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Intervention by h. e. Francisco Santos Calderón, Vice-president of Colombia, before the Human Rights Council presenting the Universal Periodic Review prepared by the State of Colombia

April 10, 2008

Geneva, December 10 (SP). “The State of Colombia thanks the Human Rights Council of the United Nations for accepting its voluntary nomination to present the Universal Periodic Review before the Council and thanks all the States that have submitted to us their questions and recommendations for such exercise.

Colombia voluntarily requested to participate in this exercise because we have a deep commitment with this mechanism that intends to examine the human rights fulfillment records of all the countries in an objective manner.

The Colombian State whishes to be subject of this examination in accordance with its policy of cooperation and its openness towards the international community. 24 United Nations Offices and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have presence in Colombia. Since 2002 we have received 15 visits of mechanisms related to human rights. The civil society, the State and 39 Embassies accredited in Colombia have established a follow-up system of the Colombian situation through an agreed agenda. International and local media and non-governmental organizations have full access to our country with no restrictions whatsoever.

We bring to you testimony of the deep changes occurred in Colombian reality. From being a State accused of being negligent or accomplice of paramilitary groups today we have imprisoned all the leaders of paramilitary groups, demobilized their structures and seized their properties.

From being a State incapable of protecting its citizens we have dramatically improved the guarantee to life and freedom in Colombia. Between 2002 and 2007 homicides decreased in 45%, massacres in 77%, terrorist attacks in 76.5% and kidnapping in 87%.

The situation of armed illegal groups has also changed dramatically. Currently these groups have no support and are not representative in Colombia. They have even less options to overtake power. Consequently, paramilitary groups accepted a collective demobilization and 17,000 people belonging to other illegal armed groups have demobilized in an individual manner.

The Farc enjoy a well-deserved repudiation in Colombia. It could not be otherwise: two days ago they assassinated two members of a medical mission and wounded another 7 in the Department of Caquetá. This is the latest of hundreds of violent events such as an explosive artifact detonated in Ituango, Antioquia, causing 7 deaths and 51 wounded in a popular celebration. Or the death of several community leaders in Arauca accused of supporting the illegal armed group ELN. Or dozens of indigenous people assassinated by anti-personal mines in Arauca, Cauca, Nariño and Meta. Or several teachers murdered, 4 of them in one single action in Güachavez, Nariño. Or the attacks to municipal councilors. Or he kidnapping of hundreds of Colombians, 28 of which are rotting in the middle of the jungle since their abduction between 6 and 10 years ago condemned to survive in subhuman conditions. With no respect to human dignity and repeated attacks against indigenous population, Afro-Colombians and all types of defenseless citizens could not render a different result.

I would like to call the attention about drug trafficking and its relationship with the human rights situation. The enormous resources produced by the annual traffic of 500 metric tons of cocaine feeds all illegal armed groups. Thus, after dismantling the cartels of Cali and Medellin a dispute for the illegal industry emerged between the guerrillas and the paramilitary. After the paramilitary demobilized, small drug barons cropped up intending to control the drug trafficking business.

The urge for such money leads to the massive destruction of the rainforest and to aggression against vulnerable groups as well as the rest of society. The aforementioned motivates our demand for international shared responsibility in the fight against illicit drugs. In Colombia narcotrafficking fuels the worst human rights violators.

I shall refer to the questions relating to the efficiency of the judicial system and the fight against impunity. In Colombia we have a rich mix of constitutional rights, legislation developments, case law, and measures against specific problems to achieve the rule of law.

Constitutionally all citizens have legal resources to protect their individual or collective rights and to fight any acts from any authority.
The Colombian Constitutional Court is acknowledged as one of the most active courts in the world for developing jurisprudence for the protection of Human Rights. By virtue of its decisions it has broadened the concept of fundamental rights establishing connectivity with economic and social rights. It has declared the “unconstitutional status of things” when violations are repeated or when they obey to structural causes, giving strict orders to all State entities. It has defined criteria for the applicability of ordinary justice and the military criminal justice. It has also protected the most vulnerable sectors such as the recent acknowledgement of proprietary rights, access to the health system and pension rights for homosexual couples.

In the field of legislation developments that are worth highlighting are following:

The establishment of an Oral and Accusatory Criminal Procedure System which clears the courts of justice and constitutes an effective measure against arbitrary arrests establishing the of judge of guarantees and the development of the hearing of control of legality within a maximum term of 36 hours;

The amendment of the Military Criminal Justice to limit its jurisdiction to offenses relating to the service making it independent from the Ministry of Defense without losing its specialized nature;

During 2005 a law was developed against human trafficking and during 2007 and 2008 new laws were enacted relating to violence within the family, sexual abuse and violence against women.

The policy for strengthening the judicial system has been one of the priorities of State, by virtue of which:

It has created the conditions that guarantees the conditions for independent actions from judicial operators;

The budget of the justice sector was increased in 86% between years 2002 and 2007;

2,166 new jobs were created for the General Prosecutors Office since January 2008.

A new policy to increase the judicial efficiency in cases that involve violations of human rights was agreed upon and is being implemented.

For cases of special concern, several units of prosecutors have been created. One such case is the aggressions against trade unionists. During 2000 and 2001 only 2 sentences were issued. From 2002 to the present date, 153 sentences have been issued, sentencing 233 persons for violent acts against trade unionists. It is worth to highlight that 98 of these court decisions correspond to events that occurred after 2002. In other words, the judicial action against human rights violations of trade unionists is increasingly effective.

Another specific case is that against members of the public force due to alleged homicides out of combat or of protected persons. The Colombian justice has developed a formidable response regarding these complaints. Currently there are 716 investigations against 1,000 members of the armed forces, 138 of which are officers. 46 have been sentenced and 232 have been accused or are under trial. The military criminal judges are giving an example of application of international human rights instruments, of jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and of transparency. Up to now 285 cases have been sent from the military justice to the civil justice. During 2005 only 31 cases were sent but this year 148 have been moved to the ordinary justice.

I shall now respond to the questions about victims, demobilization and the law of Justice and Peace. As all of you know, Colombia has faced half a century of violence with different manifestations and intensity. Different than in other countries, Colombia has undertaken partial peace processes and very successful individual demobilization programs.

The Colombian State and its people have chosen to facilitate the demobilization or peace processes and at the same time to guarantee the victims rights. For such purpose the Law of Justice and Peace has been approved acknowledging the victims rights in a way that has not been done by any law anywhere in the world. Among other things such law establishes the following:

Independent judicial process regarding juridical benefits to the demobilized;

Rights of truth, justice, integral redress, historic memory preservation, collective victims redress;

Victims protection duty;

Differential treatment due to the condition of children, women or disability;

A Commission and reconciliation and reparation with a majority of people from the civil society and State control entities;

Regional commissions for the restitution of land that has been appropriated by illegal groups;

Obligation to comply with the presumptions to confess in a complete and truthful manner all acts committed during and relating to the membership of the illegal armed group. Obligation of avoiding a relapse and reparation of the victims;

Alternative prison penalties subject to serious commitments by the criminal and their repeal should the imposed obligations are breached;

Free versions with the participation of the victims or their representatives, right of their intervention during the processes and integral assistance by the estate entities.

This law has faced controls by the Constitutional Court in 13 occasions and has wakened great hope among the victims. Up to this point 168,000 persons have appeared claiming their rights, 1,700 corpses have been exhumed from communal graves and have been delivered to their families or are under identification processes and nearly 18,000 crimes are underway of clarification. The versions of those who have been subject to this Law have made possible opening 2,908 cases within ordinary justice, including 172 against politicians, 112 against members of the Armed Forces and other 35 against other public servants.

As a supplement to the legislation, the National Government issued a decree creating a Reparation Program through administrative channels that will demand investments of the order of 5.5 billion dollars. Currently, Congress is discussing a Law for Victims Rights. As any law, it has generated substantial debate as well as struggles among different visions and interests and we are sure that a synthesis will be reached in accordance with our conditions and that the constitutional entities will oversee its coherence with the international instruments.

I want to thank you for your questions about economic, social and cultural rights. The drafting of the Colombian Development Plan has included the rights perspective and it is intended to comply with the Millennium Development Goals. The National Government, in its first period implemented a policy of conditional subsidies to the poorest sectors of the population.

The sustained economic development of the last years, recovery of confidence in the economy and these policies have made possible the reduction of poverty from 55.7% to 45.1%, and extreme poverty from 21.6% to 12% between 2002 and 2006. We have attained coverage of 94% in basic education and 31% in higher education. We expect to cover 100% of the population in basic education. The education coverage programs are accompanied by the implementation of the National Education Plan in human rights, quality improvement programs and special policies for the most vulnerable sectors.

Currently some type of health system covers 90.4% of the population; the population subsidized by the State has doubled reaching 23 million during the last five years. For 2010 we expect to reach universal health coverage.

As from 2007 the budget for supporting social interest housing increased from 75 million dollars to 330 million dollars per year, an increase greater than 400%. 125 million dollars shall be destined yearly for housing for internally displaced population.

I could tell you in a lengthy manner other accomplishments, but time is scarce; I invite you to read our report as well as the annex regarding all our social policies.

Now I would like to highlight some facts relating to vulnerable population:

Regarding Children’s Rights:

The Code of Childhood and Adolescence was issued defining the governing principles of prevalence, prevention, differential approach and the co-responsibility of the family, the State, the society in order to prevent and guarantee the rights;

The Action Plan was drafted and applied to prevent and eradicate children and adolescent sexual commercial exploitation;

The strategy to eradicate child work has made possible to reduce it from 12.9% in 2001 to 8.9% in 2005;

The budget of the Family Welfare Institute (in charge of attending child population) has increased form 311 to 1,092 million dollars between 2002 and 2008;

An Inter-sectorial Commission was created to prevent recruiting and utilization of children by illegal groups which is acting in the most critical 50 municipalities in 2008 and will reach 200 in year 2010;

3.712 youngsters have decided to participate in integral assistance programs for demobilized population within an Integral Program and characterized and accompanied by UNICEF, among others;

With respect to women:

A Policy for Women constructing peace and development is being implemented with emphasis on employment and entrepreneurial development, education and culture, prevention of violence against women, participation in politics and institutional strengthening;

The State entities signed a National Agreement for equity between women and men;

In the Government Ministries women have an average participation of 30% in leading offices, reaching 80% in some cases. Nevertheless their participation in the legislative power is between 10 to 15%;

The Observatory of Gender Issues was created and was highlighted by the ECLAC as best practice in the Continent;

Regarding the displaced population:

UNHCR has acknowledged that Colombia is the country that undergoes the greatest efforts to attend the internally displaced population (IDP) in the world. The budget to attend internally displaced population has increased from 65 to 442 million dollars between 2002 and 2008 and 80% of displaced families registered receive emergency humanitarian aid;

The IDP´s participate in all the decision making process for public policies regarding displacement;

Regarding ethnic groups:

Colombia has 10% of Afro-Colombian population and 3% of indigenous population. They both have legislation that acknowledges their rights to the territory, to autonomy and to culture preservation; affirmative action policies and entities dedicated to the development of these policies; ethno-education and ethno-protection programs respecting their way of life. The National Development Plan includes a chapter with resources allocated for an ethnic approach of development.

Currently I am the chairman of a temporary commission that will look into racial discrimination and propose policies that will attack the problem.

Other questions relate to two topics: homicides carried out by the Armed Forces against protected individuals and the relationship with human rights defenders. I will address both.

The participation of members of the military forces in the death of persons out of combat is a shameful practice that the government of Colombia condemns. This issue has all of our attention and we have acted on it. I have already explained the measures and results regarding judicial action. But I want to stress that from the moment President Alvaro Uribe took office he ordered greater efficiency against violence and drug traffickers but with total transparency. “You will preserve the good name of the country only by the rigorous observance of human rights”, he said during his first speech to the military. And the democratic security policy established that ”all the acts of the Government shall take place within the framework of legal regulations. With the rigorous observance of human rights and a strict obedience of international humanitarian law…”

I want to inform you that the following actions have been adopted since 2005 when the first complaints were known:

Visits to the Department of Antioquia during 2005 and 2006;

Creation of the offices of Independent Delegate Inspector of Command for each Division as well as operational legal advisors in all units;

New rules of engagement regulations;

Directive guidelines ordering prevention actions, cooperation with justice, reception of complaints and changes in the evaluation of results by units;

Creation of an analysis committee of cases with the participation of UNHCHR; visits to analyze cases in the divisions with the cited office;

Training for Prosecutors and Military Criminal Judges regarding the Minnesota Protocol;

Design and implementation of an Integral Policy on Human Rights by the Ministry of Defense;

Special Administrative Investigation of some cases during the present year;

Removal of military officers due to possible participation or negligence in the investigation of the actions of subordinates;

Adoption of 15 measures in the fields of intelligence, operations, control, responsibility of command, application of the military doctrine, performance assessment, objectives definition, among other issues;

Development of a television program every two weeks chaired by the President of the Republic and the high commanders to receive and process complaints.

The killing of noncombatants is an inexcusable crime. Unfortunately we have to acknowledge that these events have taken place in our country and we feel deeply sorry for those actions. I present my sincere apologies to the victims and I want to assure them that none of these crimes will remain in impunity and that we will take all the measures necessary to prevent the repetition of these crimes.

The National Government is implementing different policies to grant all guarantees to different sectors of the society such as political parties, trade unionists, human rights defenders, ethnical groups, social leaders, journalists and witnesses of the Peace and Justice proceedings among others. We have also developed a permanent dialogue with these sectors. The President has carried out prolonged meetings with the defenders and every 45 days he chairs a meeting with union leaders. According to Latinobarometer, the most important social public opinion survey of the continent, the legitimacy of Colombian democracy has doubled between 2002 and 2008 to more than 60 percent. Furthermore, the votes in the 2007 regional elections increased 30 per cent in comparison to the 2003 elections.

We have rejected publicly any attack against human rights defenders and their headquarters. Whenever the justice has filed complaints against anybody in connection with any charge, all the procedural guarantees have been granted and no event where a member of any of this organization is involved has occurred due to their work as human rights defenders or their opinions.

The truth is that we wish a more constructive relationship with human rights organizations without losing autonomy or independence. We disagree with some of the reports or analyses of Colombian reality but we are aware of our limitations and flaws. We disagree with the method of generalizing, of denying the progress, and overall with the practice of suspending the participation in all dialogue scenarios under any pretext. Dialogue constitutes the only way to enrich the different positions and benefit the enforcement of human rights in Colombia. We are confident that this relationship finds a way to improve and we are willing to carry out any reasonable effort for its accomplishment.

We are aware of the road that follows as well as of the flaws we have to overcome. This is why we have dedicated 14 paragraphs of the Report to list 67 voluntary commitments that we will assume solemnly before this audience.

We hope to have the solidarity and accompaniment of the international community for such purpose. With the opportunity to share development policies to overcome poverty and with your expert advise to strengthen the quality and efficiency of our institutions. With your firm rejection of all forms of violence that jeopardize our society and the democratic institutions in Colombia and with your patience and wisdom to stimulate the constructive dialogue at the interior of our society we hope to continue improving the situation of human rights in Colombia.

Today, 60 years ago, all human beings of the world begun to see the hope that the human condition could be dignified through the acknowledgement of the rights to a free and peaceful living. In Colombia our every day priority is to make such dream come true and we hope that those who persist in violence understand that a serious

Documents 2008

Confidence en Colombia
Social cohesion - Based on freedoms

Investment based - On social responsability

Security - Based on democracy
38 Assembly General OAS