On September 11, 2013, the Department of State certified to Congress that the Colombian government and Armed Forces are meeting statutory criteria related to human rights. This certification, pursuant to Section 7045(a) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2012, as carried forward by the Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, permits the full balance of FY 2013 funds for the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.
The Colombian government continued to make progress on improving respect for human rights, both within the Armed Forces and in Colombia at large. During the certification period, the Colombian government officially launched a peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), supported efforts to vigorously combat corruption, and strengthened efforts to dismantleillegal armed groups, among other actions.The government appointed additional magistrates to implement the Victims’ and Land RestitutionLaw, and the magistrates began issuing decisionsthat aim toprovide assistance, reparations, and land restitution to approximately four million Colombians — including victims of state violence — over the next decade.The Prosecutor General’s Office reported progress on a number of emblematic human rights cases, including the“Operation Dragon” case. The government generally continued to respect and recognize the important role of human rights defenders, publicly condemning threats and attacks against them,and seeking their input on public policies.
Despite these efforts, significant challenges remain. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders, land rights activists, trade unionists, journalists, and other vulnerable groupscontinued. Targeted groupsstress the importance of investigating and prosecuting crimes against them, noting that justice is their best protection. Security issues present serious obstacles to the successful implementation of the Victims’ and Land Restitution Law. NGOs have expressed concerns that recent constitutional reforms — including the Legal Framework for Peace and the Military Justice Reform — could result in impunity in some human rights cases. Much of their concern focuses on the premise that the Military Justice Reform amendment and implementing legislation approved by the Colombian congress, once fully enacted, could permit the military justice system to assume jurisdiction over some cases involving allegations of human rights violations, which they believe would not result in accountability. The Colombian government underlines that the reform, along with previous Constitutional Court jurisprudence, guarantees that human rights cases will remain under civilian jurisdiction. At the present time, both the Military Justice Reform amendment and its implementing legislation remain under review by the Colombian Constitutional Court, and the Department will monitor the results of these proceedings and the subsequent implementation of the reforms.
Real progress has been made in improving the human rights performance of the Armed Forces, butfor that progress to be sustained, leaders must stay focused on the long-term process of building a human rights culture within their institutions.
The U.S. government remains committed to engaging withthe Colombian government, international organizations, and human rights groups to improve respect for human rights throughout Colombia. The United States and Colombia have an open and honest conversation about these issues, including through our on-going High-Level Partnership Dialogue. Government, civil society, and the international community, working together,can find solutions to the challenges that remain and build a lasting peace in Colombia.
- Cross posted from state.gov