(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Multiple rights (formally recognized) have been violated systematically and in a generalized manner by the Colombian government. Colombian society seems to take the least interest in some of these violations, since they have turned into just one more of those problems that have been in vogue for awhile and call attention to some scandalous events (scandalous for their special cruelty) and then are forgotten…Other violations have turned into regular and unchangeable habits, so that now not even their victims themselves file complaints and even on some occasions they justify them. This is one of the most terrifying consequences of the fear and the silencing that they try to maintain by fire and sword in Colombia; that leaves more than just unpleasantness and distress; it leaves huge questions about where the country is going on human rights. These questions go beyond the sometimes stale efforts of the NGO’s.
In the midst of this panorama, the aroused consciences that repudiate and keep filing complaints about the government’s terrorism, those that keep going in spite of the lethargy, the fear, and the cooptation, have inspired the Shadow Report presented to the United Nations Committee on the Covenant, by the People’s Legal Team (EPJ is the Spanish acronym.), the Congress of the Peoples (CdP), the International Human Rights Network (RIDH), with the support of the Jurists of Argentina and Scotland and Organizations of the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain and Canada. This is a report that we have considered and have filed as one more historic report on the persistence of government violence, even in the midst of the dialogs with the insurgents.
In addition, we present a summary of the problems identified, being aware that the poor people of this country have to endure much more than this every day.
October 18, 2016
PEOPLE’S LEGAL TEAM
SUMMARY OF THE SHADOW REPORT, THE VII COLOMBIAN REPORT ON COMPLIANCE WITH THE UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS
Although the Havana Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s Popular Army (FARC) and the forthcoming commencement of the public phase of the dialogs with the National Liberation Army (ELN) are positive signs, the government’s policies run counter to what we should be able to expect from the peace. Civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights are being violated in a number of ways and scenarios, which we are identifying in this report:
- THE PRISON SITUATION
Abuse of preventive detention. According to figures from the month of July in 2016, there are 120,657 people confined to institutions administered by the National Institute of Jails and Penitentiaries (INPEC is the Spanish acronym). Of those, 8,211 are women and although Statute 906 of 2005 provides a limit of six (6) months of confinement until the legal situation of the person is determined, 41,956 people (3,712 women) are charged and 63.6% of them have been confined longer than the legal limit; 3,019 people (160 women) were charged with crimes committed before the implementation of the new accusatory criminal justice system that took effect in 2005. Besides that, 19,354 men and 4,421 women are under preventive detention in their homes. Even though it’s true that in the first 6 months that the penitentiary reform in Statute 1709 of 2014 has been in effect, there was just a slight reduction in the number of people who remained in places of confinement, going from 111,646 men and 8,977 women in January 2014 to 108,929 men and 8,302 women in June 2014, this statute cannot be considered a decongestion measure, as seen by the figures for July 2016. Added to that are the restrictive decisions of some judges who ignore the principle of favorable legislation.
Health. In July of this year the Public Defender complained that out of 137 prisons, 91 reported that they had no medical personnel available and 71 reported that they have no medications. During at least eight months, patients with HIV received no treatment. In the weekly report on health care in places of confinement administered by INPEC, the agency reported that from September 15 of this year, 1,383 surgeries and 9,367 appointments with medical specialists are on waiting lists, in spite of being necessary, with 1,028 laboratory tests and 12,866 appointments for diagnosis, therapy, eye tests, among other things, waiting to be carried out. These figures show that health care continues to be a critical need, even after interventions carried out as part of a prison emergency.
Ten months after the implementation of a new health care model in the jail and penitentiary system, we observe the following general difficulties: a) Institutional responsibility has been diffused, so that there are several entities that have some kind of responsibility to guarantee the effective enjoyment of this right; b) The system seems to conceive of health strictly from the perspective of treatment, ignoring, and therefore failing to attend to the factors that directly affect the physical and mental health of the prison population; c) We still do not have the epidemiological profiles that would allow the designing and carrying out of programs of prevention and of health promotion. d) There is no clear protocol for attention to urgent situations so as to prevent complications caused by lack of timely medical attention. e) We do not see a plan to strengthen the network of hospitals that would allow the prison population that needs outside attention to receive prompt and quality treatment.
Unacceptable prison conditions. The Colombian government has been unable to fix the structural failures in furnishing water in a number of jails and prisons. An example is the case of the EPAMS (High and medium security prisons) in Valledupar. In addition, rationing has spread, almost in all of the second and third generation prisons to levels that furnish the bare minimum. They are below the standards that the Constitutional Court has established in its jurisprudence.
Besides that, several prisons have serious infrastructure problems, such as humidity that produces fungus; lack of ventilation and needed sunlight in the cells. The second and third generation establishments (with more recent construction) show architectural characteristics that subject the prisoners to extreme climatic conditions.
Overcrowding. Overcrowding has increased to 55%. The overpopulation in the prisons worsens the structural defects in the system with regard to the capacity to guarantee rights that are not affected by the sentence and amount to imposing an illegal accessory punishment. Worse yet, it creates a situation of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Colombia’s jails and prisons.
Torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The levels of isolation in the interior of the establishment, for punishment or as a special measure for security, remain high in Colombian prisons. According to the complaints of inmates in different prisons, we can see that there is a persistent pattern of human rights violations that attack the physical integrity of the prison population and that are characterized by the following practices:
- Abusive Use of Force. The tendency to use force in situations that don’t require it; Abuse of weapons of reduced lethality. Pepper gas and tear gas continue to be used in situations that don’t involve disturbances, situations that don’t require subduing of a prisoner, or in enclosed spaces. C. Abuses by guards in carrying out operations. Besides the foregoing, the prisoners complain that in carrying out “rascadas” or searches of the cells, the guards have the habit of committing abuses like damaging personal objects that belong to the prisoners or spilling water on their clothing or their mattresses. D. Limitations of visiting rights or abuses of the families, as a form of retaliation. E. Collective Punishments of the prison population. Those include turning off the water and enclosure in cells for indeterminate periods when there are fights that might involve only two or three prisoners, or when there are strikes or periods of peaceful disobedience. F. Prolonged isolation in the special treatment unit (UTE). These units, whose existence is denied by the administrators of several prisons, continue to be used as punishment or for the placement of prisoners who are “hard to live with” or “high profile”. G. Transfer of prisoners to patios where they have no contact with others. This puts their lives at risk and places them in a permanent state of high alert and anxiety. H. Losing touch with their families and social groups. The prison population is located in detention centers that are far from the places they are used to. This generates a feeling of abandonment and isolation. The impact of this has not been assessed sufficiently.
Besides the foregoing, factors that promote impunity continue to exist: a) No independent mechanism for the reception of complaints has been implemented; b) There has been a general procrastination and lack of action in investigations by the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General; c) The legal definition of torture in Colombia continues to be vague and imprecise. This creates a difficulty in distinguishing it from other less serious harms, such as personal injury or abuse of authority; d) there has been no provision for transitory administrative measures for possible implementation when there have been complaints, such as relocation of accused officials while the investigation is going on.
2. MASSIVE AND ARBITRARY ARRESTS
In recent years the number of people charged with crimes in rural areas with guerrilla presence has increased. People are accused of collaborating with the insurgency. They are creating “mega-charges” in which arrest warrants are issued against an important number of campesinos. The warrants are characterized by: a) Being based exclusively on the testimony of guerrilla deserters, especially from the ELN; b) Charging discriminatory crimes, such as rebellion and criminal conspiracy; c) Delays in pre-trial proceedings; d) Violation of the principle of presumption of innocence and of judicial independence, subjecting campesinos in custody to predetermined guilt through trial by the communication media.
3. PERSECUTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
According to the program WE ARE DEFENDERS, “…between January and June of 2016, 214 individual attacks on defenders were registered. Defenders were subjected to discrimination in 232 threats (decreased from 41%); there were 35 murders (a 3% increase), 21 attacks, 13 arbitrary arrests, 9 cases of arbitrary use of the criminal system, 3 cases of information theft and one disappearance. The numbers of threats and attacks were reduced, but the rest were increased.” After the date of this report, the statistics continued to increase, arriving at 49 murders, six of which were in the context of social protest.
There is still a high degree of impunity in these cases. There continues to be a lack of investigation, so that there are no theories that consider the victim’s status as a defender. Protection measures continue to be insufficient.
4. LIMITING AND PERSECUTING SOCIAL PROTEST
Even though the Constitution of Colombia expressly recognizes freedom of association, freedom of expression, thought and opinion, and social protest as fundamental rights, the government’s answer to popular movements is a series of practices that violate those rights and make them meaningless. A. Stigmatization of social protest. They do this by claiming that the protests are supposedly infiltrated by the insurgency; b. Treating them as if they were a war. In spite of the civil character of the protests that have broken out in the last few months, the response of the Armed Forces can be characterized as follows: 1. Militarization. The Army maintains an active presence at the location of civilian demonstrations; 2. Military intelligence activities. Members of military intelligence have been identified during peaceful demonstrations, taking photos and gathering personal information about the people taking part. 3. Disproportionate use of the police force. We see systematic patterns such as the following: Illegal and arbitrary use of weapons of reduced lethality; The use of unconventional weapons, and the use of firearms.
In addition to the foregoing, the so-called citizen security law criminalizes actions that are part of social protest, such as obstruction of highways or interference with public transportation services, collective or official. Although the Attorney General’s Office issued Circular 008 on this, the prosecutions for this offense are continuing. According to information from INPEC, one individual is in custody for the offense of rioting; 778 citizens are charged with violence against a public employee (Of these, 296 are sentenced to confinement, 150 charged in confinement, 187 under house arrest, 139 in home confinement, 13 sentenced and 3 charged under electronic surveillance). Two are charged in confinement for obstruction of public roads and 28 are charged with obstruction of collective transportation services (three of those are sentenced and six of those charged are in pretrial detention. Seventeen are charged two sentenced to house arrest).
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