Democratic Security Impels Extrajudicial Executions

(Translated by Emily Schmitz and Susan Tritten, CSN volunteer translators)

Periferia Prensa Alternativa, 47th Edition

In recent years the development of the democratic security policy has promoted extensive military operations over vast areas of the country in an attempt to bring victory over insurgent groups.  Instead, the policy has seriouly affected civilians through increased crimes attributed to agents of the State.  The Office of the High Commision for Human Rights of the United Nations, "could observe a pattern of extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances associated with violations linked to the administration of justice and impunity.  Arbitrary detention, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment as well as violation of freedom of expression have also been reported."

Certainly Colombia is historically characterized by armed conflict in which insurgents confront regular armed forces who are supported by paramilitary organizations.  This confrontation has provoked one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world.  More than 3,000,000 people have been forcibly displaced.  The perpetration of innumerable violations of human rights have an effect on life as well as people’s economic, social, and cultural rights.  A political and negotiated end to the conflict has been truncated by circumstances provoked by the different actors in the conflict, and now the country’s fate will be decided by a radicalized and intensified war.  Using this situation as their logical basis, the current national government has undertaken the democratic security policy as a national defense and security strategy in order to defeat the guerrillas.  However, this policy is also causing the consequences mentioned above.

This policy is based on a widespread view stigmatizing residents of real or supposed guerrilla areas as either members or supporters of the guerrillas. This view was used in issuing the presidential decree of 2002, in which one of the justifications for establishing military action was that "camouflaging members of guerrilla groups as civilians is one of the main bases of criminal action by such organizations."

Due to this general stigma and with the support of the Attorney General, indiscriminate military and police operations are occurring.  The military and police are unleashing assults against the right to life, integrity, and personal liberty, in the last case through massive, systematic and pemanent artibrary detentions.  The privations of liberty are directed especially against peasants, indigenous peoples, merchants, transportation and health workers, young people, and human rights defenders, as well as political and social leaders whom they consider as part of the guerrilla network.  The Human Rights Observatory and the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination for International Human Law prepared a report with the collaboration of the Corporation for Legal Freedom.  This report documented 6,332 cases of arbitrary and illegal detention beween August 7, 2001 and Aguust 6, 2004.  These types of human rights violations persist.

Liberty:  Hostage to Democratic Security

Within the framework of increased military operations by the security forces, arbitrary or summary extrajudicial executions are continuing.  Those assassinated are mainly peasants presented publicly as guerrillas fallen in combat, when in reality they are victims detained alive, tortured, disappeared, then killed in simulated confrontation.  A group of human rights organizations brought a study before the Commission on Human Rights of the OAS documenting the existence of systematic patterns of extrajudicial executions and the serious situation of impunity.  They also promoted the establishment of an International Observation Mission that could attest to this type of deliberate criminal acts in Colombia.  The International Mission met between the fourth and seventh of October of 2007.  It visited three regions of Colombia: Valledupar, Antioquia and Bogota.  It heard 132 testimonies from family members and witnesses of occurrences throughout most of the country.  It also established contact with national and regional authorities.  
This study carried out by human rights organizations in Colombia leads us to conclude that extrajudicial executions attributed to agents of the State persist and increase.  It also indicates that impunity is deliberate and follows clear patterns:
a)  The majority of extrajudicial executions occur during military counterinsurgency operations in which the victims and their families are reported as guerrilla supporters.

b)  Prior to execution, victims are detained by security forces without a judicial order.  In conjunction with the arrest, a new series of violations against the victims or their family are noted, including threats, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, illegal searches and property theft.

c)  In many cases, forced disappearances continue to precede extrajudicial executions.  The victim’s location remains hidden from the family and, although he is identified, authorities report him as “anonymous.”

d)  Security forces almost always manipulate proof, hiding evidence of extrajudicial executions immediately after they occur.  Agents of the State hide whatever evidence might implicate them.  Moreover, as military operations must demonstrate results, extrajudicial executions are reported as progress in defeating guerrillas.  In extrajudicial executions security forces characteristically dispose of the bodies.  They report victims as armed guerrillas killed in combat.  The security forces also place on the body articles or clothing specific to insurgent forces.

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