Determination and Certification of the Colombian Government with Respect to Human Rights Related Conditions
On September 7, 2011, the Department of State determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Government is meeting statutory criteria related to human rights. This determination and certification, pursuant to Section 7046(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010, as carried forward in the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, permits the full balance of FY 2011 funds for the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.
During the certification period, the Colombian Government took a series of important steps to improve respect for human rights, both within the Armed Forces and in Colombia at large. Since taking office one year ago, President Santos signed a new Military Penal Code, facilitated the appointment of a Prosecutor General after a 16-month vacancy, supported judicial authorities’ efforts to vigorously combat corruption, strengthened efforts to dismantle illegal armed groups, and passed legislation stiffening penalties for crimes against human rights defenders, among other steps. The government also significantly improved respect for and recognition of human rights defenders by eliminating judgmental commentary by government officials about such groups and individuals, increasing outreach to NGOs, and publicly condemning threats and attacks against them. Most notably, in June, President Santos signed a historic Land and Victims’ Law that will provide assistance, reparations, and land restitution to approximately four million Colombians – including victims of state violence – over the next decade.
More remains to be done. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders continue to be a significant problem, as the Colombian government acknowledges. As the government has advanced its land restitution policy, criminal interests have targeted land activists; more than a dozen have been murdered this year. Despite a sizeable protection program, NGOs claim the government is not effectively protecting human rights defenders and have underlined the importance of designing and putting in place a comprehensive security strategy to ensure effective implementation of the Land and Victims’ Law without violence. NGOs rightly stress the importance of investigating and prosecuting threats and attacks against human rights defenders. The new Prosecutor General is committed to improving the administration of justice and to eliminating the backlog of pending human rights cases, including some 1,500 alleged cases of extrajudicial executions. It is essential that the Colombian government support her with appropriate resources and clear political will. Finally, while much progress has been made, it is important that the Armed Forces—both military and police—stay focused on the years-long process of building a human rights culture within their institutions, especially by rebuilding trust in those communities most affected by the conflict and where allegations of collusion with criminal groups persist.
The United States Government remains committed to engaging with the Colombian Government, international organizations, and human rights groups to improve the human rights performance of the Colombian Armed Forces and build respect for human rights throughout the country. President Santos’ commitment and energy present a unique opportunity for the government, civil society, and the international community to work together to find solutions to the remaining challenges in order to build a lasting peace in Colombia.
Ambassador Brownfield met today with Father Mauricio Garcia Duran of the Center for Investigation and Popular Education (CINEP) to discuss CINEP’s findings on “false positive” extrajudicial executions, threats against human rights defenders, and social intolerance.
Ambassador Brownfield congratulated Father Garcia for CINEP’s work tracking human rights violations in Colombia. The Ambassador emphasized that “human rights organizations like CINEP play an undeniable and important role in strengthening a free and democratic society such as Colombia’s.” The Ambassador noted that while the United States may not always come to the same conclusions as CINEP, we respect their courageous work to protect Colombia’s vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. “Every society must have those individuals and NGOs who speak out against injustice,” declared the Ambassador, “the United States applauds CINEP’s continued efforts to make a better future for Colombia.”
CINEP was founded in 1972 by the Society of Jesus with the goal of creating a more humane and equal society, the NGO promotes integrated and sustainable human development.
Bogotá D.C., 16 de abril de 2010
The United States remains gravely concerned about Iran’s continued harassment, detention, and imprisonment of human rights defenders. For example, we understand that the trial of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is reportedly underway, but it is proceeding without the transparency and due process guaranteed under Iranian law.
Iran’s leaders should know that their efforts to silence those Iranians who stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens do not go unnoticed. We once again join the international community in calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including those imprisoned for defending detainees or speaking out against human rights abuses, and urge Iran to afford its citizens those rights that are universal to all people.