Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bush Must Thoroughly Examine Colombia's Human Rights Record, Press Uribe to End Abuses, Says Amnesty International


As the U.S. State Department once again considers certifying Colombia for security assistance, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) urged President Bush to use his upcoming meeting with President Alvaro Uribe Velez to examine thoroughlyand impartially Colombia's ongoing human rights crisis and its controversial Justice and Peace law.

"Despite—or perhaps because of—the administration's close working relationship with Uribe, the U.S. has failed to use its leverage and influence with the Colombian government to ensure an end to human rights violations by the Colombian military," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA. "Now, President Bush himself has the chance to address the flagrant abuses by armed forces and paramilitaries that not only undermine the rule of law, but also foment instability and insecurity in the country."

The U.S. has the power to withhold security assistance if Colombia fails to meet human rights conditions required for certification. In a letter sent to President Bush on July 29th, AIUSA asked that he use his August 4th meeting with Uribe to insist that President Uribe address continued military-paramilitary collusion and institute full, impartial investigations of human rights violations—or forfeit U.S. security assistance.

In its letter to President Bush, AIUSA noted that civilians—over 70,000 of whom have been killed in the past 20 years—continue to bear the brunt of violence committed by Colombia's armed groups. Threats and violence against social activists and human rights defenders are commonplace; of equally pressing concern is the prevalence of violence against women, who are often sexually assaulted or physically mutilated before being murdered by armed actors.

The human rights organization also criticized Colombia's new Justice and Peace law which, though designed to provide a legal framework for the demobilization of illegal armed groups, is wrought with loopholes that may prevent victims from being guaranteed their right to truth, justice and reparation. The law may also allow perpetrators of human rights abuses to walk free.

"Ending impunity is an important first step to dealing with Colombia's longstanding human rights problems," Schulz wrote in the letter. "Without prosecutions and accountability for human rights violations, no amount of good intentions and promises from the government will result in improvements for Colombian citizens."

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