US Calls Colombia 'Human Rights Compliant' to Justify $30 Million in Military Aid
September 20, 2011
Colombia Reports & Amnesty International
Since 2000, the US has provided billions of dollars in military aid to Colombia, making it the largest recipient of US aid outside the Middle East and Afghanistan. But, despite 10 years and over $8 billion dollars of US assistance, Colombia has failed to reduce availability of cocaine and Colombia's human rights record remains deeply troubling. Despite this, the US continues ignore human rights abuses in order to continue sending military aid.
Report on the Rise of Extrajudicial Executions in Colombia
US groups, alarmed by increase in extrajudicial executions in Colombia, urge stricter enforcement of US human rights conditions
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
In November 2007, CRLN issued a report on the rise of extrajudicial executions in Colombia. It began: Since 2000, the United States has provided over $4 billion in military aid to Colombia, making it the largest recipient of US aid outside the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Due to long-standing concerns about Colombia's human rights record, the US Congress made a portion of this military aid conditional upon formal certification, by the Secretary of State, that Colombia is meeting the human rights conditions laid out in US legislation.
US Human Rights Certification Unfreezes $20 Million
(September 16, 2011) -- President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday welcomed the US State department's judgment of Colombia as "human rights compliant" and said that because of the certification, $20 million in military funding will be released.
From the South Korean capital of Seoul where Santos is on an official visit, the Colombian head of state said that the $20 million was "withheld for reasons relating to human rights, with the obtaining of this certification these resources have been released and are destined to help the military."
Santos highlighted the work of the Colombian Armed Forces and said that they are respecting human rights in the fight against illegal armed groups.
The human rights certification, bestowed Thursday, allows the US Congress to deliver full funding requested by the White House for the Colombian Armed Forces. This evaluation takes place every year relating to military aid to other countries.
In a document from the State Department to the US Congress it is stated that the government of Santos has made important steps to protect human rights in Colombia, emphasizing the Victims and Land Restitution Law.
In addition the new Prosecutor General Viviane Morales "has committed herself to improving the administration of justice and addressing the backlog of human rights cases," said the State Department.
Human rights could be a determining factor in the progress of the Colombia-US free trade agreement, following an action plan signed in April 2011 by President Juan Manuel Santos and President Barack Obama.
US Policy in Colombia
Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cut off of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions.
Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of US military aid for well over a decade and the largest in the western hemisphere. Since 1994, AIUSA has called for a complete cut off of all US military aid until human rights conditions improve and impunity is tackled.
Yet torture, massacres, "disappearances" and killings of non-combatants are widespread and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day. In 2006, US assistance to Colombia amounted to an estimated $728 million, approximately 80% of which was military and police assistance.
"Plan Colombia" -- the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means. The US government began granting large amounts of aid to Colombia in 2000 under the Clinton administration.
Since the beginning of Plan Colombia, the US has given Colombia over $5 billion with the vast majority going to Colombia's military and police. These amounts are significantly higher than what is being given in economic and social assistance.
In addition to its call for a cut off of aid, AIUSA has supported the inclusion of a human rights "certification" provision in US aid packages for Colombia that require the Secretary of State to certify Colombia's progress on human rights criteria before aid can be distributed.
The criterion includes suspension of military personnel who have aided or abetted paramilitary organizations, apprehension of leaders of paramilitary organizations, as well as others. While these provisions originally applied to 100% of US security assistance to Colombia, Congress has changed the provision so it now only applies to the last 25% of US assistance.
Despite overwhelming evidence of continued failure to protect human rights the State Department has continued to certify Colombia as fit to receive aid. The US has continued a policy of throwing "fuel on the fire" of already widespread human rights violations, collusion with illegal paramilitary groups and near total impunity.
Furthermore, after 10 years and over $8 billion dollars of US assistance to Colombia, US policy has failed to reduce availability or use of cocaine in the US, and Colombia's human rights record remains deeply troubling. Despite this, the State Department continues to certify military aid to Colombia, even after reviewing the country's human rights record.
Despite the government sponsored "demobilization" process both Colombian and international human rights organizations have repeatedly documented and reported on continued military-paramilitary collaboration, including reports issued by the United Nations, are abundant. We see on-going use of military courts to handle cases of human rights violations and failure to take decisive action to combat impunity.
Human rights organizations also worry about extraditions of paramilitary leaders to the US as another obstacle to justice. A 2010 report by the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, Truth Behind Bars: Colombian Paramilitary Leaders in US Custody, describes how the extraditions of paramilitary leaders to the US have had adverse consequences for Colombia's ongoing human rights and corruption investigations and undermine US counternarcotics efforts.
The report recommends that the United States incentivize the extradited leaders' cooperation with accountability efforts and improve cooperation with Colombian prosecutors and judges.
Year after year US policy has ignored the evidence and the cries of the United Nations, Colombian and international non-governmental organizations and the people of Colombia. Plan Colombia is a failure in every respect and human rights in Colombia will not improve until there is a fundamental shift in US foreign policy.
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