Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Colombia criminals

Jude Collins writes about crime in Colombia:

In 2003 the Colombian Trade Union Congress estimated that in the previous year 172 trade unionists were killed, 164 received death threats and 132 were arbitrarily detained by authorities.

Paramilitary groups linked to the Colombian armed forces were believed to have carried out many of these attacks.

In 2002, a Human Rights Watch report said that during 2001, "Several key witnesses to important [human rights] cases were killed while in government custody. Most political killings, by far, were the work of paramilitary groups which continued to work with the tolerance or open support of units of the Colombian security forces." Government and paramilitary units habitually share intelligence, the report added.

Also vehicles, roadblocks, and even in some cases the same people served in the government's armed forces and in paramilitary groupings.

In 2003, human rights campaigner Esperanza Amaris Miranda denounced right-wing paramilitary threats before Colombia's federal prosecutor. Shortly afterwards, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' office, she was killed by the paramilitary group Bloque Central Bolivar, which has documented ties to the Colombian military.

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe has denounced defenders of human rights as a front for left-wing paramilitaries. In 2003, 13 human rights defenders were murdered, and many more left the country under threat.

Human Rights Watch said: "Government programs meant to help defenders, trade unionists, and even witnesses to human rights crimes were overwhelmed and plagued with internal problems as well as serious questions about their security. Overall, both witnesses and the prosecutors who investigate human rights cases reported continuing threats against them."


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