Colombia Bans UN Official after Report Cites Violations of Human Rights

March 3rd, 2020 - by Adriaan Alsema / Colombia Reports

Duque ‘Wanted to Completely Erase My Report’: UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Adriaan Alsema / Colombia Reports

 (March 1, 2020) — Colombia’s government “wanted to completely erase my report,” the United Nations special rapporteur on the situations of human rights defenders told weekly Semana.

Special Rapporteur Michael Forst was additionally refused entry to the country while studying the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia, Semana reported.

The Foreign Ministry fiercely disputed a preliminary 2018 version of the report whose final version will be presented in Geneva on March 4 in a letter sent to the General Assembly, the weekly reported last month already.

According to Semana, the government’s 20-page letter said Forst sought to “examine if the State is facilitating a safe and supportive environment for defenders” of human rights and “observe the efforts of the new administration.”

If so, Duque is in for more international scorn as his administration’s failures are painfully evident.

The Foreign Ministry objected to UN rapporteur’s use of independent information provided by Colombian and international NGO’s while omitting “reports and date produced by state entities,” Semana reported last month.

Duque has consistently distorted the truth, making government statistics hardly reliable.

“When I learned of the government’s remarks, I felt that they wanted to erase my report completely,” Forst told Semana.

Forst and Semana confirmed how relations between the government of President Ivan Duque and the UN have deteriorated since the president took office in August 2018.

Tensions between the UN and member states are common, but in Colombia’s case have been become particularly problematic in relation to the verification of elements of the ongoing peace process that is fiercely opposed by Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party.

According to political scientist Laura Gil, the president’s attempts to keep the UN out are “an eternal deja vu,” but go even further than those of his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe.

The government is “closing the doors, closing itself from scrutiny. But Uribe never acted like this. He gave the UN a hard time, but kept his cool. This government isn’t,” Gil said in a debate.

Over the past year, the Duque administration has clashed with the UN’s human rights office and limited the mandate of the Office and Drugs and Crime.

Both offices verify elements of the peace process that, according to NGOs, the government fails to comply with.

The UN agencies additionally have been providing data that either contradict government claims or demonstrate the failure of policies.

Colombian NGOs and parties other than that of the government have spoken out in support of the UN.

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Colombia Fiercely Rejects UN’s Crushing Human Rights Report

Adriaan Alsema  / Colombia Reports

(February 28, 2020) — As expected, Colombia’s President Ivan Duque  on Thursday fiercely rejected the United Nations’ latest assessment of human rights in the country, calling the report “an intrusion of sovereignty.”

The president and the Foreign Ministry went full speed against the crushing report that confirmed military collusion with illegal armed groups, police brutality and the government’s failure to implement peace policies.

The government stood isolated though. Influential peace organization Defendamos la Paz said “we share the concerns of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights” (OHCHR) in a response to Duque tirade.

The report confirmed the Duque administration’s widespread human rights violations in attempts to violently suppress student and anti-government protests last year, ties between the military and illegal armed groups, and the government’s failures to implement a 2016 peace deal with demobilized FARC rebels.

The OHCHR recommended transferring the National Police from the Defense Ministry to the Interior Ministry to “strengthen institutional capacity” And it criticized the absence of police and the prosecution in large parts of the country, leaving citizens at the mercy of illegal armed groups.

While I respect the multilateral nature of the organisation, I believe that this is an intrusion on a country’s sovereignty. This is a debate that should be conducted by the Colombian authorities, within the framework of Colombian institutions. — President Ivan Duque

The Foreign Ministry, which had ordered government officials to look for data and arguments to “undermine” the report, said the report “contains statements that attack the legitimacy of the institutions, which are imprecise and seem to go beyond the mandate that the Government has signed with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Defendamos la Paz, however, reminded the government that human rights are universal “and above the principle of non-interference in internal affairs.”

President Duque has said that the report constitutes an intrusion on Colombia’s sovereignty. From Defendamos La Paz, we reply that the defense of human rights is above the principle of non-interference in internal affairs. This has been affirmed by universal and regional international bodies, including the Security Council.Defendamos la Paz

Duque has come under increased pressure both nationally and internationally over his government’s reluctance to implement peace policies that are rejected by his far-right Democratic Center party.

This pressure increased even more after the security forces’ blatant human rights violations in attempts to violently suppress massive anti-government protests that began in November last year.

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UN: Colombia Colludes with Illegal Armed Groups to Suppress Peaceful Protest, Fails to Implement Peace

 Adriaan Alsema / Colombia Reports

 (February 27, 2020) — The United Nations’ human rights office (OHCHR) blasted Colombia on Wednesday, claiming to have evidence the security forces are colluding with illegal armed groups while the government is failing to implement peace policies.

In its report, the OHCHR painted a bleak picture over the deterioration of human rights in Colombia, a stagnation in the peace process and an increase in oppression by its notoriously corrupt security forces.

More Military, Less Peace

The OHCHR said the state was failing to implement key elements of the country’s peace process while increasingly deploying the military in police matters.

The UN agency said that violence in Colombia is “endemic” and reiterated “the need to address the structural causes that generate violence, especially in rural areas.”

Of particular concern were attacks on human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and the increase in cases of alleged arbitrary killings, as well as serious human rights violations committed against girls and boys in the context of violence and armed conflict.United Nations Office for Human Rights

According to the OHCHR, the office registered 36 massacres leaving a total of 133 victims, the highest number since 2014.

The OHCHR additionally decried a lack of police and prosecution officials in the rural areas of half of Colombia’s provinces and the use of the military in what should be police action.

Instead, “the OHCHR observed an increase in military responses in the situation of violence and insecurity” effectively worsening the situation in “some rural areas in AraucaAntioquiaCaquetaCaucaCordoba, Cesar, ChocoMetaNariño and Norte de Santander, and even in urban centers such as Convencion, Medellin, Santa Marta and Valledupar.”

This led to at least 15 homicides committed by the military, the highest number since 2016, according to the UN agency. In none of these cases the prosecution applied the so-called Minnesota Protocol that is related to unlawful killings by security forces.

According to the OHCHR, the government of President Ivan Duque“insufficiently” lived up to promises to increase the presence of civilian authorities to fill up power vacuums in priority rural areas.

Additionally, promised development in these war-torn areas showed “little progress and minimal coordination with other relevant programs” in relation to victim reparation, the restitution of dispossessed land and counternarcotics.

The UN agency said it “calls upon the State to continue to make progress in the implementation of all the points of the Peace Agreement” signed with demobilized FARC guerrillas in 2016 “in a sustained and comprehensive manner.”

Colombia’s Corrupt Security Forces

The UN said it received reports of illegal or criminal actors corrupting members of the National Army and the National Police in more than half of the country’s provinces.

Indication of ties between the security forces and illegal armed groups were most evident in Antioquia “where at least 26 members of criminal groups were captured carrying weapons with special permits” allegedly granted by the 4th Brigade in Medellin.

Additionally, the UN said it received evidence that the military was carrying out operations with “members of a criminal group and other violent groups” in the north of the province.

“These situations could compromise the effectiveness of actions against the ELN, criminal groups and other violent groups,” the UN said.

The 12 provinces mentioned by the OHCHR did not include Bogota where, according to the prosecution, the army provided protection to a top drug lord for months.

UN Blasts Suppression of Peaceful Protest

The OHCHR blasted the use of the military during largely peaceful protests at the end of last year in Barranquilla and Bogota, denounced arbitrary illegal raids carried out ahead of these anti-government protests and police force “that could border on abuse and/or torture.”

The UN agency urged the government “to restrict, to the greatest extent possible, and in accordance with international norms and standards, the use of the army in situations relating to public security, including social protest.”

Additionally, the OHCHR urged “exhaustive, effective and independent investigations into cases of allegedly excessive use of force” and “a profound transformation” of riot police unit ESMAD.

Last but not least, The OHCHR said it was necessary to transfer the responsibility over the police from the Defense Ministry to the Ministry of the Interior.

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