Contagio Radio, July 8, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
In the midst of the pandemic, the increase in violence and the risk to social leaders in Colombia has been evident, at the same time that the interests of the government are focused on containing the pandemic, forced eradication, and the militarization of the countryside as the solution to everything.
In the face of that, the international community has made clear its concern, because of the calls by collective defenders of their lives in Colombia. They are seeking external support, at the same time that the government seems to be deaf and selective about the international messages that it adopts.
A reflection of that is pointed out by the Colombian Jurists Committee (CCJ) in the report by human rights organizations on the first year of the Duque administration. It’s titled “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. It states that “since February of 2010, Colombia has not admitted any of the United Nations Rapporteurs, in spite of the fact that there have been more than ten applications for such visits.”
For his part, Gustavo Gallón, Director of the CCJ, states that this conduct has been repeated by the government, not just the current administration but the previous administration also. However, he emphasized that “strangely, Duque accepted the invitation made by one of the UN Rapporteurs, Michel Forst in 2018, to analyze the situation of human rights defenders.”
In spite of that, when in 2019 the Rapporteur requested entrance into this country to finalize the report and review progress and commitment to his first recommendations,, the government would not permit it. “The voice of the people says that the government was annoyed by the press conference Forst gave at the end of his visit in December 2018,” stated Gallón.
He added that Forst had to present his report without having been able to verify if there had been any advances, and he pointed out as one of his conclusions that “Colombia is a country that is very dangerous for human rights defenders.” (Colombia, the second most dangerous country for rights defenders that work on issues related to business.)
“The government responded rudely to the report that the Rapporteur had presented, making absurd corrections. The government disputed everything about the Rapporteur without showing any respect, even the color of the shirt he had on.” CCJ Director Gustavo Gallón.
The attorney pointed out, “That was the rude answer by a government that for years has faced an extremely serious human rights situation and that is trying to portray a positive image to the international community in spite of that.” (“Not complying with international agreements has consequences,” states an EU Deputy about Colombia.)
TEN RAPPORTEURS ARE REFUSED ADMITTANCE BY THE DUQUE AND SANTOS GOVERNMENTS
Gallón emphasizes that there have been eight UN Rapporteurs that have been refused admittance to this country, and ten in all if you count the requests for entry in the administration of Juan Manuel Santos. “The country is being deprived of the benefit of the observations of these international experts who are also people that work voluntarily. That means that they don’t receive a UN salary.”
In addition, he pointed out that the work done by the UN Rapporteurs throughout the world is making critical and responsible observations, trying to improve the situation in the countries they visit. “This is work that benefits the whole community, because we need their counsel. It shows us that there are precedents in many situations and helps us to resolve them.”
“What is happening in Colombia can be read as a reflection of what we see developing in the Trump administration with the international community. An example of that is the announcement he made in 2018 that the US would quit the United Nations Human Rights Council.” CCJ Director Gustavo Gallón
“IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING, WE HAVE MADE PROGRESS IN HUMAN RIGHTS.”
In spite of the fact that the general global and national panorama is discouraging in recent months, Gallón states that we have to recognize some advances, “perhaps not those we wanted or hoped for, but there has been a progressive curve in the development of human rights.”
A reflection of that is several Colombian organizations working together to get the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights established permanently in Colombia. “It has been working with great difficulty in this country for 23 years, and it has provided a great deal and it can furnish a great deal more.”
Finally, the attorney emphasizes that the pandemic has made international interventions and visits more difficult, but on the other hand, “the pandemic has one virtue, and that is that it has called attention to some very serious aspects of human rights, such as poverty and lack of cash, converting those into a subject for analysis by many more people who can add to the discussion.”