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Colombia: Attorney General Undermines Human Rights Investigations


(New York, November 8, 2002) Colombia's Attorney General has seriously undermined the investigation and prosecution of major human rights cases, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

"Colombia's struggle to uphold the rule of law begins with its attorney general," said José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "Colombia cannot credibly say that it is making progress on protecting human rights if the attorney general is not doing his job."

The 14-page report "A Wrong Turn: The Record of the Colombian Attorney General's Office," documents how the attorney general's office has failed to make progress on critical human rights investigations. Upon taking office in July 2001, Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio made it clear that he was deeply suspicious of ongoing efforts to prosecute human rights cases, particularly those involving allegations against members of the Colombian military. Publicly, he promised to correct what he described as excessive attention to these allegations by prosecutors.

Within seventy-two hours of his arrival, Osorio had demanded the resignations of two high-ranking officials who had handled some of the institution's most important human rights cases. A third official felt compelled to resign in response to the attorney general's actions.

In the fifteen months that Osorio has been in office, at least nine prosecutors and investigators working on human rights cases were fired. Fifteen others were either forced to resign or felt compelled to do so under pressure. Almost all later left Colombia because of threats to their lives. In December 2001, for instance, the Attorney General fired four senior Technical Investigations Unit (Cuerpo Técnico de Investigaciones, CTI) officials shortly after they assisted in the capture of a top paramilitary assassin and relative of paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño.

"Since July 2001, five Colombian prosecutors and investigators have been killed in the line of duty," said Vivanco. "Colombian prosecutors risk their lives to uphold the rule of law; they shouldn't have to risk their jobs, too."

Several prosecutors pursuing investigations against high-level military officials were removed from cases before they were able to arrest or indict suspects, jeopardizing the future of the investigations. One example is the investigation into the 2001 massacre in the village of Chengue, Sucre, a case in which Navy General Rodrigo Quiñones is implicated. After one prosecutor made substantial headway in collecting evidence for an indictment, the case was reassigned and appears to have stalled.

Progress on human rights cases is critical for determining whether Colombia is meeting the conditions that currently regulate U.S. military aid, which has amounted to over $1.3 billion in the last three years. The conditions, which are written into U.S. law, specifically require that the Colombian military cooperate with civilian justice officials prosecuting human rights cases. They also require the military to sever links with paramilitary groups, a goal most effectively served by the prosecution of military officers known to have collaborated with the paramilitaries. Colombia's paramilitaries commit most of the country's political killings, are deeply involved in drug trafficking, and have been designated as terrorists by the U.S. Department of State.

In recognition of the critical role played by the Attorney General's Office, the United States has, since 2000, invested over $25 million in the office. The State Department has proposed an additional $10 million for the office's human rights prosecutors in the FY 2003 budget, a request that is currently pending.

"Keeping these prosecutors on the job requires more than armored cars and forensic equipment." Vivanco said. The report calls on the United States to make clear to the president of Colombia that the State Department will not be able to certify progress on human rights unless the attorney general stops obstructing human rights investigations and can demonstrate significant progress on human rights cases. "This aid was meant to strengthen human rights prosecutions. But as long as the political will to pursue these cases is absent, no amount of money, training, or equipment will improve the institution's record."



1. Saturday 16th November


Celebrating the marriage between George W Bush, President of the USA, and Lee Raymond, Chief Executive Offficer, Exxon Mobil.

From Lincoln's Inn Fields (Holborn Tube), via the central London offices of ExxonMobil on Aldwych, to the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square. Assemble 11 a.m. 'Marriage Ceremony' 1.30pm at the US Embassy.

Really a 'double wedding' the second being between 'Corporate Greed' and the 'Anti-Environmental Republican Hard-Right'.

ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, is the most prominent of the fossil fuel corporations that were behind Bush's dumping of the Kyoto climate treaty and which continue to control his administration's criminal policy on energy, climate and the environment (see Exxon funds right-wing groups that actively campaign against Kyoto and other urgently needed measures to fight climate change and protect the global environment.

The US culture of corporate greed permeates to the highest levels. Not only has it resulted in a rash of corporate fraud cases: it has also placed the entire global environment in danger.

Dress code (strictly voluntary) : suits, dresses, formal wedding-type attire.

Organised by Campaign against Climate Change

More info : email phone 020 88 55 33 27, or 07903 316 331

b. School of the Americas Watch Stop U.S. Training of Terrorists!

The November 16th action is a nonviolent vigil and rally in solidarity with the annual vigil and rally to close the School of Americas, held outside the gates of Fort Benning Military Reservation, in Columbus, Georgia, where the SOA is located. We will maintain the Georgia action's commitment to nonviolence and hold a peaceful rally outside the U.S. Embassy.

1 pm-4pm: Gather outside the U.S. Embassy. Exact schedule at the vigil is still being worked out. Tentative plan is to have speakers, musicians and time for anyone who wishes to speak. Suggestions? Requests? e-mail us

What to Bring: Banners, songs to teach others, musical instruments, puppets and other art, enthusiasm and a nonviolent demeanor.

Are you interested in speaking or are you a musician?

Contact us. website

Contact School of the Americas Watch UK: 30 Bury St., Norwich NR2 2DN 01603 461163

c) Benefit for Mordechai Vanunu

(an Israeli who has been imprisoned for revealing Israel's nuclear secrets)

7.00 - 9.30pm Saturday 16 November 16th
at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square WC1

Performers: Gilad Atzmon Ensemble, Roy Bailey, Odyssey
Comedy from Arthur Smith and Mark Thomas
Compered by Tony Benn

Adm £10, concs £5

Tuesday 10th December


Vigil on International Human Rights Day
4pm - 7pm Tuesday 10th December 2002
BP Headquarters, Finsbury Circus London EC2
(nearest tubes Moorgate and Liverpool Street)

We call on all democratic people to join us on 10th December, International Human Rights Day, in nationwide vigils calling attention to the devastation of life in Colombia. Colombia has the worst human rights record of any country in the western hemisphere, and it now hovers on the brink of fascism.

Colombia - Fiscal General debilita investigaciones de derechos humanos

(Nueva York, 8 de noviembre de 2002) - El Fiscal General de Colombia ha debilitado seriamente la investigación y el enjuiciamiento de importantes casos de derechos humanos, dijo Human Rights Watch en un informe publicado hoy.

"El esfuerzo de Colombia por hacer respetar el Estado de derecho empieza por su Fiscal General", dijo José Miguel Vivanco, Director Ejecutivo de la División de las Américas de Human Rights Watch. "Colombia no puede afirmar con credibilidad que está avanzando en la protección de los derechos humanos si el Fiscal General no está haciendo su trabajo".

En el informe de 14 páginas, titulado "Un giro erróneo: La actuación de la Fiscalia General de Colombia", se documenta como la Fiscalía General de la Nación no ha hecho progresos en investigaciones críticas en materia de derechos humanos. Al ocupar el puesto en julio de 2001, el Fiscal General Luis Camilo Osorio dejó en claro que tenía serias dudas sobre los esfuerzos en curso para procesar casos de derechos humanos, especialmente aquellos relacionados con acusaciones contra oficiales militares colombianos. Prometió públicamente corregir lo que describió como atención excesiva a estas acusaciones por parte de los fiscales.

A las 72 horas de su llegada a la Fiscalía, Osorio solicitó la renuncia de dos altos funcionarios que habían estado a cargo de algunos de los casos de derechos humanos más importantes de la institución. Un tercer funcionario se sintió obligado a renunciar en respuesta a las acciones del Fiscal General.

En los 15 meses que Osorio lleva en su cargo , han sido despedidos al menos nueve fiscales e investigadores encargados de casos de derechos humanos. Otros 15 se vieron forzados a renunciar o se sintieron obligados a hacerlo bajo presión. Casi todos ellos salieron posteriormente de Colombia después de haber recibido amenazas de muerte . En diciembre de 2001, por ejemplo, el Fiscal General despidió a cuatro funcionarios superiores del Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación (CTI) después de que prestaran asistencia en la captura de un destacado asesino paramilitar y familiar del líder paramilitar Carlos Castaño.

"Desde julio de 2001, cinco fiscales e investigadores colombianos han sido asesinados en el cumplimiento de su deber," dijo Vivanco. "Los fiscales colombianos arriesgan sus vidas defendiendo el Estado de derecho; no deberían verse obligados a tener que arriesgar también sus empleos."

Varios fiscales encargados de investigaciones contra oficiales militares de alto rango fueron apartados de dichos casos antes de que pudieran ordenar detenciones y formular cargos contra los sospechosos, hecho que puso en peligro el futuro de las investigaciones. Un ejemplo de ello es la investigación de la masacre de 2001 en la aldea de Chengue, Sucre, un caso en el que se encuentra implicado el General de la Armada Rodrigo Quiñones. Después de que un fiscal hiciera importantes progresos en la reunión de pruebas para formular cargos, el caso fue reasignado y parece haberse paralizado.

El progreso en los casos de derechos humanos es un factor críticopara determinar si Colombia está cumpliendo las condiciones que regulan actualmente la ayuda militar de Estados Unidos, con un valor de más de 1.300 millones de dólares en los últimos tres años. Las condiciones recogidas en la legislación estadounidense requieren específicamente que los militares colombianos colaboren con los funcionarios judiciales civiles encargados de casos de derechos humanos. También exigen que se corten los vínculos entre las fuerzas armadas y los grupos paramilitares. La manera más eficaz de cumplir este objetivo sería el enjuiciamiento de oficiales militares acusados de haber colaborado con los paramilitares. Los paramilitares colombianos cometen la mayoría de los asesinatos políticos del país, están fuertemente involucrados en actividades de narcotráfico y han sido clasificados como terroristas por el Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos.

En reconocimiento del papel crítico que desempeña la Fiscalía General de la Nación, Estados Unidos ha invertido más de 25 millones de dólares en dicha institución desde 2000. El Departamento de Estado ha propuesto la entrega de 10 millones de dólares adicionales para los fiscales encargados de casos de derechos humanos durante el año fiscal 2003, una propuesta que cuya aprobación se encuentra pendiente.

"Mantener a estos fiscales en sus cargos exige algo más que la provisión de vehículos blindados y los equipamientos forenses incluidos en el paquete de ayuda", dijo Vivanco. En el informe se apela a Estados Unidos para que deje en claro al Presidente de Colombia que el Departamento de Estado no podrá certificar el progreso en materia de derechos humanos a menos que el Fiscal General deje de debilitar las investigaciones de derechos humanos y pueda demostrar un avance significativo en los casos de derechos humanos. "El objetivo de esta ayuda consistía en fortalecer el procesamiento de los casos de derechos humanos. Sin embargo, mientras no exista la voluntad política necesaria para tratar estos casos, no habrá dinero, formación o equipamiento que pueda mejorar la actuación de la institución".

I/we would like more information/ join / donate funds to the 'Colombia Solidarity Campaign':

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Address ........................................................................................................................................

Return to: Colombia Solidarity Campaign, PO Box 8446, London N17 6NZ.

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