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Colombian Paramilitary Violence Rising

by Gustavo Capdevila

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Colombian paramilitaries

(IPS) GENEVA -- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has released an unsettling statement about increased humanitarian law violations in Colombia and the failure to secure a ceasefire in the decades-long conflict between the government, guerrillas and paramilitary groups.

This South American country saw a reduction last year in reports of human rights violations in general, but it was offset by the sharp rise in abuses and assassinations attributed to right-wing paramilitary groups, according to the UN commission's report.

The commission's presidential office declared its unequivocal condemnation of the persistent and serious violations and abuses committed by paramilitary troops and by leftist guerrillas.

The UN statement called on the Colombian government to take urgent action through appropriate political, administrative and judicial measures to target official organizations, members of the government's armed forces and other individuals suspected of supporting the paramilitaries.

The Commission on Human Rights sees it as a positive step that the Colombian government has made official announcements about the issue while working to prevent the cooperation and collaboration of its armed forces with paramilitary groups. But charges of such contact between official and irregular troops must be investigated immediately, says the commission.

The declaration by this specialized organization was based on reports presented by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who has a permanent office in Bogota.

Mass kidnappings and blowing up electrical towers
Colombia's representatives before international organizations in Geneva acknowledged the severity of the UN statement. It makes demands on the government to be more efficient in actions intended to reduce violence and human rights violations, said a delegate requesting anonymity.

The official reaction was generally positive, as representatives called the commission's declaration constructive even though it requires a major effort by Colombian authorities to comply with the recommendations formulated by human rights organizations.

Sources close to the Colombian government expressed complacency in regard to the declaration's paragraphs that call for a cease-fire and which condemn the use of child soldiers and of anti-personnel mines by guerrilla groups.

The UN commission charged the National Liberation Army (ELN) with committing mass kidnappings and blowing up electrical towers. It also condemned the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), for assassinating foreigners and for kidnappings.

Colombia's non-governmental human rights defence groups suggested that, in addition to strengthening the UN High Commissioner's office in Bogota, the commission should designate a special rapporteur to follow up on the humanitarian situation of this Andean nation.

But the Colombian activists also applaud the fact that the severe tone of the UN commission's statement reflects the serious nature of their country's human rights problem.

The declaration includes key issues, they observed, such as the worsening of human rights violations, the ties between government armed forces and the paramilitary groups, the displacement of tens of thousands of people caused by the conflict and the obligation of the government to comply with the commitments it has assumed in the human rights arena.

The UN commission particularly condemned the ongoing attacks in Colombia against human rights defenders, as well as journalists and trade unionists.

The organization also lamented the persistence of impunity in cases involving serious crimes, especially in the military jurisdiction.

The Commission on Human Rights declaration expressed concern that the consequences of such violence disproportionately affect minority groups, such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians.

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Albion Monitor May 8, 2000 (

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