Commissioners: Maria Silvia Guillén, Dinah Shelton, Luz Patricia Mejía, José de Jesús Orozco Henriquez Petitioners: Corporación Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (CCAJAR); Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ); Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz; Corporación Jurídica Libertad. Respondent: State of Colombia Update: “Without our territories, we are nothing.” This is the message that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) received on March 28, 2011, conveyed by petitioners on behalf of the almost 5 million victims of forced displacement in Colombia. The petitioners were composed of representatives of Corporación Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (CCAJAR); Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ); Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz; and Corporación Jurídica Libertad. The Colombian State was represented by officials from the Chancellery, Programa Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos (Presidential Program for Human Rights), and the Fiscalía General de la Nación (Office of the Prosecutor General). The petitioners argued that the Colombian State has structurally failed and exhibited negligence in the protection of internally displaced people (IDP), that national policies regarding this population do not meet the standards set by the IACHR, and that the IDP population has no remedies at the national level to receive effective protection of their rights and of their territories. Petitioners based their argument on several facts. They explained that IDPs are de facto unprotected. That is reflected in the recurrent violations of the right to life of IDP leaders, and the lack of due diligence of the state in the identification, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators. Petitioners mentioned, in particular, the murders of Oscar Mauta, Rogelio Martinez, and Fernando Enamorado. In addition to their violent deaths, these three campesino leaders have in common their fight for the restitution of their communities’ lands, the threats preceding their murders, and that these crimes could have been avoided because public authorities knew about the risk that these leaders were facing. Petitioners explained that around 10 percent of the agricultural surface of Colombian territory has been seized from its legitimate owners by illegal groups. Human rights organizations report that many communities are displaced each day, and that the threat of displacement is ongoing for many of them. The judicial system has been unable to punish the crime of forced displacement; judicial authorities do not investigate complex violations of human rights that accompany forced displacement and there is no investigation of the facts that provoked the displacement, such massacres or sexual violence. Victims also face obstacles to participating in legal processes because they cannot become civil parties in these cases, and therefore can neither access basic information about the case nor provide or ask for evidence. Representatives of the state agreed with the petitioners that the situation of forced displacement in Colombia is serious. They argued, however, that the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos is putting in place many initiatives that seek to pay the historical debt to the forced displaced population. The government supports the proposal of “victims’ legislation” that the Congress is currently discussing. This legislation seeks to provide reparations to victims of the armed conflict that the country has experienced during the last five decades. The law proposed also contains remedies for land restitution to the IDPs and methodologies that will ensure that IDPs will be able to return to their lands. The government recognized that this ambitious legislation faces many problems, like the problems in the land entitlement system and the threat from illegal armed groups that, through violent actions, intend to persuade the government not to act regarding this problem. Representatives of the government mentioned that the Fiscalía General de la Nación is discussing the implementation of new methodologies of investigation that allow them to prosecute the cases of massive forced displacement instead of each isolated case. In addition, they argued that the Fiscalía General is aware of the importance of providing justice to IDPs and for this reason created a special unit to investigate this crime and a database that allows for the disaggregation of information according to gender and ethnic group. Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejía noted that petitioners and representatives of the state referred to different moments: while the petitioners representing the IDPs claimed that currently IDPs do not have legal remedies that ensure their protection and the protection of their lands, representatives of the State referred mostly to initiatives that the State is considering implementing. The State responded that some actions are currently in place, like the program of protection that covered 5,000 IDP leaders, although representatives recognized that those mechanisms are not enough and that ordinary legal remedies for land restitution are slow and cumbersome. The petitioners, for their part, pointed out that there is almost absolute impunity regarding the crime of forced displacement and remarked on problematic aspects of the legislation that the congress is discussing. Commissioners posed many crucial questions on topics that were not sufficiently discussed in order to assess the situation of IDPs and the effectiveness of the legal remedies. Commissioner Guillén inquired about the investigation against multinational companies that have benefited from lands of IDPs, how the prosecutor treats crimes connected to forced displacements, and how the government will resolve the conflicts that may arise between IDPs that want to return to their lands that those that are now occupied by multinational companies. Commissioner Orozco asked how the government is going to protect returning communities and provide guarantees of non-repetition of the crimes that caused the displacement once the lands are legally restituted. Finally, President Shelton asked how the State would address land restitution in cases involving indigenous communities that do not have formal titles over their lands. The petitioners requested, among other things, that the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women visit Colombia in order to assess the situation of IDP women, and that the IACHR recommend to the Colombian government the adoption of a protection system for IDPs engaged in the recovery of their lands. The hearing addressed many technical issues regarding the adequacy of legal mechanisms available for the protection of IDPs’ rights and how the Colombian state should comply with its international duty to investigate. The Commissioners expressed their interest in continuing the discussion with the State and civil society representatives in order to overcome a humanitarian crisis that is affecting million of Colombians, especially indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.