of jurisdiction or constitutional interpretation.
In April 2000, the
Constitutional Court overturned much of the 1999 law creating a specialized
jurisdiction (which had replaced the anonymous ("faceless")
regional courts system in July 1999). Arguing that defendants have the
right to know the identity of their accusers, the Constitutional Court
overturned elements of the law that permitted some prosecutors and witnesses
to remain anonymous under exceptionally dangerous circumstances. The Court
also ruled that specialized jurisdiction judges and prosecutors no longer
could transfer cases to other colleagues when they believed their own
security to be at risk.
Court's decision preserved first instance specialized jurisdiction courts
created by the 1999 law, which try certain crimes, including kidnaping,
hijacking, paramilitarism, guerrilla subversion, narcotics trafficking,
money laundering, and human rights abuses. Specialized jurisdiction prosecutors
still are permitted 12 months to investigate and develop cases, rather
than the 6 months afforded to regular civilian judiciary prosecutors.
specifically provides for the right to due process. Judges determine the
outcome of all trials; jury trials are rare. The accused is presumed innocent
until proven guilty and has the right to representation by counsel, although
representation for indigenous people and the indigent historically has
been inadequate. In mid-1999, the CSJ's administrative chamber reported
that the civilian judiciary suffered from a backlog of approximately 3,069,000
cases (including approximately 604,000 criminal cases) and that there
were approximately 338,000 outstanding arrest warrants. Approximately
223,000 writs for protection of fundamental rights ("tutelas")
were before the Constitutional Court for its legally mandated review.
At year's end, the CSJ reported that the judicial system was extremely
overburdened; it received a total of 8.6 million suits in 1994-2000, of
which 226,783 were criminal cases filed during 2000. These backlogs have
created large numbers of pretrial detainees (see Section 1.c.)
Defendants in trials
conducted by the regular courts have the right to be present and the right
to timely consultation with an attorney. Regular court defendants and
their attorneys have the right to question, contradict, and confront witnesses
against them, to present witnesses on their own behalf, and to have access
to government evidence relevant to the case. The country's judiciaries,
including regular civilian, specialized jurisdiction, and military, continue
to be overwhelmingly Napoleonic in character; everything is processed
in writing. Public trials are still rare, and there are juries only in
rare instances; however, cross-examination of witnesses does occur. Defendants
also have the right to appeal a conviction to a higher court.
provides for a special criminal and civil jurisdiction within indigenous
territories based upon traditional community laws (see Section 5).
As part of the Ministry
of Defense, the military judiciary falls under the executive branch, rather
than under the judicial branch. The lack of transparency and accountability
in the workings of the military judiciary contribute to a general lack
of confidence in the system's ability to bring human rights abusers to
justice. The new Military Penal Code, which entered into effect in August
2000, denied unit commanders the power to judge subordinates; called for
the creation of an independent military judicial corps; and provided legal
protection for service members who refuse to obey illegal orders to commit
human rights abuses. The reformed code does not allow torture, genocide,
and forced disappearance to be related to acts of service--the constitutional
standard for trying crimes in the military judiciary. Therefore, these
crimes must be tried in the civilian judiciary (see Sections 1.a. and
1.b.). In August 2000, the President issued a directive to the armed forces
and the police that excluded from military criminal jurisdiction the crimes
of genocide, torture, forced disappearance, and acts against humanity.
The new military
justice system is composed of magistrates of the Military Court of Appeals,
lower military court judges, investigating judges, prosecutors, and judge
advocates (auditor de guerra) at the General Inspector, division, and
brigade levels. The Executive Director of the Military Penal Justice,
Corps Brigadier General Jairo Pineda, reports directly to the Minister
of Defense, a civilian. Military prosecutors report to Brigadier General
Pineda, not to unit commanders as under the previous system. The new Military
Penal Code provides for the right of representatives of the civilian judiciary
to be present at military trials of military personnel.
A 1997 Constitutional
Court decision transferred jurisdiction for the investigation and prosecution
of serious human rights violations and other alleged crimes not related
directly to acts of service from the military judicial system to the civilian
judiciary. (Previously the CSJ assigned most cases involving high-level
military personnel to the military courts, where convictions in human
rights-related cases were rare.) The Constitutional Court ruled that,
in the case of doubt, jurisdiction should be assigned to the civilian
system. However, in 1998 the CSJ determined that it was not bound by the
Constitutional Court's 1997 decision. In that instance the CSJ's decision
ended a civilian investigation of the relationship between Brigadier General
Fernando Millan and paramilitary groups in Santander department (see Section
The 1991 Constitution
provides that general-rank officers be tried by the Supreme Court. The
new Military Penal Code provides that the Supreme Court (not the Superior
Military Tribunal) has first instance jurisdiction in cases that date
from August 12, 1999, involving criminal acts by generals, admirals, major
generals, vice-admirals, brigadier generals, rear admirals, and magistrates
and prosecutors of the Superior Military Tribunal. Cases that already
were in their trial phase before this date must continue under the old
military penal code. The new code also makes the Supreme Court the court
of second instance review of rulings by the Superior Military Tribunal,
thereby giving the Supreme Court--a body composed entirely of civilian
magistrates--effective authority over the military judiciary. An August
2000 presidential directive also "raises to the category of law"
the 1997 Constitutional Court decision that serious human rights violations
and other crimes not directly related to acts of service must be tried
by civilian courts.
CSJ figures quoted
at the end of 2000 by the Ministry of Defense indicated that when conflicts
of jurisdiction arose, the total number of cases assigned to military
courts dropped from 50 percent in 1992 to approximately 15 percent in
2000, while cases assigned to civilian jurisdiction rose from 40 percent
in 1992 to 60 percent over the same period. During the year, the CSJ assigned
11 cases out of 31 conflicts of jurisdiction involving military or police
suspects to the military penal system and 20 cases to civilian jurisdiction.
The military judiciary
demonstrated an increased willingness during the year to turn cases of
military officers accused of human rights violations or criminal activities
over to the civilian judiciary; however, such officers generally were
of lower rank. In November the Ministry of Defense released figures that
indicated that since the 1997 Constitutional Court decision, the military
judiciary has transferred 1,372 cases to the civilian judicial system;
there was no information available as to how many of these cases dealt
specifically with human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian
law, nor how many cases remained in the military judicial system. However,
a March 2000 report by the Ministry of Defense stated that 41 percent
of the cases transferred involved serious crimes such as homicide, torture,
illegal detentions, and infliction of bodily injuries; the rest were common
crimes. Out of the total of 1,314 police and military cases transferred,
58 cases were transferred during the year, 496 cases were transferred
in 2000, 79 in 1999, 266 in 1998, 295 in 1997, and 171 cases were transferred
on an unknown date.
During 2000 the military
judiciary found 122 members guilty of violating "human or fundamental
rights." The average prison sentence was 58 months for homicide and
15 months for inflicting bodily injury.
In a key ruling,
the military judiciary convicted General Jaime Humberto Uscategui Ramirez
of failing to stop the 1997 massacre in Mapiripan, Meta department (see
Section 1.a.). Uscategui was sentenced to 40 months in prison and loss
of salary. Uscategui served a reduced sentence, however, and many human
rights activists claimed that the message sent by his conviction was undercut
by his early release. Furthermore, the key witness against Uscategui,
Lt. Col. Hernan Orozco, was sentenced to 38 months imprisonment. Orozco
served the entire sentence and was released in November. However, the
Constitutional Court announced in November its ruling that the CSJ should
transfer Uscategui's case to the civilian judiciary, arguing that Uscategui's
alleged crimes were not service-related acts. This ruling, which had not
yet been issued formally and implemented by year's end, in essence nullified
the military judiciary's conviction, and means that Uscategui's case will
fall to the Prosecutor General's office for investigation and prosecution.
(Orozco is not expected to face investigation, as the Prosecutor General's
office had declined in 1998 to press charges against him.)
In September 2000,
the President signed 12 decrees to reform and strengthen the military.
One decree provides for the separation from service of all uniformed members
of the military regardless of their time in service, at the discretion
of the top military commanders. Previously, the Minister of Defense could
at his discretion separate from service only those who had served at least
15 years in the military. Other decrees establish three levels of misconduct
and the crimes classified at each level. A total of 27 crimes are punishable
with immediate dismissal; these include: torture, forced disappearance,
genocide, facilitating by any means the knowledge of protected information
or access to classified documents without authorization, failure to enter
into combat or to pursue the enemy having the capacity to do so, and retreating
before the enemy or abandoning post without having used elements of defense
that might be available. A higher-ranking officer such as a unit commander
is granted initial authority to issue disciplinary sanctions. Those under
investigation may be suspended for up to 90 days with half pay; those
suspended may perform administrative duties. The decrees also state that
in the event that another authority should learn of crimes, the military
must inform that authority and provide all relevant information to it.
Another decree states that, with limited exceptions, any officer sentenced
to prison by the military or the civilian justice system is to be separated
From October 2000
through the end of 2001, the military dismissed a total of approximately
600 members; however, it was not known how many discharges were for collaborating
with paramilitary groups. No information was available from the MOD regarding
the specific reasons for any of the dismissals, nor were their names announced.
It was not known how many were dismissed due to allegations that they
were responsible for human rights abuses or for collaborating with paramilitary
groups in such abuses. The MOD has confirmed the claims of many human
rights NGO's that a large number of those dismissed have entered the ranks
of illegal paramilitary groups.
When military officers
were tried, convicted, and sentenced for human rights violations, they
generally did not serve prison terms but were confined to their bases
or military police detention centers, as permitted by law. The Ministry
of Defense reports, and the Prosecutor General's office concurs, that
military and police prisoners charged by civilian prosecutors routinely
are suspended from their duties and placed on half-pay. Officers and noncommissioned
officers are removed from any command duties. Some perform administrative
functions while in detention. Armed Forces Commander General Tapias has
cited a lack of adequate military prison facilities as a primary cause
for escapes from military detention areas. To address these concerns,
in September Minister of Defense Bell announced that a new high security
prison would be opened at Tolemaida military base in October. Although
the military is responsible for operating the facility, the civilian INPEC
will provide oversight.
On August 13, the
President signed the Law on Security and National Defense (Law 684 of
2001), which among other things, expanded the authority of the armed forces
to detain suspects in the absence of civilian authorities. Various human
rights groups protested the law's final version. Four different lawsuits
(one by the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, one by a group of NGO's,
and two by individuals) challenging the law have been filed before the
Constitutional Court (see Section 1.d.). They contend that various aspects
of the law violate the right to due process as provided for in the Constitution
and the Criminal Code. Article 58 of the law does not limit specifically
the time the military can detain a suspect before turning that person
over to civilian law enforcement, although Article 70 mandates that suspects
be turned over to civilian authorities as soon as time and distance permit,
and that any delay must be justified appropriately. Article 60 gives civilian
authorities up to 60 days from the receipt of a complaint of a human rights
violation to decide whether to investigate formally alleged crimes by
military or police during operations, significantly less than the year
allowed for investigations of civilian authorities. Some legal experts
also have complained that the provisions that allow the Government to
declare a zone a military theater of operations, in effect, give military
commanders authority over regional civilian authorities. While the law
does not grant explicitly military commanders authority over regional
civilian authorities, it permits the President to delegate to the military
the authority to enforce presidential decrees and orders.
Judges have long
been subject to threats and intimidation, particularly when handling cases
involving members of the public security forces or of paramilitary, narcotics,
and guerrilla organizations. Violent attacks against prosecutors and judges
continued, and prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys continued to
be subjected to threats and acts of violence. Prosecutors reported that
potential witnesses in major cases often lacked faith in the Government's
ability to protect their anonymity and were thus unwilling to testify,
ruining chances for successful prosecutions.
For example, in March
Bogota judge Lesther Gonzalez Romero received threats which appeared to
be related to important cases she had tried or is trying, such as the
three 1997 CINEP murders, the 1997 Mapiripan massacre, and the 1995 assassination
of Alvaro Gomez. Also in March, Medellin judge Adalgisa Lopera Aristizabal
and her family left the city following a death threat. Judge Lopera was
trying terrorism, narcotics, and paramilitarism cases.
continues of the April 2000 murder of specialized jurisdiction prosecutor
Margarita Maria Pulgarin Trujillo in Medellin; AUC members were the prime
suspects in her killing. One suspect has been charged in absentia; no
one has been detained in the case.
On August 29, presumed
paramilitaries killed Yolanda Paternina, a prosecutor investigating the
January Chengue massacre, in Sincelejo, Sucre department. Two other investigators
working undercover on the case disappeared in mid-April near Berrugas,
Sucre department. There have been no arrests in these cases.
In July the reformed
Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code went into effect. The revised
code created a number of new crimes such as genocide (see Section 1.a.),
but reduced the sentences for a number of serious crimes, including kidnaping
and extortion, and the amount of time served necessary for parole.
The Inspector General's
office investigates misconduct by public officials, including members
of the military and police. The Inspector General's office can draw upon
a nationwide network of hundreds of government human rights investigators
covering the country's 1,097 municipalities. The office received 228 complaints
related to massacres and forced disappearances during the year, compared
with 201 in 2000. Of complaints received during the year, 146 are under
preliminary investigation, 23 resulted in formal disciplinary investigations,
and 14 resulted in formal charges being filed. Of the 101 persons under
investigation at year's end for complaints related to massacres and forced
disappearances, 45 were army, 28 were police, 5 were air force, 22 were
marines, and 1 was from the INPEC. The Inspector General's office can
only impose administrative sanctions; it has no authority to bring criminal
prosecutions or impose criminal sanctions but can refer all cases to the
Prosecutor General's office for investigation. The Inspector General's
office referred all cases of human rights violations received during the
year to the Prosecutor General for investigation, and reported that that
the majority of these cases are investigated by the Prosecutor General's
The Supreme Court
elects the Prosecutor General for a 4-year term, which does not coincide
with that of the President, from a list of three candidates chosen by
the President. The Prosecutor General is tasked with investigating criminal
offenses and presenting evidence against the accused before the various
judges and tribunals. However, this office retains significant judicial
functions and, like other elements of the civilian judiciary, it is struggling
to make the transition from a Napoleonic to a mixed legal system that
incorporates an adversarial aspect.
In an attempt to
address impunity, the Prosecutor General in 1995 created a special human
rights unit as part of the regional courts system. As of December, the
group of 30 prosecutors had 788 open cases involving massacres, extrajudicial
killings, kidnapings, and terrorism during the year, with 1,342 suspects
under investigation, of which 234 were members of state security forces.
The unit's prosecutors have issued arrest warrants against members of
the security forces and of paramilitary, guerrilla, and drug trafficking
organizations. As of December, the human rights unit had under arrest
275 members of state security forces, had charges filed against 214, and
had 56 members of the state security services on trial for a variety of
charges including homicide, torture, kidnaping, and sponsorship of paramilitary
groups. The security forces demonstrated a greater willingness to follow
up with instructions that those ordered arrested be removed from their
duties, denied the right to wear a uniform, or turned over to civilian
judicial authorities. The Ministry of Defense and the Fiscalia reported
that all military and police charged with a human rights crimes are suspended
from their duties and placed on half-pay. At year's end, 107 military
and 74 police were suspended. However, for various reasons including lack
of resources for investigation, lack of protection for witnesses and investigators,
lack of coordination between government organs, and in some cases, obstruction
of justice by individuals, impunity continued to be very widespread.
In addition to providing
public defense attorneys in criminal cases, the Human Rights Ombudsman's
34 departmental and regional offices throughout the country provide a
legal channel for thousands of complaints and allegations of human rights
violations. However, in practice the Ombudsman's operations are underfunded
and understaffed, slowing its development of a credible public defender
system. Human Rights Ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes was active during the
year in criticizing and reporting human rights violations and in visiting
the sites of massacres. His office has worked to improve training and
support of its personnel and has begun to build a nationwide Early Warning
System, now operational, to help prevent massacres.
Within the FARC-controlled
despeje zone, local FARC leaders effectively supplanted judicial authorities
and declared the establishment of an alternative, FARC-run "justice
system." In the face of FARC intimidation, all elements of the civilian
judiciary fled the zone. Residents of the zone regularly were denied the
right to a fair trial. Continuing concern about arbitrary FARC justice
in the zone led the authorities to stress that governmental justice must
The Government states
that it does not hold political prisoners.
The Government granted
the ICRC access to monitor approximately 3,900 cases of imprisoned citizens
accused of terrorism, rebellion, or aiding and abetting the insurgency,
which are crimes punishable under law.
f. Arbitrary Interference
with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law provides
for the protection of these rights; however, at times the authorities
infringed upon them. The law generally requires a judicial order signed
by a prosecutor for the authorities to enter a private home, except in
cases of hot pursuit. The MOD continued training public security forces
in legal search procedures that comply with constitutional and human rights.
Due to intimidation, corruption, or the absence of evidentiary proof collected
directly by prosecutors, judicial authorities routinely set free paramilitary
and guerrilla suspects captured by the security forces in or out of combat.
The authorities may
intercept mail or monitor telephones only with a judicial order. This
protection extends to prisoners held in jails. However, various state
authorities sometimes monitored telephones without obtaining prior authorization.
There were unconfirmed reports by some human rights groups that members
of the security forces subjected them to surveillance, harassment, or
threats (see Section 4).
In April then-Prosecutor
General Alfonso Gomez Mendez announced a formal investigation of extensive
illegal wiretapping by the Medellin GAULA (a combined police and army
antikidnapping unit)(see Section 1.b.). Investigators working on the October
2000 disappearance of ASFADDES workers Angel Quintero and Claudia Patricia
Monsalve uncovered evidence that the GAULA tapped 2,500 telephone lines
without proper authorization, including those of ASFADDES and other human
rights organizations (see Section 4). Police captain Harvey Gerardo Grijalba
Suarez was arrested but subsequently released for lack of evidence. Nine
other persons, including two other police officers, were investigated
but not charged in the case. Prosecutors are investigating the April 4
murder of police officer Carlos Ceballos Gomez, who testified in the case
(see Section 1.a.). The Inspector General's office is conducting a separate
In August the Prosecutor
General's anticorruption unit cleared six members of the DAS who were
suspected of illegal wiretapping in Bogota over the course of several
Guerrillas used wiretaps
and accessed bank accounts of citizens at roadblocks to select kidnap
In 1999 the Government
announced that no one under the age of 18 could enter military service,
even with the consent of a parent; previously, individuals over 16 years
of age but below age 18 could volunteer to join the military with parental
permission but were barred from serving in combat.
The Ministry of the
Interior reported increased recruitment of minors by illegal armed groups
during the year. The MOD reported that an increased number of minors deserted
from illegal armed groups; 93 children under the age of 18 surrendered
to state security forces during the year, compared with 72 in 2000 and
29 in 1999.
In August the Human
Rights Ombudsman reported increased recruitment of minors by paramilitary
groups. In late July, a previously unknown armed group kidnaped 10 youths,
whom they first attempted to recruit, from a government youth center in
Villavicencio, Meta department. It is suspected, but not established,
that this group was paramilitary. In August paramilitary groups forcibly
recruited 20 young men between the ages of 16 and 25 from 3 villages in
The use of child
soldiers by guerrillas was common. NGO's and the Government strongly and
repeatedly criticized guerrilla recruitment of children. The Government
estimates that both paramilitary groups and guerrillas engage approximately
6,000 children as combatants. In 1999 the FARC promised visiting Special
Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflict
Olara Otunnu that it would stop forcing children into its ranks; however,
it continued the practice, and during the year, the number of children
recruited appeared to increase. Once recruited, child guerrillas are virtual
prisoners of their commanders and subject to various forms of abuse. Sexual
abuse of girls is a particular problem. Former child guerrillas have testified
to rape, mandatory use of intrauterine devices, and forced abortions.
Child soldiers, including girls, were seen in guerrilla ranks in the despeje,
and reports from various sources indicate that the guerrillas recruited
at least 120 minors, but possibly many more, in the despeje. According
to press reports, at least one third of the guerrillas were under the
age of 18. The Roman Catholic Church and teachers reported that the FARC
lured or forced hundreds of children from the despeje zone into its ranks.
According to press reports, families from the demilitarized zone, as well
as from Arauca, Valle del Cauca, and Antioquia departments have fled their
homes because guerrilla groups have tried to impress their children. In
February the FARC handed over 62 child guerrillas, ranging from 12 to
16 years of age, to the Government. The children had been serving in the
FARC for up to 3 years. According to press reports, in August 2000, members
of the FARC killed a school rector in Meta department for criticizing
the recruitment of his students.
Although the ELN
agreed to halt recruitment of children under the terms of the June 1998
Mainz "Heaven's Gate" agreement, it also regularly impressed
children into its ranks.
and guerrilla forces also regularly forcibly recruited indigenous persons
to serve as soldiers.
Children were also
among the preferred kidnaping targets of guerrillas (see Section 1.b.).
Guerrillas continued a policy of killing, attacking, and threatening off-duty
police and military personnel, their relatives, and citizens who cooperated
Former female guerrillas
have reported forced abortions and forced implantation of intrauterine
devices (see Section 1.g.).
g. Use of Excessive
Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
The internal armed
conflict and narcotics trafficking are the central causes of violations
of human rights and international humanitarian law. Government security
forces at times violated international humanitarian law and continued
to commit serious human rights abuses; however, paramilitary groups and
guerrillas committed the great majority of serious abuses. The CCJ analyzed
CINEP data from June 2000 to June 2001 and attributed 3 percent of civilian
victims and persons killed outside of combat to state security forces,
compared with 3.5 percent in 1999-2000.
May 2000 legislation
classified forced displacement as a crime; however, military counterinsurgency
operations, forced conscription by paramilitary and guerrilla organizations,
and guerrilla incursions often forced peasants to flee their homes and
farms, and there was a very large population of IDP's (see Section 2.d.).
Between 275,000 and 347,000 displacements of persons occurred during the
year; the vast majority of IDP's are peasants who have been displaced
In response to the
killings of thousands of members of the Patriotic Union leftist coalition,
the May 2000 law classified "political genocide" as a crime
(see Section 1.a.). However, it provided that political genocide could
be committed only against members of legally constituted (i.e., nonguerrilla)
In March the ICRC
again suspended evacuations of wounded combatants following an incident
near Aguachica, Cesar department, in which paramilitaries kidnaped a wounded
ELN guerrilla who was being moved in a Colombian Red Cross vehicle. The
wounded man later was found dead. The ICRC had resumed evacuations in
December 2000, after a previous suspension occasioned by two similar murders
(one by paramilitaries and another by FARC guerrillas) during October
2000. Evacuations of combatants remained suspended at year's end.
The ICRC reported
that the Government, including military authorities, followed an open-door
policy toward the ICRC and readily incorporated Red Cross curriculums
on international humanitarian law in standard military training. However,
impunity remains a problem. According to military sources, local commanders
often transferred or discharged soldiers accused of serious human rights
violations, rather than initiate legal proceedings. It remained unclear
how many suspected human rights violators were investigated or prosecuted
after being dismissed (see Section 1.e.).
A court ruling exonerated
the soldiers involved in the August 2000 killing of six children by an
army unit; however, the Superior Military Tribunal returned the case for
In June a military
judge ordered the arrest of air force Captain Cesar Romero Pradilla, air
force Lieutenant Johan Jimenez Valencia, and air force flight technician
Hector Mario Hernandez for the December 1998 bombing of civilians in Santo
Domingo, Arauca department by an air force helicopter; however, the three
were freed on bail. In January the Inspector General's office charged
Romero, Jimenez, Hernandez, and army major Juan Manuel Gonzalez with indiscriminate
use of force.
Both the paramilitaries
and the guerrillas continued blockades or illegal checkpoints in several
areas around the country, in many cases causing severe shortages of food
and medicine, straining local economies, and increasing forced displacement,
particularly in Choco, Antioquia, Cauca, Magdalena Medio, Bolivar, Cesar,
and La Guajira departments (see Section 2.d.). For example, by midyear
the ELN had destroyed a bridge near Tibu three times, causing sharp increases
in local food prices.
According to the
army and independent monitors, there are an estimated 130,000 antipersonnel
landmines in the country, with minefields in an estimated 140 municipalities
around the country, and covering approximately 90,000 square miles of
the country's territory. At year's end, the military maintained approximately
18,000 mines to defend static positions; the remaining mines were placed
by illegal armed groups. According to the Ministry, antipersonnel mines
killed 16 and wounded 75 military personnel during the year, and 14 civilians
(9 of them children) were injured in minefields during the year.
The Human Rights
Ombudsman's office stated in its 2000 report that women, who by and large
remain socially and economically disadvantaged, continued to be affected
disproportionately by violence, especially in war zones (see Section 5).
The Ombudsman's office also noted a lack of government programs to address
their problems. Female leaders of political and peasant organizations
in various regions are the targets of persecution, threats, torture, and
executions. Intrafamilial violence, sexual assault, and murder of women
remained serious problems throughout the country (see Section 5). More
than 30 percent of FARC members are female. Several observers have criticized
the use of female combatants in guerrilla organizations as sex slaves
(see Sections 1.f. and 5).
U.N. High Commissioner
for Human Rights Mary Robinson in her report noted that all sides in the
conflict failed to respect the principles of humanitarian law. She said
that "the conflict has deteriorated to such an extent that combatants
are disregarding the most basic humanitarian precept...the defenseless
civilian population and children continue to be the principal victims
of these actions." In November the World Food Program reported that
armed groups had been hijacking trucks carrying deliveries intended for
There were no reports
during the year that the Government militarized public hospitals in conflict
areas, which had increased the risk that the hospitals would become targets
of guerrilla attack. In March 2000, the Constitutional Court ruled that
state security forces could not maintain installations (such as police
stations) next to schools, to avoid endangering the lives of students
in case of guerrilla attacks; however, this continued to be the case in
some communities. There were no reports that the State refused medical
treatment to guerrillas.
The 1997 establishment
of the AUC as a national paramilitary umbrella organization was designed
both to provide a national structure, to coordinate logistics and offensive
operations, and to develop a more coherent political movement. Although
illegal, some early paramilitary groups reflected rural citizens' legitimate
desire to defend themselves from the guerrilla threat. Other groups were
actually the paid, private armies of drug traffickers or large landowners.
Many members of paramilitary groups are former security force members
or former guerrillas. The AUC umbrella group, according to military estimates,
comprises between 8,000 and 11,000 combatants, who are members of 7 major
blocs. (The AUC has claimed there are 15,000 paramilitary combatants.)
The largest of these organizations is the ACCU, which is based in Cordoba
department and the Uraba region of Antioquia department. On May 26, Carlos
Castano formally stepped down as the military head of both the AUC and
the ACCU and was replaced by a 9-member "military command";
however, he retained control of the AUC's political wing. Castano admitted
publicly in 2000 that his group receives funding from both legitimate
businesses and from narcotics trafficking, and that the group is financed
by "dominant businesses" in the regions in which it operates.
In November Castano announced at an AUC convention that the AUC would
no longer commit massacres; however, it remained unclear at year's end
what the effect of this announcement would be.
On May 24, units
of the CTI and the army launched raids on homes and offices of suspected
paramilitary financiers in the cities of Monteria, Cordoba department;
Medellin, Antioquia department; and in Santander department. The seizure
of financial documents revealed that legitimate businesses finance the
right wing groups.
Some local army and
police commanders tacitly tolerated--and sometimes aided and abetted--the
activities of paramilitary groups, despite the public pronouncements of
the Government and the public security forces' high command that they
intended to combat paramilitary violence (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.).
The President, other government officials, the UNHCHR, and various NGO's
noted increasing popular support for paramilitary groups during the year,
spurred in part by continued human rights violations by the guerrillas.
used selective killings and systematic massacres to force displacements
and punish civilians for perceived ties to the guerrillas (see Section
1.a.). During the year, paramilitary groups continued to commit numerous
massacres but also appeared to rely increasingly on selective killings
and forced disappearances of civilians to establish territorial control
and to advance their political goals. By the year's end, the CCJ attributed
2,545 deaths to paramilitaries from June 2000 to June 2001, compared with
2,199 in 1999-2000.
The Government increased
its efforts to combat paramilitary groups. State security forces captured
992 paramilitaries during the year, compared with 312 in 2000, and killed
in combat 116 paramilitaries during the year, compared with 92 in 2000.
Law enforcement officials also have begun to investigate and prosecute
more aggressively persons who finance the paramilitaries.
on occasion used landmines. In August the Human Rights Ombudsman reported
increased recruitment of minors by the paramilitaries (see Section 1.f.).
Paramilitary forces failed to respect the injured and medical personnel.
On numerous occasions, medical personnel and hospitals were declared "military
The 2 main guerrilla
armies, the FARC and the ELN, as well as the much smaller EPL and other
groups, commanded an estimated total of 21,645 full-time guerrillas operating
in more than 100 semiautonomous groups throughout the country. These groups
undertook armed actions in nearly 1,000 of the country's 1,097 municipalities.
Both the FARC and the ELN systematically attacked noncombatants and violated
citizens' rights through the use of tactics such as killings, forced disappearances,
the mutilation of bodies, attacks on churches, attacks on hospitals, attacks
on ambulances, and executions of patients in hospitals (see Sections 1.a.,
1.b., and 1.c.). Guerrilla groups also were responsible for multiple abuses
of religious and medical personnel. For example, on January 10, the FARC
stopped an ambulance carrying a woman in labor to a hospital in Antioquia.
Despite the pleas of the attendants, the guerrillas burned the vehicle,
and the woman endured a difficult breech delivery in a nearby house (although
she and the baby reportedly survived). Indiscriminate attacks on police
stations resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties. Guerrillas also
killed religious leaders (see Section 2.c.) and indigenous people (see
continued to pursue strategies that routinely led them to commit abuses
against citizens. Their tactics consistently included killings, kidnaping,
torture, targeting of civilian populations and installations (including
medical facilities), and the forced recruitment of children as young as
10 years old (see Sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., and 5). In July Human Rights
Watch directed an open letter to FARC commander-in-chief Manuel Marulanda
that cited various abuses and called on the FARC to respect human rights
and international humanitarian law. The FARC failed to respond substantively
to any of the letter's points; instead, it accused Human Rights Watch
of being a tool of a foreign government.
Guerrillas also massacred
civilians, and continued to be responsible for a significant percentage
of massacre victims and other civilian deaths related to the conflict.
According to CCJ, the guerrillas were responsible for 101 massacre victims
(10 percent of the total number) during the year. CCJ estimates that the
guerrillas are responsible 22 percent of total civilian deaths related
to the conflict since 1995. The Ministry of Defense reported that 1,060
civilian deaths were attributed to guerrilla groups during the year (out
of a total of 2,088 civilian deaths related to the conflict) (see Section
Guerrillas used landmines
both to defend static positions (such as base camps, cocaine laboratories,
and sites at which kidnap victims were held) and as indiscriminate weapons
of terror. The Vice President's office reported in 2000 that the FARC
and ELN have laid indiscriminately 50,000 mines in rural areas. Landmines
planted by guerrillas or disguised as everyday items such as soccer balls
or paint cans often resulted in the killing or maiming of civilian noncombatants;
thousands of IDP's were unable to return to their homes due to the presence
of antipersonnel mines (see Section 2.d.). According to press reports,
landmines surround guerrilla bases in the despeje zone. The FARC used
sulfuric acid in the gas canisters that it employed as artillery and continued
its practice of using these canisters to attack small towns. Scores of
soldiers, police, and civilians were burned indiscriminately as a result.
In April FARC rebels
raided the village of Caucana, Antioquia department. Using guns and gas
canisters packed with explosives to attack a gas station and other buildings,
they killed an estimated 25 persons, including 7 children.
Although the ELN
agreed to halt recruitment of children under the terms of the June 1998
Mainz "Heaven's Gate" agreement, both the ELN and the larger
FARC regularly forced children into their ranks (see Section 5). According
to various witnesses and to former child guerrillas, once recruited, child
guerrillas are virtual prisoners of their commanders and subject to various
forms of abuse. Sexual abuse of girls is a particular problem, and former
child guerrillas have testified to rape, mandatory use of intrauterine
devices, and forced abortions. Child soldiers, including girls, were seen
in guerrilla ranks in the despeje, and reports from various sources indicate
that the guerrillas recruited at least 120 minors, but possibly many more,
in the despeje. In addition, many families reportedly left the despeje
(or have been displaced from other regions) to escape forcible recruitment
of their children. According to press reports, in April 2000, FARC military
commander Jorge Briceno Suarez ("Mono Jojoy") admitted that
the FARC often had committed serious abuses against civilians, and that
the FARC regularly used child combatants.
violence resulted in a number of civilian casualties in the wake of ongoing
targeted or massive killings by both sides. According to Ministry of Defense
figures, 2,088 civilians were killed in violence related to the internal
conflict during the year. Of these, 1,028 were killed by paramilitaries,
and 1,060 by guerrillas.
The FARC staged many
attacks against municipalities outside of the despeje, possibly in an
effort to expand its area of control beyond the demilitarized zone. For
example, on February 24, the FARC's 21st front attacked San Antonio, Tolima
department with gas cylinders loaded with grapeshot, killing two persons,
injuring two more, and kidnaping one policeman. They destroyed the police
station, the city hall, the bank, and 10 houses. On March 20, the FARC's
29th front killed 5 civilians and destroyed 35 houses in Bocas de Satinga.
On April 1, the FARC's 13th front destroyed the police station, several
public buildings, and houses in Almaguer, Cauca department and left several
mines planted in the area.
On November 16, combined
FARC and ELN columns attacked the town of Bolivar, Cauca department. The
guerrilla forces ransacked and destroyed the local bank, mayor's office,
police station, and most of the town plaza. Eventually they surrounded
the town's 24 police officers. The unarmed townspeople organized themselves,
marched toward the guerrillas, created a human shield to protect the policemen,
and demanded that the guerrillas leave town, which they did. Earlier on
November 13, the FARC had attacked the town of Caldono in the same department.
The population also had organized itself, confronted the FARC unarmed,
and forced the guerrillas to leave the town. On December 31, FARC guerrillas
shot to death indigenous law student Jimmy Guauna Chicangana, as he and
fellow citizens in Purace, Cauca department, participated in unarmed civil
resistance in the town square.
The FARC continued
to kidnap, torture, and kill off-duty soldiers and policemen, as part
of its openly announced "Plan Pistola" strategy (see Sections
1.a., 1.b., and 1.c.). For example, on July 1, in Cundinamarca department
the FARC kidnaped an off-duty and unarmed army sergeant and three soldiers
who later were found dead and whose bodies showed signs of torture (see
The FARC committed
numerous abuses against civilians in the despeje. The FARC was responsible
for killings; alleged cases of forced disappearance; rape; arbitrary detention
infringement of the rights to free speech, freedom of religion (see Section
2.c.), and fair trial (see Section 1.e.); forced political indoctrination;
and the forced recruitment of hundreds of children (see Section 1.f.).
According to press reports, the FARC stated publicly in 2000 that all
persons between the ages of 13 and 60 in the despeje zone are liable for
military service with the guerrillas; families fleeing the zone reported
that they were asked to surrender children to the FARC as of their 14th
the ELN, caused massive damage to the country's power industry and increases
in electricity rates for consumers. ELN sabotage in December 2000 and
FARC attacks in March left several towns in the Uraba region without electricity
for weeks at a time, causing economic and health problems. In October
FARC and ELN attacks caused power outages in the departments of Cesar,
Bolivar, and Cordoba. Guerrilla attacks on oil pipelines also caused considerable
environmental damage. Press reports indicated that as of July, there had
been more than 100 guerrilla attacks on the Occidental Petroleum Corporation
pipeline in Arauca department.
In November prosecutors
charged 1 suspected ELN guerrilla who was detained, and continued to seek
the arrest of 7 others, for terrorism, homicide, and injury in connection
with the 1998 pipeline explosion in Machuca, Antioquia department, which
killed 73 persons (including 36 children), injured 32 more, left over
1,000 persons homeless, and caused extensive environmental damage. Prosecutors
charged in absentia ELN commanders Nicolas Rodriguez (alias "Gabino")
and Herlington Chamorro (alias "Antonio Garcia") and four others.
In September 2000, the ELN reportedly held an internal trial. The ELN
claimed to have expelled guerrillas from its ranks for involvement in
Section 2 Respect
for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech
provides for freedom of the press; and the Government generally respected
this right in practice; however, journalists regularly practiced self-censorship
to avoid retaliation and harassment by various groups. The privately owned
print media published a wide spectrum of political viewpoints and often
voiced harsh antigovernment opinions without fear of reprisals. A ban
on the publication of evidence pertaining to criminal investigations,
based on the secrecy provisions of the Penal Code and an anticorruption
statute, remained in effect. During the year, journalists were intimidated,
threatened, kidnaped, and in some cases killed, primarily by paramilitary
groups and guerrillas. There were also reports of a significant number
of threats from local officials accused of corruption. Fearing for their
safety, journalists often refrain from publishing or broadcasting stories
counter to the interests of paramilitary groups, guerrillas, or narcotics
The NGO Reporters
Without Frontiers reported that 12 journalists were killed during the
year. Of these, 3 cases appeared related to the victim's work as a journalist,
4 victims were murdered for other reasons, and the motive for the other
5 cases was undetermined. The Colombian Press Freedom Foundation reported
that 7 journalists were killed during the year, and that there were 51
cases in which journalists reported receiving threats. NGO's and international
organizations reported obvious self-censorship by the press due to threats
from illegal armed groups. In July Organization of American States (OAS)
Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Santiago Canton called for the effective
investigation of continuing murders of journalists, and said that violence
against journalists places at serious risk the right to freedom of expression
and information of all citizens. In October Reporters without Frontiers
noted that the paramilitaries were the main threat to press freedom, and
in May the Committee to Protect Journalists released a list of the 10
worst enemies of press freedom that included Carlos Castano of the AUC.
At least 19 journalists reported being threatened, and 6 had left the
country at midyear. These figures are thought to be low, since many victims
do not report threats to the authorities or to NGO's.
In June state police
officers struck media workers from RCN and Caracol radio stations and
destroyed a camera, as the journalists were recording the detainment of
a student protester. Charges were filed against the two police officers.
In May AUC leader
Carlos Castano reportedly acknowledged in an interview with Le Monde that
the AUC had killed journalists Luis Fernando Velez Castano and Hector
Dario Velez Castano, whom the AUC accused of being guerrillas. The two
victims were the brothers of the deputy manager of television channel
On April 27, journalist
Flavio Bedoya, who worked for the Communist Party weekly Voz, was killed
in Tumaco, Narino department. According to the Inter-American Press Society,
Bedoya had received threats from paramilitaries. On May 21, police bomb
disposal experts defused a bomb packed into a pick-up truck outside of
the offices of Voz.
Authorities are investigating
the April 30 murder of Carlos Trespalacios, communications director for
the municipal sports and recreations institute in Medellin, Antioquia
On May 3, Cali-based
Telepacifico TV sports reporter Yesid Marulanda Romero was killed. On
May 18, the FARC murdered Edgar Tavera Gaona, a local radio reporter in
On June 27, the FARC
kidnaped Pablo Emilio Parra Castaneda, a radio station owner, reporter,
and Colombian Red Cross local official. The FARC had accused him of collaborating
with paramilitaries. Parra later was found dead.
On July 4, unidentified
men shot and killed radio station director Arquimedes Arias Henao in Fresno,
Tolima department. Arias deliberately had focused his broadcasts on music
and culture due to the dangers of reporting on more politically sensitive
On July 6, two unidentified
men on a motorcycle shot and killed radio reporter Jose Duviel Vasquez
in Florencia, Caqueta department. Vazquez had replaced Alfredo Abad Lopez,
who was killed in a similar manner in December 2000, as the director of
Voice of the Jungle radio station, a Caracol affiliate. In November 2000,
unidentified assailants also had killed reporter Guillermo Leon Agudelo
in Florencia. In December 2000, the authorities formed a special unit
to investigate the murders of both Abad and Agudelo, and the Florencia
mayor's office offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests
in these cases. The murders remained under investigation at year's end.
On July 8, unidentified
men shot and killed Jorge Enrique Urbano in the port city of Buenaventura,
Valle del Cauca department. Urbano had been the director of Radio Buenaventura,
had served as the press secretary of the Buenaventura mayor's office,
and directed a NGO dedicated to building public parks. It was unclear
whether Urbano's murder was related to his work as a journalist.
On July 16, unidentified
gunmen shot and killed Eduardo Estrada Gutierrez in San Pablo, Bolivar
department. Estrada was president of the Association for the Development
of Communications and Culture in San Pablo and was working on the implementation
of a community radio station in the municipality. Estrada was the second
person involved with a community radio program to have been killed during
In November hooded
gunmen killed Heriberto Cardenas in Buenaventura. Cardenas worked as a
radio reporter as well as a correspondent for El Tiempo and El Espectador;
however, he had withdrawn from journalism in 2000 and only occasionally
made any contributions.
continued into the November 2000 murder of local radio reporter Gustavo
Rafael Ruiz Cantillo in Pivijay, Magdalena department.
continued into the September 2000 murder by paramilitary members of Carlos
Jose Restrepo Rocha, the publisher of TanGente newspaper in Tolima, a
municipal council candidate, and a former member of the now-inactive M-19
Two suspected paramilitaries
were on trial for the 1999 murders of journalists Alberto Sanchez and
Luis Alberto Rincon. A third suspect was charged but died before the trial.
Prosecutors are appealing
the decision of a Valledupar judges to absolve suspected paramilitaries
Rodolfo Nelson Rosado Hernandez (alias "El Pichi") and Jorge
Eliecer Espinal Velasquez ("El Parce") for the 1999 murder of
newspaper editor Guzman Quintero Torres in Valledupar, Cesar department.
At year's end, paramilitary
and La Terraza gangster Juan Pablo Ortiz Agudelo (alias "Bochas")
was appealing charges filed against him for the 1999 murder in Bogota
of journalist, comedian, and human rights activist Jaime Garzon Forero
(see Section 1.a.).
The Supreme Court
upheld a Neiva judge's decision to exonerate three men charged with the
1998 murder of journalist Nelson Carvajal Carvajal. There were no other
suspects detained in the case.
According to the
Free Country Foundation, five journalists were kidnaped during the year.
On March 16, the
FARC kidnaped journalist and international affairs commentator Guillermo
Angulo and two other persons in Choachi, Cundinamarca department. Angulo
was held for 5 months.
In June journalist
Carlos Reina was kidnaped in Yopal, Casanare department. In July Telecaribe
journalist Ramon Campo Gonzalez was kidnaped in Santa Marta, Magdalena
On June 23, armed
men kidnaped journalist Carlos Alberto Reina Camargo, as he traveled with
his family in Boyaca department. Reina was released on July 6.
On June 30, four
armed men kidnaped cable television executive and journalist Ramon Ocampo
Gonzalez in Magdalena department as he was driving to his family farm.
Ocampo is a member of a politically influential family and was also a
member of the regional coffee growers association. The authorities suspect
that the FARC was responsible. Ocampo was released on July 4.
continued of the May 2000 kidnaping and rape of Jineth Bedoya Lima, a
reporter for the El Espectador newspaper. Bedoya was kidnaped while on
her way to interview a convicted paramilitary leader at the Modelo prison
in Bogota, raped, and subsequently released in Meta. El Espectador had
received threatening letters against her and other journalists. AUC leader
Carlos Castano denied that the AUC was involved. There have been no arrests
in this case.
On February 26, two
bombs went off at the home of radio reporter Zoraida Ariza in Saravena,
Arauca department. In August the ELN detonated a bomb targeting Caracol
Radio's Medellin offices. No one was injured in the blast.
At least five journalists
left the country during the year, and several well-known journalists remain
in exile. In late January, RCN prime time journalist and host of RCN top-ranking
opinion show La Noche Claudia Gurisatti left the country for 3 months,
following an alert from the authorities of a plot to kill her. Three men
were arrested for conspiracy to kill Gurisatti, which appears to have
been organized by the same FARC front also thought to be responsible for
the December 2000 murder of congressional peace commission president Diego
Turbay (see Section 1.a.). Gurisatti continued to host La Noche from abroad.
Dusaki, Cali television reporter Willy Maldonado Penaranda, television
producer Jorge Rangel Rengifo, and Cali journalist Ricardo Varela all
left the country during the year due to death threats or extortion attempts.
Santos, editor of the family-run El Tiempo, the country's largest newspaper,
and founder of the Pais Libre antikidnaping organization and the national
"No More" antiviolence civic campaign, remained in exile at
year's end. Santos fled the country in March 2000 after announcing that
he was the target of a FARC guerrilla group plot to kill him. In May four
journalists of El Tiempo were threatened, declared to be military targets,
and warned that they must leave the county within 1 month.
In February seven
broadcast journalists in Popayan announced that they had received threats
from paramilitaries. In May an AUC press release declared five broadcast
journalists in Cali to be military targets. On November 9, the AUC threatened
three journalists and a cameraman and advised them to abandon their profession
in less than 48 hours or face execution.
On September 28,
FARC guerrillas manning a roadblock harassed and threatened seven journalists
who were going to cover a rally by presidential candidate Horacio Serpa,
whom the guerrillas also prevented from entering the demilitarized zone.
The FARC restricted
the movement of journalists in the despeje through blockades and random
In 2000 the Inter-American
Press Society opened a rapid action unit office in Bogota to help the
Prosecutor General's office investigate crimes against journalists. The
Ministry of Interior operates a program for the protection of journalists,
established by an August 2000 presidential decree. During the year, the
Government continued to consult with journalism organizations to identify
journalists at special risk but has not had sufficient resources to provide
protection. The Ministry of the Interior also supported an alerts network
organized for journalists by providing a small number of radios and an
emergency telephone hot line, which began to function in February.
Media ownership remains
highly concentrated. Wealthy families or groups associated with one of
the two dominant political parties have consolidated their holdings of
news media, and regional firms continued to purchase local news media
outlets. As a result of the general economic downturn, large press conglomerates
closed radio stations and newspaper offices in certain provinces and reduced
staff. In September El Espectador, one of the two leading Bogota dailies,
became a weekly newspaper due to financial difficulties. The press remained
generally free; however, economic problems and the concentration of media
ownership limited the media's resources, causing the media to rely heavily
on a smaller pool of advertisers, including the Government, which the
media often chose not to criticize.
The National Television
Commission continued to oversee television programming throughout the
which promote freedom of the press include the Foundation for Freedom
of the Press, Media for Peace (which provides training for journalists),
and the Free Country Foundation (an antikidnaping NGO). However, on June
15, Free Press announced that it had shut down operations due to threats.
The Government does
not restrict academic freedom, and there was a wide spectrum of political
activity throughout the country's universities. However, paramilitary
groups and guerrillas maintain a presence on many university campuses,
aimed at generating political support for their respective campaigns.
They use both violent and nonviolent means toward political ends. Both
paramilitary groups and guerrillas also regularly targeted public school
teachers at the elementary and secondary levels for politically motivated
into four 1999 attacks against prominent academics. Jesus Antonio Bejarano,
a former government peace commissioner; Doctor Dario Betancur, head of
the social sciences faculty of Bogota's Universidad Pedagogica; and Doctor
Hernando Henao, an anthropologist who published on the subject of displaced
persons were killed in 1999.
As a result of these
incidents, academic leaders have chosen to assume a lower profile; many
have taken up residence outside the country.
b. Freedom of Peaceful
Assembly and Association
provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the Government generally
respects this right in practice. The authorities normally do not interfere
with public meetings and demonstrations and usually grant the required
permission except when they determine that there is imminent danger to
In June two police
officers struck journalists who were recording the detainment of a student
protester (see Section 2.a.).
There were large
demonstrations on several occasions by citizens throughout the country;
the authorities generally did not interfere. In February approximately
12,000 persons demonstrated peacefully in San Pablo, Bolivar department,
to protest the creation of a guerrilla enclave for the ELN. Later in the
same month, about 20,000 persons blocked major highways in Magdalena Medio
in an attempt to stop the creation of the zone. They lifted their blockade
after the army threatened to intervene. In August agricultural workers
blockaded 15 major highways throughout the country, and state security
forces reportedly used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Also in August,
20 persons were injured in demonstrations by striking Bogota cab and bus
drivers (see Section 6.a.). The Presidential Human Rights Program and
state security forces cooperated with civil society organizations to provide
security for major events in July in Antioquia and in September in the
Barrancabermeja area. NGO's in Barrancabermeja reported harassment by
paramilitaries during a September summit of women's and peace organizations.
provides for freedom of association, and the Government generally respects
this right in practice. Any legal organization is free to associate with
international groups in its field. However, membership in proscribed organizations,
such as the FARC, the ELN, the EPL, and the AUC is a crime. In practice,
freedom of association is restricted by killings of and threats against
labor union leaders and members of NGO's by illegal armed groups (see
Sections 4 and 6.a.).
c. Freedom of Religion
provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects
this right in practice. Although the 1991 Constitution separated the Catholic
Church from the State, the Church retains a de facto privileged status.
A 1994 Constitutional
Court decision declared unconstitutional any official government reference
to religious characterizations of the country. The law on freedom of religion
provides a mechanism for religions to obtain status as recognized legal
entities. Accession to the 1997 public law agreement between the State
and non-Roman Catholic religious entities is required currently for any
religion that wishes to minister to its adherents via any public institution.
A total of 12 non-Roman Catholic churches have received this special status;
however, these churches report that some local authorities have failed
to comply with the accord. No non-Christian religion is a signatory to
the 1997 public law agreement. Some prominent non-Christian religious
groups, such as the Jewish community, have not requested state religious
recognition. All legally recognized churches, seminaries, monasteries,
and convents are exempt from national and local taxes. Local governments
may exempt religiously affiliated organizations such as schools and libraries
from taxes; however, in practice, local governments often exempt only
organizations that are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. According
to military regulations, only Roman Catholic priests may serve as chaplains.
The Government permits proselytizing among the indigenous population,
provided that it is welcome and does not induce members of indigenous
communities to adopt changes that endanger their survival on traditional
In August the human
rights unit of the Prosecutor General's office reported that it had 37
open cases of religiously motivated crimes.
The AUC sometimes
targeted representatives and members of the Roman Catholic Church and
evangelical Christian churches, generally for political reasons.
In May 2000, the
authorities charged one suspect with the 1999 killings of Roman Catholic
priest Jorge Luis Maza and Spanish aid worker Inigo Eguiluz in Choco department.
The suspect was on trial in Quibdo at year's end. Security forces had
arrested nine suspected members of a paramilitary group in connection
with this crime but were obliged to release them due to lack of evidence.
The FARC and ELN
guerrilla movements regularly target representatives and members of the
Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Christian churches, generally for
political reasons, and committed acts of murder, kidnaping, and extortion,
as well as inhibited the right to free religious expression. The FARC
has placed religious restrictions on persons within the despeje zone.
The FARC also levied "war taxes" on Roman Catholic and evangelical
churches and schools in the despeje and elsewhere.
The Christian Union
Movement (MUC) reported the December 29 killing of an evangelical pastor
and the December 30 kidnaping of another in Caqueta department. A total
of 61 pastors have been killed in the last 8 years. As of June 2000, the
FARC had forced the closure of over 300 evangelical churches in Meta,
Guajira, Tolima, Vaupes, Guainia, Guaviare, Vichada, Casanare, and Arauca
departments, and as of May, 120 more churches had been closed in the southwestern
part of the country. Additionally, the MUC claimed that the FARC extorted
and, in many cases, forced the closure of rural evangelical schools. Threats
by guerrillas or paramilitary forces forced many evangelical preachers
to refrain from publicly addressing the country's internal conflict. The
MUC also reported an overall increase in the number of kidnapings and
extortions but said that these crimes tend to be for economic rather than
religious reasons. For example, in February the FARC kidnaped evangelical
pastor and radio network president Enrique Gomez in a small town southwest
of Bogota and released him in August.
The Bishops' Conference
of the Roman Catholic Church reported in 2000 that paramilitary forces,
the ELN, and the FARC sometimes threatened rural priests with death for
speaking out against them. It also reported that the indiscriminate use
of force during guerrilla attacks on towns and police stations destroyed
Roman Catholic churches in Huila, Tolima, Cauca, and Antioquia departments
(see Section 1.g.).
leaders estimated that as many as one-third of the country's Jewish community
had fled the country as of July 1999. Among the principal causes was a
string of kidnapings, assaults, and murders affecting Jewish business
In January representatives
of various evangelical Christian churches reported that the FARC harassed
congregation members for refusing to participate in coca cultivation in
Meta and Cauca departments.
On March 11, unknown
persons killed Protestant pastor Onofre Hernandez Benitez as he came out
of the Pan-American Church of Arauca. It remains unclear to what extent,
if any, the killing was related to religion.
In March 2000, unidentified
perpetrators killed Roman Catholic priest Hugo Duque Hernandez at Supia,
Caldas department. The case remained under investigation at year's end.
d. Freedom of Movement
Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
provides citizens with the right to travel domestically and abroad, and
the Government generally respects this right in practice, with some exceptions.
Outsiders who wish to enter Indian tribes' reserves must be invited. In
areas where counterinsurgency operations were underway, police or military
officials occasionally required civilians to obtain safe-conduct passes;
paramilitary forces and guerrillas often used similar means to restrict
travel in areas under their control. At times the Government implemented
Throughout the year,
frequent road blockades erected by paramilitary groups, the FARC, ELN,
and peasant farmers inhibited transportation, communication, and commerce
throughout the country (see Sections 1.g. and 2.a.). Social organizations
also resorted to road blockages, some of them prolonged, to protest government
actions or policies (see Section 2.b.). Almost every major artery in the
country was closed at some point during the year. There were numerous
reports of members of indigenous communities, particularly in Putumayo,
being forbidden to leave their community without either paramilitary or
FARC permission, and in which paramilitaries have blockaded communities.
According to the
U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in the first three-quarters
of the year, 9,412 Colombians requested asylum. UNHCR also reported that
Colombians represent the 12th most numerous nationality requesting asylum,
up from 21st during the first half of 2000.
A May 2000 law prohibits
forced displacement; however, military counterinsurgency operations, forced
conscription by paramilitary and guerrilla organizations, and guerrilla
incursions often forced peasants to flee their homes and farms, resulting
in a very large population of IDP's.
groups and guerrillas used forced displacements to gain control over disputed
territories and to weaken their opponents' base of support. An estimated
42 towns were abandoned after paramilitary or guerrilla attacks. The authorities
sometimes encouraged civilian populations to move back to their homes
before security situations had normalized, or civilians returned before
it was advisable.
According to CODHES,
347,000 displacements of civilians from their homes occurred during the
year, compared with 317,340 during 2000. Government sources estimated
that 275,000 persons were displaced, compared with 125,000 in 2000. Exact
numbers of IDP's are difficult to obtain because some persons were displaced
more than once, and many IDP's do not register with the Government or
other entities. As many as 1.3 million citizens may have been displaced
since 1996. An alliance of human rights, religious, and aid organizations
stated in 2000 that an estimated 2 million persons had been displaced
by political violence since 1985. CODHES states that some persons have
been displaced for as long as 10 years, but it is unable to identify a
typical timeframe for displacement. Some persons return to their homes
within days or weeks, others within months, and some never return. Some
displaced persons move several times after fleeing their original home,
making tracking difficult. CODHES estimated that perhaps 65 percent of
displacements became permanent, while the ICRC estimates that 50 percent
of the displaced return home, although they may be displaced again. The
Social Solidarity Network is working with the ICRC, CODHES, the UNHCR,
and the Bishop's Conference of the Catholic Church on a system for providing
better estimates of the number of IDP's, which they hope may yield more
reliable figures by the middle of 2002. An estimated 525,000 persons are
believed to be in need of assistance, including newly and longer term
displaced. The U.N. Thematic Group, an intersectoral group composed of
U.N. agencies, government agencies, and NGO's, reported that state agents
are responsible for less than 1 percent of displacements, the paramilitaries
are responsible for 46 to 63 percent, and guerrilla groups are responsible
for 12 to 13 percent.
The vast majority
of displaced persons are peasants who have been displaced to cities, which
have had difficulty integrating large numbers of persons into their infrastructure.
Many displaced persons settle on the outskirts of Bogota, Medellin, and
Cartagena, where conditions are overcrowded and unsanitary, and smaller
municipalities have been overwhelmed by the need for services. According
to CODHES, between 1985 and the first quarter of the year, 66 percent
of displaced persons came from rural areas, 22 percent of IDP's are female
heads of household, 57 percent of the total number are female, and 70
percent of IDP's are under the age of 19. There are reports that some
families flee to avoid forcible recruitment of their children by guerrillas
(see Sections 1.f. and 5). Thousands of IDP's were unable to return to
their homes due to the presence of antipersonnel mines (see Section 1.g.).
Several observers noted that displaced women and girls are especially
vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation
(see Section 5). Many displaced persons lost access to health care, employment,
and education (see Section 5). CODHES estimates that only 34 percent of
displaced households have access to health services. The Human Rights
Ombudsman's office reported in 2000 that only 15 percent of displaced
children have access to schools. Malnutrition among displaced children
is a problem, and displaced children are increasingly vulnerable to sexual
exploitation and recruitment by criminal gangs. According to the UNHCR,
approximately one-third of IDP's are indigenous or Afro-Colombian. (Afro-Colombian
and indigenous groups make up approximately 16 percent and 2 percent of
the population, respectively.) Numerous threats were made during the year
against individuals and groups working with the displaced.
The Government does
not make adequate provisions for humanitarian assistance to the displaced,
although the law and court decisions require it to do so. Although conditions
for IDP communities varied in different regions, conditions for displaced
persons in many locations were poor and unhygienic, with little access
to health care, and few educational or employment opportunities. The Government
provides assistance through the Solidarity Network, the ICBF, the Health
Ministry, and other state entities. Government officials continued to
estimate that 70 to 80 percent of humanitarian assistance received by
displaced persons is provided by the ICRC and NGO's. Most displaced citizens
received emergency humanitarian assistance from the ICRC, Social Solidarity
network, or NGO's for only 90 days, although some IDP's have received
it for longer, and others never receive any aid at all. The ICRC provided
emergency assistance to 125,000 displaced persons during the year, compared
with 135,000 in 2000.
On August 31, Kofi
Asomani, the U.N. Special Coordinator on Internal Displacement, stated
that the country is facing an acute problem of displacement. He noted
that in the first 8 months of the year there was a progressive increase
in the numbers, geographical extension, and political complexities of
the displacement phenomenon. He urged the Government and the international
community to devote greater attention to addressing the longer-term needs
of the displaced.
The UNHCR office
in Bogota works to strengthen the Government's capacity to address the
IDP problem and to work on regional refugee issues. The UNHCR office also
has field offices in Barrancabermeja; Apartado, Uraba department; and
in Puerto Asis, Putumayo department. The UNHCR plans to open an office
in Sincelejo, Sucre department, in 2002.
Hundreds of displaced
persons also fled to Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela. There have been few
or no reports of the forced return of refugees from Panama or Ecuador,
although most refugees received little assistance. Colombians leaving
the country to Ecuador used that country as a temporary escape from violence
in Putumayo and returned to Colombia through another border crossing,
such as Ipiales, Narino department. There continued to be reports of the
forced return of refugees from Venezuela. In February church officials
in Venezuela stated that they provided food and shelter to about 3,000
refugees who fled the country to escape paramilitary attacks. There were
two reported group refugee incidents in Venezuela during the year. On
January 25, an estimated 400 to 500 persons received food aid and medical
assistance from local NGO's and the Venezuelan military and returned to
La Cooperativa in Northeast Colombia. The UNHCR and NGO's were denied
access, and it is unclear whether the group return was voluntary. On October
7, a group of 164 persons, including 90 children, fled from Vichada into
Venezuela's Amazonas province. They were given aid, and the UNHCR reported
that their return was voluntary.
An organized group
of IDP's continues to occupy the former headquarters of the ICRC in Bogota,
despite a December 2000 Constitutional Court ruling that the Government
was to assist and resettle the group. However, a number of persons both
inside and outside of the Government have argued that it is not possible
for the Government to comply with the ruling due to lack of resources,
and because the law on displacement does not define a limit to reintegration
provides for the right to asylum, under terms established by law in accordance
with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its
1967 Protocol. The country has had a tradition of providing asylum since
the 1920's. During the year, 3 refugees had been granted legal asylum
status, and 17 applications for asylum were pending at year's end.
The Government cooperates
with the offices of the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in
assisting refugees and IDP's. The Government reserves the right to determine
eligibility for asylum, based upon its own assessment of the nature of
the applicant's case. The issue of the provision of first asylum did not
arise during the year. There were no reports of the forced return of persons
to a country where they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect
for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
provides for the right of citizens to change their government peacefully,
and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and
fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. In 1998 voters
elected Conservative Party candidate Andres Pastrana President in elections
that were free, fair, and transparent, despite some threats to the electoral
process by paramilitary groups, narcotics traffickers, and guerrillas.
The Liberal Party controls the legislature. In the Senate, the Liberal
Party holds 19 of 72 seats, the Conservative Party holds 15, and small
independent movements hold the remaining 38 seats. In the House of Representatives,
Liberals holds 86 seats, Conservatives have 32, and independent movements
hold the remaining 43 seats.
are held every 4 years, with the incumbent barred for life from reelection.
The next election is scheduled for May 26, 2002. The Liberal and Conservative
parties long have dominated the formal political process with one or the
other winning the presidency. Public employees are not permitted to participate
in partisan campaigns. Elections to renew the entire Senate and House
of Representatives are scheduled for March 10, 2002. Congresspersons are
elected to 4-year terms. Governors, mayors, assemblymen, and other local
officials are elected to 3-year terms. The next elections for local officials
are scheduled for October 2003.
Officially, all political
parties operate freely without government interference. Those that fail
to garner 50,000 votes in a general election lose the right to present
candidates and may not receive funds from the Government. However, they
may reincorporate at any time by presenting 50,000 signatures to the National
Electoral Board. Voting is voluntary and universal for citizens age 18
and older, except for active-duty members of the police and armed forces,
who may not vote.
and guerrilla organizations sought to dissuade some potential candidates
from running for office, restrict their ability to campaign, and threatened,
kidnaped, and killed incumbent elected officials at various levels (see
Sections 1.a, 1.b., and 1.c.).
In September FARC
guerrillas prevented presidential candidate Horacio Serpa from leading
a large campaign delegation into the demilitarized zone. Guerrillas are
suspected in at least three plots to kill right wing, independent presidential
candidate Alvaro Uribe. In December members of Congress held a candlelight
vigil to remember their peers who had been kidnaped and killed. The FARC
kidnaped Liberal Congressman Orlando Bernal Cuellar in August and Liberal
Congressman Luis Eladio Perez in June. On September 10, Huila department
Congressman Consuelo Gonzalez was kidnaped, presumably by the FARC. The
FARC also are holding hostage Conservative Party congressman Oscar Lizcano,
kidnaped in June 2000.
In September AUC
leader Carlos Castano launched the National and Democratic Movement, a
quasi-political party affiliated with the AUC that plans to run or support
candidates in the March 2002 congressional elections. The group is expected
to remain largely clandestine, as Castano continues to seek political
recognition. There also are credible reports that the AUC plans to run
congressional candidates in March 2002 under the Liberal and Conservative
Party banners. There are credible reports that the paramilitaries are
trying to coerce congressional candidates they do not support from running
for office, especially in the Middle Magdalena region. Numerous members
of Congress have expressed concern about threats and violence against
candidates and voters; in May Liberal Party presidential candidate Horacio
Serpa said that there were candidates at all levels who could be elected
In April 2000, the
FARC announced the formation of a political party--the Bolivarian Movement
for a New Colombia--before a gathering of thousands of persons. FARC leader
Manuel Marulanda announced that the party would operate secretly.
In the 192 municipalities
which lack state security presence, and in urban neighborhoods, both guerrilla
and paramilitary groups sought to impose control and garner political
support with measures ranging from social cleansing killings to punishments
for domestic violence (see Sections 1.a., 1.d., and 5) and by donating
materials or labor to community projects. In May Governor Jorge Gomez
Villamizar of Santander department strongly criticized numerous threats
against mayors and councilmen in 26 Santander municipalities that lack
permanent state security forces.
The Colombian Federation
of Municipalities reported to the press in 2000 that armed groups threatened
candidates in the October 2000 municipal elections in more than half of
the country's 1,097 municipalities. By year's end, the Federation reported
that 6 mayors had been killed, that displacements of mayors from their
municipalities had increased, and that 10 mayors were kidnaped (see Section
1.b.). For example, on November 19, the AUC abducted six mayors from eastern
Antioquia, as well as their human rights adviser, apparently in retaliation
for meetings that the mayors had held with representatives of the ELN
to seek respect for the lives of the civilian population in their municipalities.
In response to these attacks and threats, some rural mayors fled to major
cities, where they continued to conduct municipal business via telephone
and facsimile. The Federation reported in 2000 that 19 mayoral candidates
were killed, 20 were kidnaped, 12 reported threats, and as many as 53
candidates for mayoral and municipal council posts withdrew their candidacies.
However, the October 2000 municipal elections were generally peaceful.
There are no legal
restrictions, and few practical ones, on the participation of women or
minorities in the political process; however, the percentage of women
or minorities in government and politics does not correspond to their
percentage of the population. In March 2000, a quota law to increase the
number of women in high-level public positions went into effect. The quota
law requires that a minimum goal of 30 percent of nominated positions,
including seats on the high courts and ministerial positions, be allotted
to women. The quota law does not apply to publicly elected positions,
such as seats in Congress. In March the Constitutional Court decided that
the statutory quota cannot be applied to candidates for local election
or public enterprises. Before the end of each year, the Government must
report to Congress the percentage of women in high-level governmental
positions. The Government's year end report indicated that there are 13
female senators (out of 102 seats) and 19 female representatives (out
of 161) in the Congress. There were 4 women in the 16-member cabinet (the
Ministers of Health, Culture, Communications, and Foreign Trade) and 7
vice ministers. There is 1 female among the 23 Supreme Court justices,
1 woman among 9 Constitutional Court magistrates, and 2 among the 13 magistrates
of the Superior Judicial Council. The report also stated that there is
1 female governor and 75 female mayors.
The percentage of
indigenous people in government and politics does not correspond to their
percentage of the population. Two Senate seats are reserved for indigenous
representatives. In October 2000, voters in Cauca elected Floro Tunubala,
the country's first indigenous governor. Paramilitaries repeatedly have
threatened him since he took office in January. The percentage of Afro-Colombians
also does not correspond to their percentage of the population. In 1996
the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional a 1993 law that set
aside two house seats for citizens of African heritage, although the ruling
allowed the incumbents to complete their terms in office. There is one
Afro-Colombian senator, but there are no Afro-Colombian members of the
House of Representatives. Afro-Colombian organizations say that Afro-Colombians
have almost no representation in the executive branch, judicial branch,
and civil service positions, and in military hierarchies.
Section 4 Governmental
Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of
Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A large and varied
nongovernmental human rights community is active and provides a wide range
of views; however, many prominent human rights monitors worked under constant
fear for their physical safety. Among the many groups are: The Colombian
Catholic Bishops Conference; the CCJ; the Intercongregational Commission
for Justice and Peace; CINEP; the Advisory Committee for Human Rights
and Displacement; the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners
(dedicated to defending accused guerrillas); the Association of Families
of Detained and Disappeared Persons; the Reinsertion Foundation (focused
on demobilized guerrillas); the Free Country Foundation (focused on the
rights of kidnap victims); several associations which promote the rights
of victims of guerrilla violence; groups which provide legal assistance
to victims of human rights violations; and groups which provide humanitarian
assistance to the displaced. Other international humanitarian and human
rights organizations include the office of the U.N. High Commissioner
for Human Rights in Colombia, several other U.N. agencies, the ICRC (with
16 offices across the country), and Peace Brigades International. NGO's
investigated and reported on human rights abuses committed by government
forces, various paramilitary groups, and the guerrillas.
Although the Government
generally did not interfere with the work of human rights NGO's, there
were unconfirmed reports that security forces harassed or threatened human
rights groups. Citing changes in the revised Criminal Code, in August
the Prosecutor General's office revoked charges filed against retired
Brigadier Generals Millan and Del Rio for bribing witnesses to testify
falsely against a leading NGO organizer and a labor leader, although the
two men remain under investigation (see Section 1.a.).
and other unidentified groups subjected human rights groups to intense
pressure during the year, in the form of surveillance, harassing telephone
calls, graffiti campaigns, and death threats. Paramilitary and guerrilla
groups also have been implicated in the deaths of human rights and development
workers. According to the CCJ, nine human rights advocates were killed
during the year; four human rights workers disappeared. A total of 48
human rights workers have been killed or have disappeared in the past
For example, paramilitaries
are thought to be responsible for the June torture and murder of Alma
Rosa Jaramillo Lafourie, a lawyer and development worker for the Program
for Peace and Development in Magdalena Medio, in Morales, Bolivar department.
In July another employee of the program, Eduardo Estrada, was murdered
in San Pablo, Bolivar department.
On September 9, armed
men shot and killed Sister Yolanda Ceron, a human rights worker for the
Catholic Church, in Tumaco, Narino department.
NGO's and international organizations strongly and unanimously condemned
the December 27 and 28 killings by FARC guerrillas of peace community
activists Petrona Sanchez and Edwin Ortega in Choco department. Sanchez
and Ortega were coordinating an education project in the self-declared
neutral peace community of San Francisco de Asis (Uraba region, Choco
department), which is accompanied by the Catholic Church and by CINEP.
There is no information
on the whereabouts of Angel Quintero and Claudia Patricia Monsalve, members
of ASFADDES (an association for relatives of the disappeared) who were
kidnaped in October 2000. No arrests had been made in the kidnaping at
year's end, but investigators in this case subsequently uncovered evidence
of extensive illegal wiretapping by the Medellin GAULA (see Section 1.f.).
The authorities continued to investigate the kidnaping. In June Astrid
Manrique Varvajal of ASFADDES and her family were threatened.
On numerous occasions
during the year, paramilitary groups in several municipalities circulated
lists of the names of persons they considered "military targets,"
which included the names of local human rights activists, labor organizers,
and politicians (see Sections 3 and 6.a.).
On January 3, AUC
paramilitaries threatened Jose Guillermo Larios and Ivan Madero Vergel,
members of CREDHOS. On numerous occasions during the year, AUC members
threatened members of the Popular Women's Organization in Barrancabermeja.
In addition, approximately
60 human rights workers left the country, either temporarily or permanently,
for their own safety. Many more activists leave without coming to the
Ministry of Interior or leading NGO's for assistance. CINEP reported at
year's end that requests for protection received by the Ministry of Interior
and the Ad Hoc Commmittee of Human Rights Defenders rose 130 percent.
The Government, through
the Ministry of the Interior and the DAS, allocated approximately $11.3
million (25 billion pesos) to its 3-year-old program to protect human
rights advocates and labor activists associated with 88 different human
rights NGO's and unions. The funds were designated for security measures
for individuals as well as for the headquarters of the NGO's, an emergency
radio network, and funding for travel abroad for individuals who faced
a particular threat; however, human rights groups continued to state that
the protection programs are inadequate to address the crisis, and called
for increased efforts to combat impunity. During the year, the Ministry
of Interior fought successfully to quadruple its budget and extended protection
measures to 2,344 union leaders, NGO members, witnesses, community leaders,
members of the Patriotic Union, and journalists; 880 persons were provided
with protection in 2000. This protection included bulletproofing for 65
residences and offices.
On February 16, Hina
Jilani, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the U.N.
on Human Rights Defenders, expressed deep concern over the violation of
the rights of human rights workers. She stated that she had received information
that human rights defenders had been subject to numerous forced disappearances,
internal and external displacement, and death threats. She revisited the
country in October. At a press conference at the conclusion of her visit,
she again expressed concern over the attacks upon human rights defenders.
In November the U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika
Coomaraswamy, investigated violence against women in the country's armed
conflict (see Sections 1.g. and 5).
Armed groups also
targeted regional human rights ombudsmen. A paramilitary was charged in
the January murder of regional human rights ombudsman Ivan Villamizar
in Cucuta, Norte de Santander department. He remained in detention at
year's end. In July 2000, the FARC reportedly kidnaped and killed Jose
Manuel Bello, the municipal human rights ombudsman in Vigia del Fuerte,
Atrato, Antioquia department. In July 2000, unidentified armed men killed
Yemil Fernando Hurtado Castano, the human rights ombudsman in Narino municipality,
southeastern Antioquia department. The murders of Bello and Hurtado remained
under investigation at year's end. There was no reported progress in the
investigation of the 1999 killing of the Human Rights Ombudsman's representative
for San Juan Nepomuceno, Carlos Arturo Pareja, and his assistant.
NGO's linked suspected
paramilitary leader Libardo Humberto Prada Bayona to the August 2000 murder
of peace activist and former mayor Luis Fernando Rincon Lopez in Aguachica,
Cesar department; however, prosecutors have not linked Prada to the Rincon
murder, which remains unsolved. The case remained under investigation
at year's end. Prada was absolved by a Valledupar court for the 1998 killing
of local Redepaz coordinator Amparo Leonor Jimenez Pallares; prosecutors
were appealing the decision at year's end.
to investigate the 1999 AUC killings of southern Bolivar department peasant
leaders Edgar Quiroga and Gildardo Fuentes.
Arrest warrants remained
outstanding for Carlos Castano and four other members of paramilitary
groups for the 1997 murders of two CINEP workers and one other person
(see Section 1.a.).
In 1997 the UNHCHR
opened a field office in Bogota to observe human rights practices and
advise the Government; in April its mandate was extended through April
2002. The office is tasked with monitoring and analyzing the human rights
situation throughout the country and with the provision of assistance
to the Government, civil society, and NGO's in the field of human rights
protection. It submitted reports to the Government and to the U.N. during
the year. In March the UNHCHR report, which covered 2000, criticized a
lack of state effort to prevent and prosecute crimes by paramilitary groups,
and broadly criticized the continuing systemic problems of impunity, lack
of due process, and growing violence against women and children (see Sections
1.e. and 5). UNHCHR's report also criticized guerrilla abuses such as
killings, kidnaping, child recruitment, forced displacement, and interference
with medical missions (see Sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.g., 2.d., and 5). The
Government publicly criticized the UNHCHR's report for failing to acknowledge
The Government has
an extensive human rights apparatus, which includes the office of the
President's Adviser for Human Rights, headed by Vice President Gustavo
Bell. In September 2000, human rights expert Reinaldo Botero was named
director of the presidential program for human rights and international
humanitarian law. The executive branch's efforts on human rights are supported
by the Ministry of Interior, the human rights office of the MOD, and dependent
offices for each of the public security forces. The office of the National
Human Rights Ombudsman, its regional representatives and corps of public
defenders, the Inspector General's office and its delegate for human rights
and regional representatives, and the Prosecutor General's office and
its human rights unit are all independent institutions, not subject to
executive branch direction.
The House of Representatives
elects the Public Ministry's National Ombudsman for Human Rights for a
4-year term, which does not coincide with that of the President. The office
has the constitutional duty to ensure the promotion and exercise of human
rights. The Ombudsman provides public defense attorneys and a channel
for complaints of human rights violations (see Section 1.e.). However,
the Ombudsman lacks sufficient funding and staff. In August 2000, the
House of Representatives confirmed former Constitutional Court Judge Eduardo
Cifuentes Munoz as Human Rights Ombudsman. Cifuentes has been active in
his role, publicly criticizing a wide variety of human rights violations,
visiting massacre sites, and pressing for increased security and humanitarian
assistance for affected communities. His office, with international assistance,
is providing training for its regional ombudsmen and conducting public
education on human rights. The Ombudsman's office also is developing an
early warning system, which would allow the Ombudsman's office to track
threat information and subsequent government action to investigate threats
and protect the civilian population.
The Human Rights
Ombudsman's office processed 14,149 complaints in 2000 (the latest year
for which figures were available). Of these, 300 complaints concerned
extrajudicial killings, 125 concerned massacres, and 699 concerned threats.
The office also provided 32,295 free legal consultations through its corps
of more than 1,000 public defenders, many of whom work only part-time.
In 1999 the Vice
President enunciated the Government's human rights policy; however, despite
improvements, some aspects of implementation have been slow to materialize,
and there has been an overall increase in human rights violations by illegal
armed groups since 1999. The Government's national human rights plan called
for the respect, promotion, and assurance of human rights. It promised
increased government attention to the consequences of human rights abuses
and called on all armed factions to respect international humanitarian
law. The plan asserted that security forces would combat both guerrilla
and paramilitary forces. One of the plan's most important provisions permitted
the armed forces commander to remove from service summarily any military
member whose performance in combating paramilitary forces he deemed "unsatisfactory
or insufficient." In September 2000, the President signed 12 decrees
to reform and strengthen the military (see Section 1.e.).
Program for Human Rights established six regional intersectoral commissions,
which include NGO's, government officials, and state security forces,
to address human rights, development, and security concerns in vulnerable
areas. During the year, presidential staff and leading NGO's met to discuss
how best to structure cooperation on the national human rights plan. The
Presidential Program for Human Rights, the Ministry of the Interior, and
state security forces also coordinated to provide security for several
large civil society events such as the Plenary of the National Assembly
for Peace in Rionegro, the Caravan of Peace in Medio Magdalena, and a
major women's march to Barrancabermeja.
The MOD reported
in September that in the past 5 years, 119,349 security force members
received human rights training, including 2,269 human rights trainers.
The ICRC, the Colombian Red Cross, the Roman Catholic Church, elements
of the Government and security forces, and foreign governments provide
such training. Many observers credited these programs with having done
much to foster a climate of increased respect for human rights and international
humanitarian law within the military forces in recent years. In September
the MOD signed an agreement with two national universities and the Inter-American
Institute for Human Rights to conduct research and training on human rights
and organized several seminars intended to foster dialog with NGO's and
academics on human rights.
Section 5 Discrimination
Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability,
language, or social status; however, in practice, many of these provisions
are not enforced. The killing of homosexuals as part of the practice of
social cleansing continued, especially by the AUC (see Section 1.a.).
Rape and other acts
of violence against women are pervasive in society, and like other crimes,
seldom are prosecuted successfully. According to the Ombudsman's 2000
report, intrafamilial violence, sexual assault, and the murder of women
were increasing problems. The governmental Institute for Family Welfare
and the Presidential Adviser's Office for Youth, Women, and Family Affairs
continued to report high levels of spousal and partner abuse throughout
the country. Between January and August, the Institute for Forensic Medicine
reported 19,066 cases of spousal abuse. There were 8,757 cases of domestic
violence by other family members. The Institute reported 2,834 cases of
sex crimes (excluding figures for Bogota) including rape, the rape of
minors, and other forms of sexual abuse. The Institute commented that
the crimes of domestic violence and rape are grossly underreported, citing
its 1995 survey that indicated that as few as 5 percent of these crimes
are reported, and that only 2 percent of victims receive a medical evaluation.
The ICBF conducted programs and provided refuge and counseling for victims
of spousal abuse; however, the level and amount of these services were
dwarfed by the magnitude of the problem. For example, each of the ICBF's
530 family ombudsmen handle approximately 1,160 cases per year.
The 1996 Law on Family
Violence criminalizes violent acts committed within families, including
spousal rape. The law also provides legal recourse for victims of family
violence, immediate protection from physical or psychological abuse, and
judicial authority to remove the abuser from the household. It allows
a judge to oblige an abuser to seek therapy or reeducation. For acts of
spousal sexual violence, the law mandates sentences of 6 months to 2 years
and denies probation or bail to offenders who disobey restraining orders
issued by the courts.
A 1997 law also made
additional, substantial modifications to the Penal Code and introduced
sentences of between 4 and 40 years for crimes against sexual freedom
or human dignity, including rape, sex with a minor, sexual abuse, induction
into prostitution, and child pornography. The June 2000 reforms to the
Penal Code approved reduced the maximum sentence for violent sexual assault
from 20 to 15 years; the minimum sentence is 8 years. The Institute of
Forensic Medicine reported 13,703 cases of probable rape during 2000.
First Lady Nohra Puyana de Pastrana is on the board of directors of the
ICBF and works with the "Make Peace" program, which provides
support to women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Under
the auspices of the same program, the Human Rights Ombudsman's office
conducted regional training workshops in various cities to promote application
of domestic violence statutes.
Women also faced
an increased threat of torture and sexual assault due to the internal
conflict (see Section 1.g.). In November the U.N. Special Rapporteur on
violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, investigated violence against
women in the country's armed conflict. The UNHCHR, CODHES, and the Human
Rights Ombudsman all noted that internally displaced women and girls are
especially vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation
(see Section 2.d.). In August the Colombian Pro-Family Institute published
a Study of Sexual Health and Reproduction in Displaced Women and Adolescents.
One of the greatest problems facing displaced women is adolescent pregnancy;
3 out of 10 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 have a child or are pregnant.
According to the study, one out of five displaced women have been raped,
a significant percentage by their husbands or companions. International
organizations and NGO's have noted with deep concern that sexual violence
is largely unreported and that no long-term assistance is available to
female IDP's. In addition, they criticized the use of female combatants
in guerrilla organizations as sex slaves. Former female guerrillas also
have reported forced abortions and forced implantation of intrauterine
devices (see Section 1.g.).
is not legal, is a problem, which has been aggravated by a poor economy
and internal displacement. Sex tourism exists to a limited extent, especially
in coastal cities like Cartagena and Barranquilla. It is likely that some
number of marriage and dating services are covers for sex tourism activities.
Trafficking in women
for sexual exploitation is a problem (see Section 6.f.).
The law prohibits
sexual harassment; however, it is a problem.
prohibits any form of discrimination against women and specifically requires
the authorities to ensure "adequate and effective participation by
women at decision making levels of public administration." Even prior
to implementation of the 1991 Constitution, the law had provided women
with extensive civil rights. However, despite these constitutional provisions,
discrimination against women persists. A 2000 study by the University
of Rosario concluded that women faced hiring discrimination, and that
women's salaries were generally incompatible with their education and
experience. The salary gap between men and women widened from 1990 through
2000, reaching a high point in 1999 as the country's economy declined.
The study also noted that women were affected disproportionately by unemployment.
Government unemployment statistics for 2000 indicated that the unemployment
rate for men was 16.9 percent, while the rate for women was 24.5 percent.
According to the March 2000 report of the UNHCHR, women earn 28 percent
less than men do. The National Statistics Institute reported that a higher
percentage of women were employed in minimum wage jobs. According to U.N.
statistics, women's earnings for formal sector, nonagricultural work correspond
to approximately 85 percent of men's earnings for comparable work, and
women must demonstrate higher qualifications than men when applying for
jobs. Moreover, women constitute a disproportionately high percentage
of the subsistence labor work force, especially in rural areas. Female
rural workers are affected most by wage discrimination and unemployment.
Despite an explicit
constitutional provision promising additional resources for single mothers
and government efforts to provide them with training in parenting skills,
women's groups reported that the social and economic problems of single
mothers remained great. According to a 1997 Constitutional Court decision,
pregnant women and mothers of newborn children less than 3 months of age
may not be fired from their jobs without "just cause." The court
ruled that bearing children was not just cause.
legislative commitments to the protection of children's rights were implemented
only to a minimal degree. The Constitution imposes an obligation on the
family, society, and the State to assist and protect children, to foster
their development, and to ensure the full exercise of these rights. The
Children's Code describes many of these rights and establishes services
and programs designed to enforce the protection of minors. Children's
advocates reported the need to educate citizens regarding the code as
well as the 1996 and 1997 laws on family violence, which increase legal
protection for women and children. The ICBF oversees all government child
protection and welfare programs and funds nongovernmental and church programs
formally provides for free public education, which is compulsory between
the ages of 6 and 15. An estimated 25 percent of children in this age
group do not attend school, due to lax enforcement of truancy laws, inadequate
classroom space, and economic pressures to provide income for the family.
The Government provides for the cost of primary education, but many families
face additional expenses such as matriculation fees, books, school items,
and transportation costs (which are significant in rural areas where children
may live far from school). These costs can be prohibitive, especially
for the rural poor.
The law obliges the
Government to provide medical care for children; however, medical facilities
are not universally available, especially in rural areas.
Child abuse is a
problem. The National Institute for Forensic Medicine reported 5,471 cases
of child abuse between January and August; there were 9,896 reported cases
in 2000. According to the March 2000 report of the UNHCHR, sexual abuse
is prevalent, particularly of children between the ages of 5 and 14 years
of age. In 70 to 80 percent of cases, children know their abusers.
According to UNICEF,
an estimated 35,000 boys and girls under age 18 work as prostitutes. A
1996 law prohibits sex with minors or the employment of minors for prostitution.
In August 2000, the Prosecutor General's Specialized Sex Crimes and Human
Dignity Unit reported that from August 1999 to August 2000 it opened 41
cases in which a child under 14 was induced or lured into prostitution.
Children are trafficked
for sexual exploitation (see Section 6.f.).
Child labor is a
significant problem (see Section 6.d.).
In conflict zones,
children often were caught in the crossfire between public security forces,
paramilitary groups, and guerrilla organizations. For example, on March
9, seven children were injured near Popayan, Cauca department, by a grenade
left behind by the ELN. MOD figures indicated that approximately 200 children
were killed due to the conflict during 2000. Children suffered disproportionately
from the internal conflict, often forfeiting opportunities to study as
they were displaced by conflict and suffered psychological traumas. According
to UNICEF, over 1 million children have been displaced from their homes
over the past decade (see Section 2.d.). The Human Rights Ombudsman's
office estimated that only 15 percent of displaced children attend school.
Both female and male children who have been displaced are especially vulnerable
to abuse, sexual exploitation, or recruitment by criminals.
guerrillas forcibly recruited children, and the use of child soldiers
was common (see Section 1.f.) Sexual abuse of girls is a particular problem
(see Sections 1.f. and 1.g.).
In 2000 UNICEF reported
that various armed groups had killed 460 children over the previous 4
years and kidnaped another 789 children (see Section 1.b.). Children were
among the preferred kidnaping targets of guerrillas (see Section 1.b.).
Pais Libre reported that the number of children kidnaped annually increased
from 206 in 1999, to 265 in 2000, and to 205 as of October. According
to the MOD, 213 minors were kidnaped between January and August. Among
the 213 were 29 babies less than 2 years of age, and 57 of these children
still were in captivity as of August. For example, the FARC kidnaped 3-year-old
Andres Felipe Navas in April 2000 and did not release him until November
2001. In April 2000, the FARC also kidnaped 9-year-old Dagoberto Ospina
Ospina from his school bus in southern Cali and did not release him until
early in the year (see Section 1.f.).
Persons with Disabilities
enumerates the fundamental social, economic, and cultural rights of the
persons with physical disabilities; however, serious practical impediments
exist that prevent the full participation of persons with disabilities
in society. There is no legislation that specifically mandates access
for persons with disabilities. (Most public buildings and public transport
are not accessible to persons with disabilities.) According to the Constitutional
Court, persons with physical disabilities must have access to, or if they
so request, receive assistance at, voting stations. The Court also has
ruled that the social security fund for public employees cannot refuse
to provide services for the children of its members who have disabilities,
regardless of the cost involved.
There are 82 distinct
ethnic groups among the country's 716,400 indigenous inhabitants, who
constitute about 2 percent of the country's population. These groups are
concentrated in the Andes mountains, Pacific Coast lowlands, the Guajira
Peninsula, and Amazonas department. According to the National Organization
of Colombia's Indigenous (ONIC), 93 percent of indigenous people live
in rural areas; and approximately 115,000 indigenous people are without
gives special recognition to the fundamental rights of indigenous people.
The Ministry of Interior, through the office of indigenous affairs, is
responsible for protecting the territorial, cultural, and self-determination
rights of indigenous people. Ministry representatives are located in all
regions of the country with indigenous populations and work with other
governmental human rights organizations, as well as with NGO human rights
groups and civil rights organizations, to promote indigenous interests
and investigate violations of indigenous rights. Nonetheless, members
of indigenous groups suffer discrimination because they traditionally
have been relegated to the margins of society. Few opportunities exist
for those who might wish to participate more fully in modern life. The
March 2000 report of the UNHCHR noted that an estimated 80 percent of
the indigenous population live in conditions of extreme poverty, that
74 percent receive wages below the legal minimum, and that their municipalities
have the highest rates of poverty. In addition, indigenous communities
suffer disproportionately from the internal armed conflict (see Section
1.g.). Members of indigenous communities often flee together in mass displacements,
relocating to other indigenous communities (see Section 2.d.).
According to the
National Agrarian Reform Institute (INCORA), 70,049 indigenous families
(377,085 persons, or 60 percent of the country's total indigenous population)
live on designated reserves. Indigenous groups' rights to their ancestral
lands are by law permanent. INCORA reports that approximately 80 percent
of these lands have been demarcated. However, armed groups often violently
contested indigenous land ownership. According to ONIC, roughly 95 percent
of the country's natural resources are found on indigenous reservations
and claimed territories. Traditional Indian authority boards operate some
545 reserves; the boards handle national or local funds and are subject
to fiscal oversight by the national Comptroller General. These boards
administer their territories as municipal entities, with officials elected
or otherwise chosen according to tradition.
that some 200 indigenous communities had no legal title to land that they
claimed as their own. According to INCORA, more than 12,603,496 acres
(approximately 28 percent of the national territory) have been recognized
legally as indigenous lands. It is buying back much of this land, which
was settled by mestizo peasants, and returning it to indigenous groups.
provides for a special criminal and civil jurisdiction within indigenous
territories based upon traditional community laws. However, some observers
asserted that these special jurisdictions were subject to manipulation,
and that punishments rendered by such community courts were often much
more lenient than those imposed by regular civilian courts.
are free to educate their children in traditional dialects and in the
observance of cultural and religious customs. Indigenous men are not subject
to the national military draft.
Members of indigenous
communities continued to be victims of all sides in the internal conflict,
and a number of them were killed. The UNHCHR's office reported that 10
indigenous leaders were killed between January and August. The UNHCHR
strongly criticized both paramilitary and FARC threats against indigenous
communities and characterized government investigations of human rights
violations against indigenous groups as insufficient. ONIC reported in
July that 35 members of indigenous groups were killed between January
and July. ONIC reported widespread cases in which members of indigenous
communities, particularly in Putumayo, are forbidden to leave their community
without either paramilitary or FARC permission, in which paramilitaries
have blockaded communities, or in which indigenous people returning from
urban areas are accused by guerrillas of being paramilitary collaborators.
For example, in May
leaders of the Arhuacos people told the press that they fear that the
civil war could destroy their tribe as they become caught in the crossfire
between the FARC and the AUC. On November 24, AUC gunmen attacked an indigenous
reservation near Rio Sucio Cauca department; they killed five persons
and threatened others. In December attacks by the AUC killed seven persons,
while a subsequent attack by the FARC killed a 14-year-old girl in the
village of San Lorenzo. The attacks wounded 3 other persons and destroyed
In June in Cordoba
department, presumed paramilitaries kidnaped and reportedly killed Embera
leader Kimy Pernia Domico, well-known for his opposition to the Urra reservoir
project (see Section 1.b.).
Paez leader Cristobal
Secue Tombe was killed in June. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca
(CRIC) attributed Secue's murder to the FARC and said the killing may
have been retribution for Secue's investigations of crimes by the FARC.
Also in June, unknown persons shot and killed Alberto Sabugara Velasquez,
spokesman for the Tascicogucho community of Alto Baudo, in Quibdo, Choco
department. Following these crimes, in July ONIC announced that it would
suspend its participation in working groups with the Government for at
least 30 days and demanded that the Administration clarify its policy
toward indigenous people. ONIC maintained its suspension of dialog with
the Government at year's end.
In August unidentified
men killed Masael Cheta Cety, the indigenous governor of the Cristal Paez
reservation in Florida municipality, Valle del Cauca department, and his
In July the Special
Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on human rights defenders,
Hina Jilani, and the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights
on extrajudical, summary, or arbitrary execution, Asma Jahangir, expressed
their deep concern over the murder and disappearance of indigenous leaders
in the country. They drew the attention of the Government in particular
to the paramilitary killing in June of Embera-Katio leader Pedro Alirio
Domico, governor of Esmeralda River Indigenous Reserve, Cordoba department,
and Alberto Sabugara Velasquez, leader of the Gengaro Indigenous Reserve,
The authorities are
seeking the detention of two suspects in the December 2000 murder of Embera
leader Armando Achito in Jurado municipality, Choco department. The authorities
continued to investigate the June 2000 murder of Joselito Bailarin, the
Embera-Katio governor of the community of Canaverales, in Murri de Frontino
in Antioquia department, by presumed paramilitaries. The authorities also
continued to investigate the March 2000 disappearance of indigenous leader
Jairo Bedoya Hoyos. The Indigenous Organization of Antioquia (OIA) held
the AUC responsible. In an open letter, the AUC stated that it did not
have Bedoya in its custody.
guerrilla groups have forced indigenous people, including children, into
their ranks (see Section 1.f.).
U'wa objection to
initial drilling by Occidental Petroleum in an area near, but not on,
their reserve continued. There was little exploration activity during
the year due to security problems unrelated to the dispute with the U'wa,
and no large demonstrations against the project were reported. The U'wa
had filed several court challenges to drilling, and succeeded in winning
brief delays before appeal courts ruled in favor of the Government's arrangement
with Occidental. The U'wa reserve measures 1.25 million acres and has
estimated oil reserves of up to 1 billion barrels. In August 2000, a technical
working group including the Ministries of Interior and Environment, as
well as an advisor to the U'wa, had reported that the Government and Occidental
Petroleum were complying with all applicable regulations. The U'wa broke
off talks with the Government in September 2000, in response to a ruling
by the Government's agrarian reform agency authorizing the state oil company
to purchase lands to create a buffer zone around the drilling area, and
talks remained suspended during the year.
According to the
National Planning Department, the country has approximately 10.6 million
citizens of African heritage. The departments with the largest number
of Afro-Colombians are Valle, Antioquia, Bolivar, Atlantico, Magdalena,
and Cordoba. However, the Pacific department of Choco has the highest
percentage of Afro-Colombian residents, at 85 percent. There are also
significant numbers of Afro-Colombians along the Caribbean coast. Although
estimates vary, government figures indicate that Afro-Colombians represent
approximately 26 percent of the total population.
entitled to all constitutional rights and protections; however, they traditionally
have suffered from discrimination. Afro-Colombian organizations report
that Afro-Colombians have almost no representation in the executive branch,
judicial branch, and civil service positions, and in military hierarchies
(see Section 3). In addition, Afro-Colombian communities report that they
have been disproportionately affected by violence related to the conflict.
For example, according to the UNHCHR, approximately one-third of IDP's
are indigenous or Afro-Colombian (see Section 2.d.).
Despite the passage
of the Afro-Colombian law in 1993, little concrete progress has been made
in expanding public services and private investment in Choco department
or other predominantly Afro-Colombian regions. The same law also authorized
Afro-Colombian communities to receive collective titles to some Pacific
coastlands; however, Afro-Colombian leaders complained that the Government
was slow to issue titles, and that their access to such lands often was
inhibited by the presence of armed groups or individuals. Unemployment
among Afro-Colombians ran as high as 76 percent in some communities. The
March 2000 report of the UNHCHR noted that an estimated 80 percent of
Afro-Colombians live in conditions of extreme poverty, that 74 percent
receive wages below the legal minimum, and that their municipalities have
the highest rates of poverty. Choco remains the department with the lowest
per capita level of social investment and is last in terms of education,
health, and infrastructure. It also has been the scene of some of the
country's most enduring political violence, as paramilitary forces and
guerrillas struggled for control of the Uraba region.
Section 6 Worker
a. The Right of Association
provides for the right to organize unions, except for members of the armed
forces, police, and persons executing "essential public services"
as defined by law. In practice, violence against union members and antiunion
discrimination are obstacles to joining unions and engaging in trade union
activities. Labor leaders around the country continue to be targets of
attacks by paramilitary groups, guerrillas, and narcotics traffickers.
Union leaders contend that perpetrators of violence against workers, particularly
members of paramilitary groups, operate with virtual impunity.
The heavily amended
1948 Labor Code provides for automatic recognition of unions that obtain
25 signatures from potential members and comply with a simple registration
process. However, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has received
reports that this process is slow and sometimes takes years. The law penalizes
interference with freedom of association and allows unions to determine
freely their internal rules, elect officials, and manage activities. The
law also forbids the dissolution of trade unions by administrative fiat.
Law 584, which the President approved in 1999, limits government interference
in a union's right to free association in accordance with recommendations
made by the ILO Direct Contacts Mission. However, the law includes a provision
authorizing Ministry of Labor officials to compel trade unions to provide
interested third parties with relevant information on their work, including
books, registers, plans, and other documents. The ILO Committee of Experts
considers this amendment to be inconsistent with freedom of association,
since it believes an administrative authority only should conduct investigations
when there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offense has been
According to the
National Labor College ("Escuela Nacional Sindical", or ENS),
a Medellin-based NGO which collects, studies, and consolidates information
on organized labor in the country, as of October, there were 2,482 registered
unions with 860,281 affiliates. These figures are significantly lower
than the 5,470 unions and 1,054,400 affiliates reported by the Ministry
of Labor in 1997. Although specific statistics for the year are not available,
a continuing downward trend is discernable. Only 4.5 percent of the work
force of approximately 19 million is unionized. According to the CCJ,
89 percent of these workers are in the public sector. Government and labor
sources estimate that between 87 and 95 percent of unions are affiliated
with 1 of 3 confederations: The center-left United Workers' Central (CUT),
with which 45 to 50 percent of unions are affiliated; the Social Christian
Colombian Democratic Workers' Confederation (CGTD), with which approximately
30 percent of unions are affiliated; and the Liberal Party-affiliated
Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC), with which 12 to 15 percent
of unions are affiliated.
provides for the right to strike, except for members of the armed forces,
police, and persons executing essential public services as defined by
Labor leaders nationwide
continue to be targeted for attacks by paramilitaries, guerrillas, and
narcotics traffickers. According to the U.N., the ILO, and trade union
leaders, the vast majority of killings and attacks on labor leaders are
committed by paramilitaries. According to the ENS, a total of 184 union
activists were killed during the year. The ENS also reported that 23 unionists
survived attempts on their lives, 203 were threatened with death, 37 were
kidnaped, 12 disappeared, and 56 were forcibly displaced. Nearly 1,600
union members have been murdered since 1991, and unions face widespread
societal hostility because some observers see them as "subversive."
On January 22, an
alleged paramilitary murdered Jose Luis Guete Montero, president of the
National Union of Industrial and Agricultural Workers (SINALTRAINAGRO).
An investigation was opened but had not made any significant progress
by year's end. In March Valmore Locarno Rodriguez and Victor Hugo Orcasita,
local president and vice president of miners' union SINTRAMINERGETICA
at Drummond Corporation's La Loma coal mine in the northeastern department
of Cesar, were abducted from their company bus and killed. In October
presumed paramilitaries abducted Locarno's replacement as union president,
Gustavo Soler, and then tortured and killed him.
In April Ricardo
Orozco, vice president of the Hospital Workers Union was shot and killed
near Barranquilla. Orozco's name had appeared on a list of union activists
targeted by paramilitaries.
On June 21, Oscar
Dario Soto Polo, chairman of the National Beverage Workers Union (SINALTRAINBEC)
and a member of the CUT national committee, was killed in broad daylight
while walking his 8-year-old daughter home from school. Soto's death and
other murders, kidnapings, and incidents of harassment of beverage industry
workers led the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor
Rights Fund to file suit in July in a U.S. district court on behalf of
SINALTRAINAL, the Colombian National Food Industry Workers Union, against
Coca-Coca and two affiliated Colombian bottlers. The suit alleges that
the company has colluded with paramilitaries to harass, intimidate, kidnap,
and kill union leaders over the past 10 years. Coca-Cola and its affiliated
bottlers strongly deny the accusations.
On July 6, Hernando
Hernandez Pardo, president of the Oil Workers Trade Union (USO), was reported
barely to have escaped an attempt on his life by alleged paramilitaries
On November 30, the
AUC kidnaped Aury Sara Marrugo, president of the Cartagena chapter of
the USO, and his bodyguard. On December 5, their bodies were found near
Cartagena. AUC political head Carlos Castano acknowledged kidnaping and
executing Sara, who, Castano claimed, had confessed to being the commander
of a local ELN front.
As of March, the
Government had detained eight persons in connection with the December
2000 attempt to kill public employee union president Wilson Borja, an
outspoken critic of paramilitary leader Carlos Castano and prominent advocate
of the Government's negotiations with the ELN. In February the authorities
arrested active duty police captain Carlos Gomez. The Inspector General's
office alleged that Gomez had links to paramilitaries. Other detainees
include an active duty army major, two retired members of the military,
and four suspected paramilitaries. In December in response to new, credible
death threats, Borja left the country.
outstanding warrants for the arrest of paramilitary members Temilda Rosa
Martinez and Eduardo Manrique Morales for the 1999 killing of Julio Alfonso
Poveda, a CUT founder. In December 2000, the Prosecutor General's office
arraigned three hired killers alleged to have killed CUT vice president
Jorge Ortega in 1998.
There is still no
information in the 1999 bombings of both the Association of Rural Land
Users in Sincelejo, Sucre Department, and the Medellin office of the USO,
where a bomb was defused. According to the ENS, there have been 14 bombing
attempts against union offices in the last 4 years.
One of the 25 special
human rights investigative subunits of the Prosecutor General's office
is responsible for investigating cases of human rights violations against
trade unionists, and there was a significant increase in the legal budget
for judicial employees in 2000 that was maintained during the year. On
the whole, government identification of perpetrators of crimes against
trade union members has been slow, a situation which the ILO Special Representative's
June report noted is aggravated by the difficulties faced by the office
of the Inspector General and the judiciary in carrying out their inquiries
and offering adequate assurances of protection so that witnesses are willing
to come forward.
In February 2000,
an ILO Direct Contacts Mission visited the country to examine alleged
abuses of workers' rights to life, free association, and collective bargaining.
In June 2000, the Mission presented a report to the Governing Body's Committee
on Freedom of Association (CFA) which noted that the Government was "making
sincere efforts" to address these problems. However, the report expressed
concern over the number of murders, kidnapings, death threats, and other
violent assaults on trade union leaders and unionized workers and stated
that murders of trade union leaders and unionized workers were a "regular"
occurrence. In response, the ILO committee on free association recommended
an urgent inquiry into the participation of public officials in the creation
of self-defense or paramilitary groups, an increase in government budgetary
allocations to protect trade union officials, and an increase in efforts
to combat impunity.
To monitor compliance
with its recommendations, the ILO appointed Rafael Albuquerque, former
Minster of Labor of the Dominican Republic, as ILO Special Representative
to the country. Albuquerque began his work in October 2000 and presented
a report to the ILO Administrative Committee in June. His report noted
apparent government progress in combating paramilitarism; however, he
also noted that the Government had been unable to stem effectively the
violence affecting the trade union movement. Albuquerque also commented
that in many departments of the country where there was little or no presence
of the security forces, paramilitary groups continue to dismantle trade
unions by threatening the members of their executive committees.
In 1999 the Government
developed the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and
Trade Union Leaders to protect trade unionists from violence. As of December,
the program had provided protection for 158 trade union premises and 1,033
leaders and activists. These individuals are provided with bulletproof
vests, bodyguards, and in some cases vehicles. To pay for these expanded
measures, the Government increased its budget for protective measures
by over 400 percent. In May Claudia Caceres, director of the protection
program, stated that her office was overwhelmed by the increase in its
caseload. The number of cases has grown from 300 in 1999 to over 2,300
cases in December. Trade unionists complain that even these increased
measures are insufficient to protect adequately the large number of trade
unionists who are threatened, and they continued to press for more efforts
to break the impunity with which most of these acts are committed.
Based on government
commitments to combat paramilitarism, protect union members, and overcome
impunity, the ILO decided in June not to send a formal Commission of Inquiry
to the country. Instead, the ILO decided that its satellite office in
the country should remain open and that a technical commission should
be formed to assist the country in complying with recommendations made
in the Special Representative's June report. The recommendations found
in the June report focus on improving protective measures for union members,
combating impunity, and encouraging freedom of association.
Before staging a
legal strike, unions first must negotiate directly with management and,
if no agreement results, accept mediation. The Labor Code prohibits the
use of strike breakers. Legislation that prohibits all public employees
from striking is still in effect, although it often is overlooked. By
law, public employees must accept binding arbitration if mediation fails;
however, in practice, public service unions decide by membership vote
whether or not to seek arbitration.
In March state workers
from the national, departmental, and municipal governments staged a 24-hour
general strike to protest state sector layoffs and proposed reforms to
the national pension system. In May teachers and health care workers,
fearing reductions in their respective budgets, went on strike to protest
proposed legislation that would have changed how public money is distributed
to departments and municipalities. In June public sector workers staged
a 48-hour strike to protest the Government's program of structural reforms.
Workers at the Red Cross and the Social Security Institute also went on
strike to protest proposed changes in their respective institutions. On
November 1, members of the CUT, the CGTD, and the CTC staged a 24-hour
strike to protest the Government's economic and social policies, high
unemployment, and violence against labor leaders and human rights activists.
Strike organizers stated that some 500,000 government workers took part
in the action. The longest strike of the year took place from December
18, 2000, to February 28, at the factories of beverage manufacturer Bavaria,
where over 6,300 employees walked out to protest stalled contract negotiations.
In August thousands
of Bogota cab and bus drivers went on strike to protest restrictions on
the circulation of public transportation vehicles; 20 persons were injured
in the demonstrations. The strike paralyzed the capital for several days
before the mayor and transportation unions negotiated a solution.
The Government still
has not addressed a number of ILO criticisms of the Labor Code. The ILO
had complained about the following provisions of the law: The requirement
that government officials be present at assemblies convened to vote on
a strike call; the legality of firing union organizers from jobs in their
trades once 6 months have passed following a strike or dispute; the requirement
that contenders for trade union offices must belong to the occupation
that their union represents; the prohibition of strikes in a wide range
of public services that are not necessarily essential; various restrictions
on the right to strike; the power of the Minister of Labor and the President
to intervene in disputes through compulsory arbitration when a strike
is declared illegal; and the power to dismiss trade union officers involved
in an unlawful strike. The ILO's June report noted the Government's continuing
failure to address these criticisms.
Unions are free to
join international confederations without government restrictions and
do so in practice.
b. The Right to Organize
and Bargain Collectively
protects the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining.
Workers in large firms and public services have been most successful in
organizing, but these employees represent only a small percentage of the
workforce. High unemployment, a large informal economic sector, traditional
antiunion attitudes, and weak union organization and leadership limit
workers' bargaining power in all sectors. A requirement that trade unions
must represent a majority of workers in each company as a condition for
representing them in sectoral agreements further weakens workers' bargaining
The law forbids antiunion
discrimination and the obstruction of free association. However, according
to union leaders, both discrimination and obstruction of free association
occur frequently. Government labor inspectors theoretically enforce these
provisions; however, there are only 271 labor inspectors to cover 1,097
municipalities and more than 300,000 companies. The inspection apparatus
is therefore weak. Furthermore, labor inspectors often lack basic equipment,
including vehicles. Guerrillas sometimes deter labor inspectors from performing
their duties by declaring them military targets. In some cases paramilitaries
have threatened unionists with killing if they do not renounce their collective
bargaining agreements and carried out those threats.
The Labor Code calls
for fines to be levied for restricting freedom of association.
between individual workers and their employers--are not subject to collective
bargaining and typically are used by employers to obstruct labor organization.
Although employers must register collective pacts with the Ministry of
Labor, the Ministry does not exercise any oversight or control over them.
The Labor Code also
eliminates mandatory mediation in private labor-management disputes and
extends the grace period before the Government can intervene in a conflict.
Federations and confederations may assist affiliate unions in collective
Labor law applies
in the country's 15 free trade zones (FTZ's), but its standards often
are not enforced in these zones. Public employee unions have won collective
bargaining agreements in the FTZ's of Barranquilla, Buenaventura, Cartagena,
and Santa Marta, but the garment manufacturing enterprises in Medellin
and Risaralda, which have the largest number of employees, are not organized.
c. Prohibition of
Forced or Compulsory Labor
forbids slavery and any form of forced or compulsory labor, and this prohibition
generally is respected in practice in the formal sector; however, women
and girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation (see Section
guerrillas forcibly conscripted indigenous people (see Section 5). There
were some reports that guerrillas use forced labor.
The law prohibits
forced or bonded labor by children; however, the Government does not have
the resources to enforce this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.d.).
Although there were no known instances of forced child labor in the formal
economy, several thousand children were forced to serve as paramilitary
or guerrilla combatants (see Sections 1.f. and 5) or to work as prostitutes
(see Section 5) or coca pickers, and trafficking in girls is a problem
(see Section 6.f.). According to Save the Children, nearly 325,000 children
working as domestic servants are fed poorly, are paid little or nothing,
and are not free to seek other employment.
d. Status of Child
Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in most jobs,
and the Labor Code prohibits the granting of work permits to children
under 18; however, child labor remains a significant problem, particularly
in the informal sector. A 1989 decree established the Minors Code and
prohibited the employment of children under age 12. It also required exceptional
conditions and the express authorization of the Labor Ministry to employ
children between the ages of 12 and 17. Children under age 14 are prohibited
from working, with the exception that those ages 12 and 13 may perform
light work with the permission of their parents and appropriate labor
authorities. Children ages 12 and 13 may work a maximum of 4 hours a day,
children ages 14 and 15 may work a maximum of 6 hours a day, and children
ages 16 and 17 may work a maximum of 8 hours a day. All child workers
are prohibited from working at night, or performing work where there is
a risk of bodily harm or exposure to excessive heat, cold, or noise. Children
are prohibited from working in a number of specific occupations, including
mining and construction; however, these requirements largely are ignored
in practice, and only 5 percent of working children possess the required
work permits. By allowing children ages 12 and 13 to work, even under
restricted conditions, the law contravenes international standards on
child labor, which set the minimum legal age for employment in developing
countries at 14 years.
In the formal sector,
child labor laws are enforced through periodic review by the Ministry
of Labor and the military, which ensure compliance with mandatory service
requirements. However, in the informal labor sector and rural areas, child
labor continues to be a problem, particularly in agriculture and mining.
Children as young as 11 work full-time in almost every aspect of the cut
flower industry. Even children enrolled in school or, in some cases, those
too young for school, accompany their parents to work at flower plantations
at night and on weekends. In the mining sector, coal mining presents the
most difficult child labor problem. Many marginal, usually family-run,
mining operations employ young children as a way to boost production and
income. It is estimated that between 1,200 and 2,000 children are involved.
The work is dangerous and the hours are long. Younger children carry water
and package coal, while those age 14 and up engage in more physically
demanding labor such as carrying bags of coal. These informal mining operations
are illegal. The Ministry of Labor reported that by the end of 1999 an
interagency governmental committee had removed approximately 80 percent
of child laborers from the informal mines and returned them to school.
The law prohibits
the employment of minors for prostitution; however, child prostitution
is a problem (see Section 5).
A Catholic Church
study conducted in 1999 reported that approximately 2.7 million children
work, including approximately 700,000 children who work as coca pickers.
Observers note that the economic downturn might increase the number of
children working, especially in rural areas. Child participation in agricultural
work soars at harvest time. All child workers must receive the national
minimum wage for the hours that they work. However, according to the Ministry
of Labor, working children between the ages of 7 and 15 earned between
13 and 47 percent of the minimum wage. An estimated 26 percent of working
children have regular access to health care; the health services of the
social security system cover only 10 percent of child laborers. Approximately
25 percent are employed in potentially dangerous activities. School attendance
by working children is significantly lower than for nonworking children,
especially in rural areas. A 1996 study by the national Human Rights Ombudsman
of child labor in Putumayo department found that 22 percent of children
between the ages of 5 and 18 were full-time coca pickers. In the municipality
of Orito, the figure reached 70 percent.
The Labor Ministry
has an inspector in each of the country's 32 departments and the national
capital district, responsible for certifying and conducting repeat inspections
of workplaces that employ children; however, the system lacks resources
and covers only 20 percent of the child labor force employed in the formal
sector of the economy. The National Committee for the Eradication of Child
Labor includes representatives from the Ministries of Labor, Health, Education,
and Communications, as well as officials from various other government
offices, unions, employer associations, and NGO's. The Government also
has obtained commitments from the country's leading trade associations
and unions to implement child labor eradication programs, some of which
were underway at year's end. In 2000 the Government formulated a 2000-02
Action Plan which gives priority to direct intervention on behalf of domestic
child workers, child miners, sexually exploited children, children in
trade activities, and children in the agricultural sector. Under the Action
Plan, the Government distributes funds to member organizations for child
labor eradication projects. It has also designed a project to collect
more reliable national data on child labor; results are expected in Spring
The law prohibits
forced and bonded labor by children; however, the Government is unable
to enforce this prohibition effectively. The ICBF estimates that paramilitary
and guerrilla groups employ 6,000 children as combatants (see Section
1.f.). Trafficking in girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation and
child prostitution are problems (see Sections 5 and 6.f.).
e. Acceptable Conditions
The Government sets
a uniform minimum wage for workers every January to serve as a benchmark
for wage bargaining. The monthly minimum wage, set by tripartite negotiations
among representatives of business, organized labor, and the Government
was about $125 (286,000 pesos). The minimum wage does not provide a decent
standard of living for a worker and family. Because the minimum wage is
based on the Government's target inflation rate, the minimum wage has
not kept up with real inflation in the past several years. An estimated
70 percent of all workers earn wages that are insufficient to cover the
costs of the Government's estimated low-income family shopping basket.
An estimated 76 percent of all workers earn no more than twice the minimum
The law provides
for a standard workday of 8 hours and a 48-hour workweek, but it does
not require a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours, a failing criticized
by the ILO.
comprehensive protection for workers' occupational safety and health;
however, these standards are poorly enforced, in part because of the small
number of Labor Ministry inspectors. In general, a lack of public safety
awareness, inadequate attention by unions, and lax enforcement by the
Labor Ministry result in a high level of industrial accidents and unhealthy
working conditions. Over 80 percent of industrial companies lack safety
plans. The Social Security Institute reported over 220,000 work-related
accidents during the year, resulting in 1,277 deaths. The industries most
prone to worker accidents were mining, construction, and transportation.
According to private professional risk management company SURATEP, work-related
accidents in the country cost $3.3 billion (7.25 trillion pesos) each
year, or approximately 3.7 percent of GNP. According to government statistics,
over 5 million persons--many of them children--work in the informal sector
and have no insurance against work-related injuries.
According to the
Labor Code, workers have the right to withdraw from a hazardous work situation
without jeopardizing continued employment. However, unorganized workers,
particularly those in the agricultural sector, fear losing their jobs
if they exercise their right to criticize abuses.
f. Trafficking in
In July a new Criminal
Code went into effect which defines trafficking in persons as a crime;
however, trafficking in persons, primarily women and girls, remains a
problem. Colombia is a source country for trafficking in women and girls
to Europe, the United States, Asia, and other Latin American countries.
The DAS reported in 2000 that the country is one of the three most common
countries of origin of trafficking victims in the Western Hemisphere;
in 2000 an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 Colombian trafficking victims were
overseas. The majority of women trafficked for prostitution reportedly
go to the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. A study
carried out in Spain in 1999 by the Roman Catholic religious order the
"Adoratrices" found that Colombian women constituted nearly
half of all trafficking victims in that country. The Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a report on trafficking in persons
in 1999 that stated that women and girls from Colombia also are trafficked
to North America. According to press reports, more than 50 percent of
women from Colombia who enter Japan are trafficking victims forced to
work as prostitutes. Law enforcement authorities report that most trafficked
persons come from the departments of Valle de Cauca, Antioquia, Santander,
Cundinamarca, and the coffee-growing regions of Risaralda, Caldas, Quindio,
Police report that
most traffickers are linked to narcotics or other criminal organizations.
Traffickers disguise their intent by running media ads offering jobs,
portraying themselves as modeling agents, offering marriage brokerage
services, or operating lottery or bingo scams with free trips as prizes.
Recruiters reportedly loiter outside high schools, shopping malls, and
parks to lure adolescents into accepting phantom jobs abroad.
The country's overall
situation of economic downturn, high unemployment, internal conflict between
three major illegal armed groups, and social exclusion contributes to
the availability of victims. While young women are the primary targets
of traffickers, children and men also are affected. According to officials
at the ICBF, a high rate of unwanted pregnancy in unwed teenage girls
contributes to trafficking in children.
Law 599 of 2000,
which became effective in July, made penalties for trafficking for purposes
of prostitution equivalent to those for rape and sexual assault, carrying
penalties of 6 to 8 years in prison and fines of up to 100 times the monthly
minimum wage, currently equivalent to $14,000 (39 million pesos). Trafficking
of children under the age of 14 carries a more severe sentence of 5 to
9 years in prison. Additional charges of illegal detention, violation
of the right to work in dignified conditions, and violation of personal
freedom also may be brought against traffickers. The Minister of Justice
is lobbying for passage of even stricter antitrafficking legislation that
would increase the penalty for trafficking for purposes of prostitution
to 10 to 15 years, with heavier penalties for aggravating factors. The
Prosecutor General's office reported investigating 110 cases of trafficking
between 1998-2001, resulting in 18 convictions to date.
According to the
DAS, Interpol rescued 140 Colombian trafficking victims abroad during
1998-2001, and the National Police rescued an additional 147 victims during
In May authorities
captured four members of a criminal gang that kidnaped children and sold
have addressed the problem of trafficking within the country's own borders.
According to UNICEF, approximately 25,000 children--16,000 of them between
8 and 12 years of age--are victims of sexual exploitation (see Section
5). The ICBF estimates that in Bogota alone there are over 10,000 girls
and nearly 1,000 boys exploited as child prostitutes. In 2000 the Prosecutor
General's office created the Center for Attention to Victims of Sexual
Crimes, which as of December had provided legal assistance in 2,200 cases
of sexual aggression against women and children. During the year, the
ICBF provided assistance, either directly or through other specialized
agencies, to over 14,000 sexually exploited children.
A government advisory
committee composed of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Interpol, the DAS, the Ministry of Justice, the Inspector General's office,
the Prosecutor General's office, and the Presidency meets every 2 months
to discuss trafficking in persons. Since 1997 the committee has prepared
information campaigns, promoted information exchange between government
entities, created trafficking hot lines for victims, and encouraged closer
cooperation between the Government and Interpol. Mayoral and gubernatorial
staffs taking office following the October 2000 elections were given training
by the Ministry of Justice and "Fundacion Esperanza" or the
Hope Foundation (a Colombian NGO) on the problems of trafficking and the
importance of expanding social services to populations vulnerable to trafficking.
In November 2000, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Hope Foundation
held the first national conference on trafficking in persons. A second
conference sponsored by the IOM, the Catholic Church, several local NGO's,
and the city of Medellin took place in Medellin in November.
Victims do have access
to generally limited government social services. In addition, the Government
has instructed its consulates in foreign countries to provide legal and
social assistance to victims of trafficking and has contracted 46 legal
advisors and 16 social workers to help victims abroad. Government officials
work with NGO representatives to arrange to meet returning victims at
The Hope Foundation,
which assisted 57 trafficking victims in 2000, provides educational information,
social support, and counseling to victims of trafficking who return to
the country. It does not receive money from, but cooperates with the Government.
Services provided by the Hope Foundation in coordination with government
social service agencies include psychological counseling, social assistance,
placement, and follow-up care.
As of March 6, 2002,
this document was also available online at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/wha/8326.htm