Letter: Rights in Colombia

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Glenn Bassett (letter, 26 October) makes a series of accusations about human rights violations in Colombia. I would like to make the following comments.

Neither the Colombian state nor the government of President Pastrana promotes, condones or tolerates human rights abuses by the armed forces or police. When there are proven instances, those responsible are brought to justice and punished. The security situation is complex. Guerrilla groups use kidnapping, extortion and other violent means. There are also so-called self-defence or paramilitary groups opposing the guerrillas, totally outside the law.

The government's response has been multi-faceted. It is seeking full implementation of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention to bring compliance with humanitarian law into the conflict. It also has a clear policy to fight private justice groups: tougher enforcement, improving the investigative capabilities of prosecutors, enhancing intelligence-gathering, strengthening the role of the judiciary and increasing public awareness of the dangers of paramilitary violence.

The Colombian government vigorously opposes any links between the military and private justice groups. If there is sufficient evidence, members of the armed forces who aid them will be investigated and punished.

We continue to strengthen the legal framework for the protection of human rights. To that end, we have modified the military justice system, are entering the forced disappearance of persons into the criminal code, have ratified the Inter-American Convention Against Torture and have undertaken a review of the criminal justice code. Colombia has signed the Convention establishing an International Criminal Court. Finally, President Pastrana's government is committed to a long-term policy that seeks to attain peace through dialogue with the guerrilla groups.


Ambassador of Colombia

London SW1