Commissioners: Felipe González, Tracy Robinson, Paulo Vannuchi
Executive Secretary: Emilio Álvarez Icaza Longoria, Elizabeth Abi-Mershed
Petitioners: Committee on Solidarity
On March 24, Petitioners representing various Colombian Human Rights Groups came before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to follow up on the Commission’s assessment of the human rights situation in the country.
According to Petitioners Committee on Solidarity, human rights continue to be severely oppressed in Colombia, with over 250 extrajudicial killings uninvestigated by the state. Petitioners stated that there were only an official response to eighty-five cases of alleged state sponsored kllings. The Committee on Solidarity considered the actions a violation of the Colombian state’s responsibility to respect citizens right to life under the OAS Charter. The group also pointed to an August 2013 Human Rights Watch Report detailing the sharp uptick in violence and the Colombian government’s anemic response. Two issues that were most important to the petitioners were the protection of human rights activists and state intimidation of land owners. Regarding the protection of human rights defenders, petitioners were concerned with the 1,313 reported attacks on rights workers. The petitioners viewed the problem as being the state’s insistence that they outsource the protection details (called National Protection Units) to undertrained personnel. The petitioners also raised issues related to the restitution of land, contending that the national court has only made 200 rulings in 90,000 cases, pointing to a seven alleged forced disappearances and fifty-six killings as being indicative of the government’s lack of concern for the issue.
Representatives from the Colombian government largely argued that its investment in the national protection units was appropriate and that they would take a measured response to the increase in violence. A representative from the Colombian Attorney General’s Office emphasized the administration’s commitment to protecting victims by pointing to the 2000 cases that are currently scheduled to be heard.
The Commissioners expressed appreciation for the Colombian government’s response to the Commission’s initial visit to the country. However, the Commission expressed a great deal of concern for the large number of extrajudicial killings occurring throughout parts of the country. Of special note, Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi pressed both Colombian civil society and the government to give answer to when the ongoing struggles between the two parties would stabilize.