Dangerous message from the President when denouncing the Security Forces
For the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
For the United Nations Human Rights Council
For the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights
Dangerous and disconcerting message of the President of Republic about the persons that document and denounce the occurrence of extrajudicial executions directly attributable to members of the Security Forces
Observatory for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Coordinación Colombia-Europa -Estados Unidos
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez continues using a dangerous and defiant language which besides disqualifying the persons that report the occurrence of extrajudicial executions by security forces and security entities members, may endanger his life and personal integrity. The President prefers, once more, to deny the reality, contributing thus to maintain killings committed by State agents in impunity, instead of publicly stating his concern for the increase of denunciations regarding this serious violation of the right to life, as it is the case in a significant parts of the country, namely in Antioquia
On July 27, 2007, during the commemoration of the second year of enforcement of the Act 975 of 2005 (known as the Justice and peace Law), the President referred to denunciations of extrajudicial executions ascribable to Security Forces, as a new strategy used by guerrillas:
“Now the guerillas have another strategy: every time there is a casualty in the guerrillas, immediately they mobilize their coryphaeus in the country and abroad to say that it was an extrajudicial execution. But the Armed Forces have been very careful so that there cannot be any ground to point out that the Armed Forces members are in collusion with paramilitary groups” .
With regards to the high number of extrajudicial executions attributable to the Security Forces and their impunity, in October 2006, the CCEEU warned the Interamerican Commission on Human rights that “to hide a crime and on top of that, to present it as a military success is an oddity” . Today, it is even more unreasonable that referring to facts where there is sufficient evidence to believe that the Security Forces carried out extrajudicial executions, the President of the Republic asserts that those who denounce them are “coryphaeus or guerrillas leaders”.
The words of President of the Republic are intended to restrict the right of any citizen, or of the human rights organizations, to publicly denounce the occurrence of serious crimes, worsened by the fact that one can assume that the perpetrators are State Agents. They also intend to intimidate and disqualify the persons who exercise this right, based on serious investigations to document cases of human rights and humanitarian law violations, clearly disregarding the Declaration on the right and the duty of individuals, groups and institutions of promoting and protecting the human rights and the fundamental liberties universally- acknowledged .
The President of the Republic continues polarizing the Colombian society and his speeches would appear to correspond to a logic of war, according to which, the “enemies” of democracy are the persons that look after the respect of human rights because their denunciations would weaken the Security Forces in the war against the guerrillas. Accusations of serious violations of human rights perpetrated by State Agents are not and cannot be considered acts of “juridical and political war” against military and police members, although some army officers continue maintaining such assertion .
These denunciations are not intended to discredit the police and the Security Bodies, but rather to call the attention about institutional and illegal behaviors so that these institutions and their members abide by the doctrines and practices compatible with the human right treaties ratified by the Colombian State, the Constitution and the law. Along these lines, the National Minister of Defense reminded the obligation of the Armed Forces to unrestrictedly respect them within the framework of the internal armed conflict:
“The principles of legality, distinction, need and proportionality must drive all military actions. Given the circumstances and the new forms of the crimes and of the illegal armed groups – which are more often operating in small groups disguised as civil population- the Security Forces must do every effort to distinguish the civil population and to protect it in all circumstances.
“Therefore, it is essential to keep in mind that:
· Military targets must be properly identified and they can be attacked.
· The war means and methods used must be proportional to the military advantage intended.
· Attacks to civilians do not provide any military advantage.
· Casualties produced in combat and resulting from the proportional use of force are legitimate and are framed in the Humanitarian International Law, provided we are referring to persons who participate directly in the hostilities.
· Casualties produced out of combat or when the use of force is not consistent with the criteria of absolute need and proportionality are considered violations to the right to life and in the frame of human rights international law which constitute extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. In addition, these behaviors are crimes that must be dealt by the International Criminal Court by virtue of the Statute of Rome” .
The State, and in particular the Security Forces, do not lose legitimacy due to denunciations of crimes ascribed to their members, but only by the fact that their agents have perpetrated them. Therefore, it is disconcerting that while the President of the Republic stigmatizes as guerrillas cooperators the persons who denounce and document killing of civilians committed by the Security Forces, the Minister of Defense, has recently reiterated the obligation of the Commander of the Security Forces to protect the civil population, to the light of the International Humanitarian Law and the human rights, during the development of any war operation:
“(…) the need to maintain order and recover peace for the Colombians in the consolidation stage cannot lead the members of military institutions to commit tactic excesses that can easily lead to the strategic weakening of the State and of the Security Forces in particular, which at the same time will entail to lose their most precious asset: legitimacy” .
Bogotá, August 1, 2007
* * *
Notes on the increase of extrajudicial executions attributable to Security Forces
Persistence of a worrisome number of extrajudicial executions directly ascribable to Security Forces. Between July 2002 and June 2006, 726 persons would have been victims of extrajudicial executions perpetrated by Security Forces members. These cases do not correspond to isolated facts. On the contrary, extrajudicial executions were reported in 27 out of 32 departments of the country. Among the most affected departments are Antioquia (183 victims), Valle (53 victims), Arauca (40 victims), La Guajira (36 victims) and Nariño (32 victims).
· In October 2006, the Observatory of human rights and humanitarian law of the CCEEU submitted to the Interamerican Commission an analysis of the occurrence of extrajudicial executions ascribable to Security Forces as well as detailed information on 98 cases, gathered from judicial dossiers given by the organizations making part of the CCEEU.
· In March 2007, the Observatory of human rights and humanitarian law of the CCEEU produced during the fourth period of sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council a brief document stating the four features of the extrajudicial executions attributable to Security Forces in Colombia: i) The increase of the violations to the right to the life, directly attributable to the Security Force coincides with the implementation of the “democratic security” policy; ii) extrajudicial executions have been committed in many parts of the Colombian territory; iii) extrajudicial executions correspond to clear action patterns that are repeated in all the country, regardless the military or police unit involved in the facts; and iv) there is a deliberated attempt to maintain these cases in the impunity, most of which are being heard by the military criminal jurisdiction.
· In May 2007, the Observatory of human rights and humanitarian law of the CCEEU publicly presented the report entitled: Extrajudicial executions: the Eastern Antioquia case. Besides the analysis of the particular context of the eastern region of Antioquia department, the report includes detailed information about 74 cases (110 victims) of extrajudicial executions and general information about other 48 persons allegedly killed by members of the Security Forces ( most of them assigned to the Fourth Brigade of the National Army).
· In June 23, 2007 El Espectador a weekly magazine revealed that the Procurator General’s Office informed the United States Embassy that as from January 1st, 2002, the controlling body “has started 54 disciplinary proceedings against officers and non- commissioned officers of the Security Forces for irregular operations in which country people who apparently were not subversive, had been presented as guerrillas casualties in combat” .
In Antioquia, the number of extrajudicial executions attributable to Security Forces could be significantly higher than the one mentioned in our reports. On May 22, 2007, during the launching of the report mentioned, the secretary of Government of Antioquia, Jorge Mejía, revealed that “between 2004 and 2006” the Inter- institutional Committee of Human Rights and IHL of Antioquia heard “264 denunciations, most of the them in the Eastern side” <#_ftn10> . On July 4, 2007 El Tiempo newspaper stated that, according to information gathered by the Inter-institutional Committee, “312 cases in Antioquia, in which there were casualties in combat and concerns are reported, were sent to the Fourth Brigade” .
Note: the documents mentioned above can be requested ad Minister of National Defense, Permanent Guideline n. ° 10. Reiteration obligations for the authorities in charge of enforcing the law and preventing homicides in persons protected, Bogotá, June 6, 2007, page 2 of the CCCEU (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Bogotá, August 1, 2007
* * *
 <#_ftnref1> In her last annual report on Colombia, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned that extrajudicial executions attributable to Security Force members persist and that they were recorded in 21 departments of the Colombian territory: “The right to life was affected by the persistence of homicides with indications of extrajudicial executions ascribable to members of the security forces, in particular the army. The Office in Colombia has received a greater number of complains compared to the year 2005. These events were recorded in 21 Departments, especially in Antioquia, Nariño, Valle, Putumayo, Cesar, Atlántico, Tolima and Guajira. In many of the cases reported, three common elements were identified: the civil victims were presented as if they were killed in combat, the scene of the crime was altered by the perpetrators and the facts have been investigated by the military criminal justice system”. Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia, 4° period of sessions, doc. A/HRC/4/48, March 5, 2007, par. 36.
 <#_ftnref2> Speech of the president Uribe when commemorating the second year or the Justice and Peace Law, Bogotá, SNE, July 25, 2007, www.presidencia.gov.co/prensa_new/sne/2007/julio/25/09252007.htm
 <#_ftnref3> Observatory of Human rights and humanitarian law of the Coordinación Colombia-Europa-Estados Unidos (CCEEU), “False positives”. Extrajudicial executions directly attributable to the Security Forces in Colombia, July 2002 to June 2006, Bogotá, CCEEU, October 23, 2006, page. 18.
 <#_ftnref4> Article 6 of this Declaration reads: “all persons are entitled, individually and collectively:
“a) To know, gather, obtain, receive and hold information referring to human rights and fundamental liberties, including the access to information on the means by which such rights and liberties are enforced in the internal legislative, judicial and administrative systems;
“b) According to the provisions of the human rights instruments and other international instruments applicable, to publish, disseminate or freely spread to third parties, the opinions, information and knowledge regarding all the human rights and fundamental freedoms;
“c) To study and debate whether these fundamental rights and liberties are observed, under the law and in practice, and to form and maintain an opinion on this respect, as well as to attract the public attention to these matters by these means and using other proper means”.
 <#_ftnref5> Notions of “political war” and “juridical war” were updated in a publication made by retired generals and admirals. See Body of retired Generals and Admirals of the Armed Forces, Shearing the Wolf. The unknown dimension of the Colombian intern conflict, Bogotá, See Body of retired Generals and Admirals of the Armed Forces, June 2002, 412 pages.
 <#_ftnref6> On May 22, 2007 the Commander of the Fourth Brigade of the National Army maintained that the report on extrajudicial executions held in Eastern Antioquia, prepared by the Observatory for human rights and humanitarian law, “makes part of the political and juridical war”. Declarations made by General Jorge Rodríguez Clavijo to the newspaper El Colombiano. “NGO documents 110 summary executions”, El Colombiano newspaper, Medellín, May 23, 2007, (www.elcolombiano.com.co).
 <#_ftnref7> Minister of National Defense, Permanent Guideline n. ° 10. Reiteration obligations for the authorities in charge of enforcing the law and preventing homicides in persons protected, Bogotá, June 6, 2007, page 2.
 <#_ftnref8> Minister of National Defense, Permanent Guideline n.° 10. Reiteration obligations for the authorities in charge of enforcing the law and preventing homicides in persons protected, Bogotá, June 6, 2007, page 2
 <#_ftnref9> “The United States is investigating extrajudicial executions made by military members”. “¿Is the US certification to Colombia in danger?”, El Espectador weekly publication Bogotá, 24 to 30 June 2007, pages. 1A & 4A.
 <#_ftnref10> “NGO documents 110 summary executions”, El Colombiano, newspaper Medellín, may 23, 2007, (www.elcolombiano.com.co).
 <#_ftnref11> “16 military officers were arrested for ‘false positives cases’”, El Tiempo, newspaper Bogotá, July 4, 2007, page 1-4 (www.eltiempo.com/ tiempoimpreso/edicionimpresa/justicia/2007-07-04/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR-3622976.html).
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621