Why the CIDH visit is important in the midst of the police abuses and human rights violations in the month of the National Strike, in the opinion of investigators Alejandro Angulo and Victor Barrera, Cinep PPP (Center for Investigation and Popular Education).

May 31, 2021

By Katalina Vásquez, Cinep/PPP Communications Team

(Translated y Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

After the torrent of criticism of the Colombian government for its refusal of a visit by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH), Chancellor Marta Lucía Ramírez today gave the green light for the agency to arrive in Colombia this coming June 7. The visit had been requested in the midst of an SOS because of the worrisome human rights situation, where there had been dozens of killings, hundreds of disappearances, and thousands of cases of attacks during the National Strike that began last April 28. There has been a month of mobilization and repressive responses that include not only excessive use of force and firearms, evidenced in videos and photographs spread all over the web by agencies defending human rights, NGO’s, and citizens. There has also been participation by armed civilians, supported by the Police, plus disappearances, and people being burned, and the possible use of private property as centers for recruitment and torture.

“They haven’t taken the urgent measures required by the seriousness of these cases,” explains Alejandro Angulo, founder and current investigator of the Human Rights Data Bank at Cinep/PPP, emphasizing the importance of the visit by the CIDH. For Victor Barrera and the team, Conflict, Government, and Peace at Cinep, this visit “can save dozens and hundreds of lives of the people that are going to continue being the victims of human rights violations.”

“It will be a dissuasive factor in a context where we are seeing a flood of government violence,” commented Victor. He thinks it’s necessary precisely because there is a scene of “increasing impunity, where the agencies of control are not functioning.” Besides that, the Congress is not exercising its duties fully, setting up a situation where there are no institutional conditions to limit the abuses that are going on.

“The actions by the CIDH, not just interim equitable relief, but also petitions or visits to countries, etc., are necessary when the government authorities have not had the capacity or the will to guarantee human rights, put a stop to the violations, and do justice,” explains Alejandro Angulo.

“For that reason, the Colombian victims’ organizations turned to these international bodies, given that the Colombian government and administration have not put a stop to the situation of serious human rights violations, in spite of the fact that it’s more than a month since the beginning of the National Strike; on the contrary, it’s systematically continuing the violations of life and bodily integrity of the population, by the Armed Forces and by some armed civilians who have acted with impunity,” adds Angulo, a Jesuit priest.

In the opinion of the investigators, refusing or postponing the visit “is an unmistakable signal that there is no political will to remedy the causes of the people’s discontent, or to attend to the just demands that the Constitution be obeyed,” and “makes one think there is an intention to hide what has happened and gloss over the institutional negligence. Remember how Videla’s dictatorial government in Argentina also wanted to postpone the visit of the CIDH, so he could make some modifications in the clandestine centers of detention and transport the prisoners to an island, to keep the Commission from finding out about the atrocities they had been committing.”

According to Angulo, it’s necessary to insist on oversight and accompaniment in the crisis in Colombia. For example, “on previous occasions of extrajudicial executions (“false positives”) the mediation of international organizations helped to put some restraint on those crimes.” Angulo says that at this moment it’s vital to continue insisting on the presence of the authorities of the Regional System for Human Rights.

“Colombia can’t evade its responsibility to defend the rights and the dignity of its population. The situation is too serious when even defenders of human rights feel unprotected and some of them have been attacked. Faced with their own government’s failure to protect their dignity, the Colombian people have the right and the duty to turn to international aid in the defense of their basic rights.”

Victor Barrera concludes that “the Court will be the most appropriate agency to investigate the events and the patterns of human rights violations in the framework of the National Strike, in circumstances where the government is not recognizing the records of governmental organizations, and it does not appear to be furnishing transparent statistics.”

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