CSN-Madison, December 1, 2003
The Colombia Support Network (CSN) supports the Colombian people in their desire for a prompt, lasting peace with justice. We are dismayed, however, to see the steps being taken to demobilize paramilitary soldiers and commanders and to integrate them back into civilian life. Many of these members of the paramilitaries have committed murders, maiming, torture and other inhumane acts and have helped force many innocent peasants and indigenous peoples from their homes. We believe justice requires that those persons who have committed criminal acts must be tried for these actions. To permit people who have committed heinous acts against the civilian population to rejoin society without recognizing and sanctioning them for these atrocities is wrong. We believe that lasting peace will not be achieved in Colombia unless and until there is justice.
Besides this, we do not see a clear commitment by the Uribe Administration to uncover the truth of what these paramilitary forces did and make it known to the victims of their illegal actions. Every family which has lost someone at the hands of the murderous paramilitaries is entitled to know who caused their loved ones death and how. Many need to know where the bodies of their murdered loved ones lie. And these victims are entitled to reparations from the person and/or organization which committed the murders or other heinous crimes. Moreover, if there is to be a pardon, only those who have suffered loss can pardon those responsible for the loss. For High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo or President Alvaro Uribe to speak of pardons for these criminals without establishing a process that will uncover the truth of how the killings occurred and who is responsible for them is simply wrong.
We are also very disappointed with the attitude taken by the Uribe administration as shown by the public utterances of Commissioner Restrepo who has suggested that a few days of community service will suffice as punishment for crimes the paramilitaries have committed. It is outlandish that the Uribe administration has suggested such as a slight rap on the knuckles for such serious criminal actions. Likewise, the reported surrender of old, decrepit weapons by paramilitary fighters, who withhold their modern service weapons, should be absolutely unacceptable to the Uribe administration.
With respect to the leaders of the paramilitaries, particularly Carlos Castano, Salvatore Mancuso and Diego Murillo Bejarano, special consideration must be given to the fact that they are each responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent persons. Any type of pardon or reintegration into civilian society for these persons should be rejected.
We call upon President Uribe to establish as a part of the peace process procedures for the effective investigation of crimes committed by "surrendering" paramilitaries and to bring those who have committed these crimes to justice. We also call upon him to focus attention on the victims of paramilitary violence and provide them with a voice in the reintegration process and reparations for the losses they have sustained, rather than committing his government to providing salaried jobs to paramilitary killers.
And if President Uribe does not agree to implement the minimal basic procedures we have outlined in this statement, we call upon the U.S. government to stop its military and economic assistance to the Colombian government until effective, just procedures for reintegration of armed actors into Colombian society are put in place. To do otherwise would be to become complicit in the imposition of an injustice of the worst kind.
COLOMBIA SUPPORT NETWORK
John I. Laun, President
Please write to, call, or email your Senators and local Congressman, President Alvaro Uribe Velez and the listed Colombian officials to demand that verification of crimes, sanction of those responsible for criminal acts, and reparations be an integral part of any effort by the Colombian government to demobilize paramilitary forces.
ÁLVARO URIBE VÉLEZ
Presidente de la República
Presidencia de la República
Carrera 8 n. 7-26 Palacio de Nariño
Santa Fe de Bogotá
Teléfono: 57.1.5629300 ext. 3550; (571) 284 3300
Fax: 011 (571) 286 74 34 - 286, 6842 -284 21 86
Vicepresidente de la República
Consejería Presidencial de Derechos Humanos
Calle 7 No 6-54 Piso 3
Santa Fe de Bogotá, D. C.
Fax: 011 57.1.337.1351
LUIS CARLOS RESTREPO
Alto Comisionado para la Paz Carrera 8 # 7-26
Palacio de Nariño Santa Fe de Bogotá
Teléfono: 57 1 562 9623