The United Nations Office of Human RightsConcerned about illegal interceptions

Bogotá D.C. June 16th, 2009
( Translated by Emily Hansen, a CSN volunteer translator )

The Colombian Office of the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights expresses its profound worry regarding interceptions of illegal communications and tracking realized by intelligence organizations, such as the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), against judges, human rights defenders, political party representatives and journalists, among others.
The Office reminds that secret communication is a constitutionally recognized individual right that guarantees an inviolable space of liberty and privacy.  The interception of communications is only acceptable under exceptional circumstances with a prior judicial order and following all formalities established by law.  Additionally, the right to personal and familiar privacy, and the right to protecting ones reputation, have also been violated.
In various reports regarding Colombia, the High Commission has recommended that the State strengthen its investigations and disciplinary control in order to improve the protection of human rights defenders, including cases of stigmatization of their work. Additionally, the Commission has recommended that a revision of the State’s intelligence archives be carried out with the purpose of examining the truthfulness and impartiality of the information contained in the archives, and with the goal of excluding from these archives erroneous or biased data.  
The illegality of the interceptions additionally affects the rights of all people to know, update, and rectify information collected in public and private databases and archives.  The Office is also worried about illegitimate uses of information collected through illegal interceptions and the possible grave consequences for the affected persons. Furthermore, the public perception that illegal interceptions exist can cause self-censorship in the exercise of liberty of expression and communication for fear of repercussions.
The Office believes that the new intelligence law, with its focus on guaranteeing the rights of and demand for strict respect for political and judicial controls, constitutes an appropriate legal step in preventing similar situations.  Therefore, the Office suggests a rapid implementation of the law along with pertinent changes in the Administrative Department of Security (DAS).
The Office recognizes the diligent way in which Colombia’s Legal and Attorney Generals have advanced the investigations regarding these acts and hopes that they will permit an appropriate judgment and sanction of those responsible.  
The Office considers the Colombian Government’s invitation to various experts, including the Special Representative of the Secretary General regarding the situation of the human rights defenders, and the Special Communicator regarding the independence of judges regarding the independence of judgers and lawyers, as confirmation that the commencement of international scrutiny contributes to improved protection of human rights and individual liberties of the citizens.  


Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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