Letter: Colombia's crisis

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The Independent Online
ISABEL HILTON is to be commended for an excellent article highlighting the plight of Colombia's rural communities ("Land of Fear", Review, 12 September). Amnesty International is campaigning on behalf of the victims of the increasing violence and lawlessness now endemic in the Colombian countryside, as well as on behalf of human rights defenders, who have been branded as legitimate military targets by the paramilitary coalition.

One of our major concerns is that of impunity. It is estimated that 97 per cent of all crimes in Colombia now go unpunished. The security forces' reluctance to act upon a growing mountain of outstanding arrest warrants for human rights abuses carried out by paramilitary groups is graphic testament to their own complicity.

The scale of the problem is staggering. So far more than 1,000 civilians have been unlawfully killed this year alone. Yet this may be just the tip of the iceberg; it is thought that the majority of such offences are never reported to the authorities, for fear of reprisals. If we then consider that two out of every three human rights abuses are committed by paramilitary groups, a picture of widespread and systematic intimidation emerges. The stark reality is this: to seek justice in Colombia today is to invite a swift and deadly retribution.

We are calling on the Colombian government to disband all paramilitary groups, end impunity and bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice, be they paramilitaries, guerrillas, or indeed from within the military itself.

RICHARD BUNTING

Amnesty International UK

London EC1

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