Posted on March 4, 2017 8:15 am
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Categories: Human Rights

Not Out of the Woods Yet: State Department Yearly Human Rights Country Report Finds ‘Serious Violations’

Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty republic. In June 2014 voters re-elected Juan Manuel Santos president in elections that observers considered free and fair. On August 24, the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerrilla insurgency group, reached agreement on a final peace accord covering rural reform; political participation; illicit drugs; victims (including transitional justice); end of conflict; and implementation, verification, and public approval. The parties signed the accord September 26. In an October 2 plebiscite, however, the public narrowly rejected the agreement, resulting in the initiation of an inclusive national dialogue aimed at reaching a revised accord. The government and the FARC announced November 12 a revised peace accord, which drew from a national dialogue convoked by President Juan Manuel Santos following the October 2 vote. The Colombian congress approved the revised peace accord November 30.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces.

The three most prevalent human rights problems in the country were impunity, forced displacement, and societal discrimination. An inefficient justice system, with a judiciary in which officials were subjected to threats and intimidation, limited the government’s ability to prosecute effectively many individuals accused of human rights abuses, including high-level state agents and former members of paramilitary groups. The presence of drug traffickers, guerrilla fighters, and other illegal armed groups continued to displace predominantly poor and rural populations. Violence and societal discrimination against women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; indigenous persons; and Afro-Colombians often restricted the ability of these groups to exercise their rights.

Other significant human rights problems continued, including extrajudicial and unlawful killings; unauthorized military collaboration with members of illegal armed groups; forced disappearances; overcrowded and insecure prisons; harassment and attacks against human rights groups and activists, including death threats and killings; violence against women and girls; trafficking in persons; and illegal child labor.

The government continued efforts to prosecute and punish perpetrators of abuses, including members of the security services. It increased resources for the Attorney General’s Office, devoted significant resources to human rights cases, and employed a contextual analysis strategy to analyze human rights and other cases systematically. Nonetheless, the system struggled to close out cases quickly and efficiently.

Despite peace negotiations with the FARC, illegal armed groups–including the National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as organized crime groups (some of which contained former paramilitary members)–continued to commit numerous human rights abuses, including the following: political killings; killings of members of the public security forces and local officials; widespread use of land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs); kidnappings and forced disappearances; sexual and gender-based violence; subornation and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of movement; widespread recruitment and use of child soldiers; and killings, harassment, and intimidation of human rights activists, teachers, and trade unionists. Illegal armed groups continued to be responsible for most instances of forced displacement in the country.

Full State Department Report here.