Forced Recruitment of Children in Medellin by Paramilitaries
We have received complaints about the forced recruitment of children between the ages of 7 and 16 for intelligence operations, collection of protection money (extortion), forced prostitution and transportation of drugs and weapons. This endangers their right to life and personal integrity. The victims, their families and the community have been overcome by fear, because those responsible act with impunity and because of the lack of commitment by the municipal administration and government institutions to investigate, prosecute and punish the paramilitaries. All of this is because of the inefficacy of the Mission in Support of the Peace Process (MAPP/OEA) in relation to the verification process for the demobilization of the paramilitary groups.
Because of the foregoing, we have turned to the Inter-American Commission to request that the issue interim equitable relief for the boys and girls of Ward 13 in Medellin. The relief requested would place upon the Colombian Government the obligation to take, with community agreement, whatever measures are necessary to guarantee the free and open exercise of the rights established in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
This complaint of actions that violate the dignity and human rights of young people, and of children accorded special protection under international human rights pacts and treaties and the petition to the Commission for interim equitable relief were the basis for the declaration by Mr. Gustavo Villegas, Director of the Office for Peace and Reconciliation in Medellin who, referring to the complaints, stated that
"We cannot do any harm to a process that has resulted in a benefit to the city, and what we are trying to do is to tarnish, at the national and international level, the process of reinsertion of the paramilitary groups."
The organizations that are petitioning for interim equitable relief energetically deny that complaints about acts of such enormity, that involve the life, the safety, and the integrity of children, can be characterized by public officials as acts that threaten the peace. This is a new excuse to accuse human rights organizations of opposing a negotiated solution to the conflict, just because we demand respect for fundamental rights and the protection of our most vulnerable population.
We insist that public officials have an obligation to comply with the recommendations articulated by the Special Staff Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights, Ms. Hina Hilani, in the sense that they would protect the lives of human rights activists and allow activities to promote and protect human rights to be carried out with the total support of governmental institutions.
In the same manner, they ought to accept the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Those recommendations urged the government to be vigilant in seeing to it that public officials at all levels show the respect that is owed to the individual and collective efforts that the defenders of human rights are carrying out. The Commission is calling on the Government to make sure that officials do not make public statements that could place in danger the life, integrity and safety of these individuals.
Juridical Liberty Corporation
Interdisciplinary Group for Human Rights (GIDH)
Network of Sister Communities (Unconcealed Bonds)
Young People¹s Network of Medellin
Women¹s Route to Peace‹Antioquia Region
Medellin, August 25, 2005