Commissioners: Felipe González, Tracy Robinson, Paulo Vannuchi, Emilio Álvarez Icaza Longoria (Executive Secretary), Elizabeth Abi-Mershed (Assistant Executive Secretary).

Petitioners: Patriotic Union

State: Colombia

Petitioners representing the labor group Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica) came before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), accusing the government of Colombia of systematic political persecution and violence directed towards their organization. At the March 24 hearing, the petitioners described a continued and concentrated effort by Colombian officials to subvert the political influence of the Patriotic Union. Petitioners articulated that since 1984, forces acting under the aegis of state authority perpetrated murders, physical assaults, forced disappearances, and assassinations against some 6,500 individuals associated with the Patriotic Union. By cross-referencing data from elections beginning in 1986 and incidences of violence, Petitioners argued that the stronger representation the Patriotic Union maintained in seats of local and regional government, the more reprisals they faced. Petitioners voiced their frustration with the failure of a friendly settlement attempt, lasting from 1992 to 2004, citing the government’s waffling over the number of victims as the main reason for the breakdown in negotiations. Describing the attacks on the Political Union as genocidal, petitioners implored the Commission to assign responsibility for the violations of the OAS Charter and regional human rights instruments to the Colombian government.

In response, representatives of the Colombian government expressed concern over the alleged activities and emphasized the need for harmony between the Colombian government and civil society. Making clear that Colombia is undergoing a great time of change, representatives of the government attempted to assuage the Patriotic Union and the Commissions concerns by expressing Colombia’s rejection of political violence. ‘Without question acts such as these should not take place,’ said Colombia’s ambassador to the Commission. ‘Our government would like to break with the past. Let’s reach out.’ The government emphasized that the past violence in Colombia must be recognized and that it would be the best interest of all parties if the dead friendly settlement talks were resuscitated under new conditions, including a reevaluation of the identified victims list.

The Commission expressed concern over the amount of political violence taking place in Colombian, but was optimistic about prospect for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Commissioner Tracy Robinson inquired if there was a chance for friendly settlement talks to restart, while Commissioner Felipe Gonzalez requested an explication of the design and nature of the systematic persecution brought by petitioners.