EL ESPECTADOR, June 21, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

A report by more than 500 social organizations maintains that this country has not complied with the recommendations made by the international community in recent years, and that, things being what they are, Colombia will fail the Universal Periodic Examination (EPU) that it must present in November of this year.

In November of this year, Colombia will have to present to the United Nations Organization (UNO) an examination to determine whether it is or is not failing to protect human rights. Although for this evaluation the government will have to present a report on the extent to which it has complied with the recommendations of the 193 countries that make up the Organization, more than 580 social organizations have prepared an alternative report which shows that, as has happened during the last 15 years, Colombia will fail at the international level.

The test that Colombia will have to present is the Universal Periodic Examination (EPU), a test that evaluates the situation of human rights protections in Colombia. And it was created by the UN as a tool to improve the global situation of guarantees of those rights. The EPU evaluates the recommendations that have been carried out or not by a country in front of the other 192 countries, in this case, in the last examination, in 2018.

Included in everything presented in the alternative document prepared by organizations such as the Commission of Colombian Jurists (CCJ), the “José Alvear Restrepo” Lawyers Collective (CAJAR), Diverse Colombia, and the Action for Equality and Social Inclusion Program of the University of the Andes Law School (PAIIS) is an emphasis what has been compiled, especially during the administration of Iván Duque (2018-2022). It also provides that recommendations for the Gustavo Petro administration will be examined in the next EPU.

The principal points collected in the report are:

Implementation of the Final Peace Agreement

According to the alternative report, since 2018, when the UN countries gave Colombia their most recent recommendations, there was failure and corruption in all of the points in the Peace Agreement signed by the Juan Manuel Santos administration in 2016. “As of 12/9/2022, 361 signers of the Agreement had been murdered,” the report points out, and it adds that, according to the UN Verification Commission, “the re-incorporation of signers of the Peace Agreement is threatened by considerable challenges, such as lack of security and other challenges regarding the social and economic order.”

The organizations also speak of the work being done by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Although they recognize that there have been advances, and that the JEP has opened 10 macrocases, they maintain that “there is dissatisfaction by some of the victims because of the lack of admissions of responsibility and contributions of the complete truth in this judicial setting.” They also stress the fact that during the Duque administration funds destined for the application of the Agreements were misused. “During the transition to the new administration, serious implications of different forms of corruption were encountered, as the expenditures registered had no relation to the implementation of the Agreement. (Adding this makes this idea clearer.) That exhausted the greatest portion of the available sources of funding for implementation,” the organizations maintain.

Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law

On this point, the report states that the recommendations made by the UN in 2018 were not carried out by Colombia, and the result was that “in 2018 to 2022, the armed conflict in the country was intensified, generating a serious humanitarian crisis.” According to the information gathered by the organizations, in at least 15 regions of the country, “the ethnic and campesino communities have been the principal victims.”

Likewise, it shows that during this time, none of the armed groups respected International Humanitarian Law (DIH). The document indicates that in the last four years the Clan del Golfo, the National Liberation Army, and the FARC dissidents expanded their presence and control of territory. In addition, the social organizations are asking that the new national administration “progressively diminish funds for security and defense and increase funding for the implementation of the Final Peace Agreements and other programs that would guarantee decent conditions for the communities, for gender social inclusion, and reconciliation.

Civil and political rights

“The systematic violation of human rights in the country, combined with the imbalance of powers and the cooptation of the institutions of control for the modification of institutional competence, along with the misalignment in power equilibrium that has harmful effects on democracy, are worsening the panorama,” maintain the organizations in their report. In the document they point out the existence of “hyperpresidentialism” and a “repeated failure to comply with judicial decisions, the lack of independence of judicial officers and control agencies, and the constant intrusion of the Military Justice Code.” With these problems, says the report, the government’s capacity “to investigate serious violations of human rights” is being compromised.

Besides that, it notes that between 2017 and the first half of 2022, there were registered 3,376 cases of murders by sociopolitical violence, and that of those, in only 1,120 cases is any person known to be allegedly responsible; of 36.16% have been attributed to the government, 30.98% to paramilitaries, and 26.52% to guerrillas.

Human rights violations in the protests

In 2018, social mobilizations began to increase, states the document, and their highest point was the national strike of 2021 in which “the government responded with stigmatization and the disproportionate use of force by the ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron), causing death and serious injuries, marked by the systematic firing of lethal weapons at the faces and bodies of the demonstrators, inflicting serious injuries, such as the loss of eyes.” Likewise, the document states that there was also a large number of “victims of torture, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests.”

Impunity, states the alternative report, has been notorious since, according to information collected, “the investigations by the Attorney General’s Office of crimes committed by the Armed Forces have been inadequate. Neither have the disciplinary investigations by the Inspector General’s Office been carried out effectively. They have been placed on file with the claim that they could not identify which agent of the government had fired the weapon that had caused the injury.”

The organizations conclude that, in spite of the announcements by the Gustavo Petro administration in its first 11 months, “Colombia continues to owe a great debt in the area of its compliance with the recommendations formulated in the EPU.” They hope that, with the change in ideological posture which brought Petro to power, the gaps in all these aspects can be reduced, especially “on the subject of peace”. Although they insist that they have high expectations, they maintain that there are doubts about “the institutional capacity for transparent management of the funding. It’s more evident than ever that the guarantee of human rights is necessary for peace to be sustainable.”

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