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Acting UN High Commissioner Criticizes Colombian Government - 2004-04-13

The U.N.'s Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the Colombian government for undermining the rule of law, and condemned the ongoing violence and killings by Colombia's rebel and paramilitary groups.

In his report to the Human Rights Commission, the U.N.'s top human rights official, Bertrand Ramcharan, presented a grim assessment of the internal armed conflict. He said that both guerrilla groups, the FARC-EP and ELN, and the paramilitary groups, continue to kill civilians, take hostages, force people out of their homes, recruit child soldiers and use anti-personnel mines.

Mr. Ramcharan accused the rebel groups of terrorizing the civilian population through indiscriminate acts of violence, including the kidnapping of civilians and killing of hostages. "Paramilitary groups, notwithstanding their alleged commitment to maintain a cease-fire assumed by certain groups, continued to commit massacres and killings of persons who had earlier been deprived of their liberty, tortured and 'disappeared,' with the sole aim of terrorizing the civilian population," he said. "Our office also received some cases of alleged breaches of international humanitarian law and violations of human rights on the part of members of the armed forces and the police."

The Acting High Commissioner also had some harsh criticism for the Colombian government which, he says, has failed to uphold the rule of law. He says the armed forces and police, and paramilitary groups more often than not go unpunished for their crimes.

He says anti-terrorist legislation infringes on the human rights of individuals, giving the armed forces judicial police powers, including the ability to arrest and search people without a warrant. "Our office in Colombia continued to receive credible allegations of human rights violations, which point to the direct responsibility of public servants, in particular the armed forces and police, and, on various occasions, acting in concert with prosecutors," Mr. Ramcharan added. "An increase in the number of allegations was received regarding extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, torture or degrading treatment, arbitrary or illegal detention, violations of due process and the right to intimacy."

Mr. Ramcharan has submitted to the commission the same recommendations he had made last year, saying only a few have been implemented. His recommendations call on Colombia to observe international humanitarian laws and respect for human rights.