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Rule of Law at Risk in Colombia, Says UN - 2002-04-18

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says escalating violence and the growing paramilitary threat in Colombia are jeopardizing the rule of law. Commissioner Mary Robinson warned of a deteriorating human rights situation in Colombia in presenting her report on the country to the U.N. Human Rights Commissions' annual meeting in Geneva.

Mrs. Robinson acknowledged efforts by the Colombian government for peace talks with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But she says the breakdown in negotiations has only led to an escalation in the armed conflict. And civilians in Colombia are the biggest losers.

"The report refers to the actions of guerilla groups, pointing out that violence is increasing and directed particularly against the civilian population," said Mrs. Robinson. "It also underlines the fact that the attacks perpetrated against civilian property and infrastructure damage the state's capacity to guarantee respect for human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights through the provision of basic services."

Mrs. Robinson says she has appealed to both sides to adopt a comprehensive agreement to uphold human rights, but they have not responded. She called on Colombia to continue to work toward a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict.

The U.N. human rights chief says the commission's report notes an expansion of paramilitary groups, and says these are the main violators of human rights. She also expressed concern over the recent kidnappings of politicians and forced displacement in the country.

Mrs. Robinson cautions that the Colombian government is strengthening the military to the detriment of civil institutions, leading to the subordination of the civilian authority to the military. She also says Colombian authority is increasingly absent in a number of areas in the country, making the civilian population more vulnerable to threat.