Friday, March 27, 1998

U.N. Criticizes Colombia Killings

By Clare Nullis
Associated Press Writer

GENEVA (AP) -- Colombia should do more to stamp out rampant 
human rights abuses and paramilitary death squads that have 
instilled widespread terror and grief, according to a U.N. report 
released Friday. 

Colombia has one of the world's highest murder rates and is plagued 
by violence and lawlessness: massacres, random executions, 
kidnappings, and torture, said the report by Mary Robinson, U.N. 
High Commissioner for Human Rights.

``(U.N.) office personnel have observed the widespread terror among 
the civilian population in the face of the selected executions and 
massacres ... carried out by paramilitary groups,'' the report said.

Robinson said she is ``deeply concerned at the gravity and scale of 
the violations of human rights ... All of them can be considered as 
serious, gross and systematic.''

Based on information gathered by the U.N. human rights office in 
Colombia, the report will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights 
Commission during its annual meeting now being held in Geneva.

Robinson acknowledged efforts by Colombian President Ernesto 
Samper to stamp out abuses but said they were ``insufficient.''

She said she is particularly worried about crimes by paramilitary 
groups, which are backed by landowners and have sprung up more 
than a decade ago in the long-running fight against leftist rebels. 

The vast majority of atrocities were linked to paramilitary groups, 
she said. The report estimates that between January and September 
1997, more than 3,300 people were killed -- mainly by 
paramilitaries, who are often aided by police and the military . 

For their part, leftist rebels have reportedly killed 47 soldiers and 
166 civilians.

Robinson urged authorities to take tougher measures to disband the 
paramilitary groups and punish their leaders. Members of the 
military who participate with them should be dismissed.

She accused both the army and insurgents of indiscriminately 
planting land mines and accused both sides of employing children as 

Attacks on human rights activists increased in 1997, the report said, 
and there were few efforts to prosecute the perpetrators.

The report also says that Colombia's prisons are severely 
overcrowded. There were 50 revolts during the year by prisoners 
demanding better conditions. 

About 1 million people have been displaced by the conflict since 

(c) Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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