On September 9, 2010, the Department of State determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Government and Armed Forces are meeting statutory criteria related to human rights. This determination and certification, which is pursuant to Section 7046(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010, permits the full balance of FY 2010 funds for the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated. Though there continues to be a need for improvement, the Colombian government has taken positive steps to improve respect for human rights in the country. Firm direction by the government that extrajudicial killings will not be tolerated has led to a rapid reversal in this disturbing trend. The Santos Administration has taken significant steps to demonstrate that it takes human rights seriously, which includes establishing a roundtable on labor, meeting with NGOs and civil society groups and committing to increasing engagement with these groups, and reaching out to Colombia’s courts to repair relations with the judicial system.
Despite years of improvements to Colombia’s justice system, impunity remains a concern. The Prosecutor General’s Office needs to improve its structure and its responsiveness in resolving cases, and to overcome the personnel challenges resulting from the implementation of a constitutionally mandated entrance exam. Swift selection of a Prosecutor General is also vital to making headway on combating impunity. Investigations into extrajudicial killings continue to proceed, albeit slowly, and there are concerns that human rights cases are not being transferred from the military to civilian judicial system as often as they should. Alleged illegal wiretapping and surveillance by Colombia’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS) are unacceptable. It is vital that the Prosecutor General’s Office conduct a rigorous, thorough, and independent investigation to determine the extent of these abuses and hold all perpetrators accountable. Threats by criminal groups against human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society in Colombia are also deeply troubling. The Colombian government’s condemnation of these threats and new legislation to increase penalties are welcome steps. We will continue to encourage increased government attention to this issue, and to underscore the importance of timely and serious investigations into these threats.
The United States government remains committed to continued engagement with the Colombian government to improve the human rights performance of the Colombian Armed Forces, and respect for human rights throughout the country. We look forward to working with the Santos administration to build on the constructive commitments it has made and to identify ways to make further progress on areas of concern. Throughout this process, we will continue to engage with Colombian and international human rights groups, as well as civil society. We appreciate the commitment of these groups and applaud their often dangerous work.