Colombia criticized on post-9-11 human rights record

An NGO has released a report condemning Colombia’s human rights record as part of a series of articles analysing the relationship between anti-terrorism policies and human rights since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) report notes how shortly after September 11, the US financial aid from Plan Colombia, which had previously been earmarked for fighting drug trafficking, was also used to combat terrorism. At the same time the FARC, the ELN and paramilitary groups were added to the US list of terrorist organizations.

The report goes on to criticize the Colombian government’s actions carried out under the banner of combating terrorism. According to FIDH, “the argument that authorized the state to act lawlessly in order to fight terrorism gained ground under the pretext of just that, the fight against terrorism.” FIDH highlights the human rights abuses of the “false positives” scandal—the extrajudicial killing of civilians by army personnel in order to present them as guerrillas killed in combat—and the operations of the DAS “G3” unit, which carried out wiretappings, threats and assaults against hundreds of human rights defenders, journalists, political and union leaders, members of the opposition and judges.

The report also criticizes the Justice and Peace law providing for the demobilisation of the paramilitary AUC. According to FIDH, “this demobilization process did not neutralize the paramilitary groups. Quite the contrary since their influence within the government grew stronger, culminating in the ‘para-political‘ scandal.” In addition, FIDH condemned the government’s use of civilian informers. The report argues that by “establishing a network of informers, the government involved the civilian population in the armed conflict, thus seriously violating international humanitarian law.” (Colombia Reports, Sept. 2)

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  1. Error in FIDH report on Colombia
    While the AUC paramilitary network was added to the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the FARC and ELN had been on the list since 1997. (See UNHCR‘s “Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001” report.)

  2. MSM smell Colombian coffee
    Citing an Aug. 20 story in the Washington Post with the rather obvious title “US aid implicated in abuses of power in Colombia,” the Los Angeles Times credulously asks in a Sept. 2 editorial, “Colombia’s spreading scandal”: “The US provided nearly $6 billion as part of Plan Colombia, an anti-narcotics and counterinsurgency program. But did the money also pay for human rights abuses?” The new information seems to be that US funds were used by the DAS intelligence agency to wiretap members of the judiciary who were investigating the narco and paramilitary ties of President Alvaro Uribe (2002-10). But it has long been obvious to anyone who was paying attention (e.g. Amnesty International) that US aid was paying for human rights abuses in Colombia—and far worse ones than wiretapping. It is good to see the DAS scandal getting coverage in the US—but precisely by portraying it as a new revelation, the “spin” is ironically a whitewash…

  3. Colombian high court re-legalizes drug possession
    Colombia’s Supreme Court rejected a constitutional amendment recriminalizing possession of personal-use amounts of illegal drugs. Prior to the amendment, pushed vigorously by ex-president Alvaro Uribe, possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use was legal under a 1994 court decision. See complete story at Global Ganja Report.