Annual Report: Colombia 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Colombia 2013

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Republic of Colombia

Head of state and government Juan Manuel Santos Calderón

Formal peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began in Norway in October, the first such talks in a decade. Concerns remained that a stable peace would not be possible without a verifiable commitment from the two sides to put an end to human rights abuses and a commitment by the authorities to bring abusers to justice.

Internal armed conflict

Civilians continued to bear the brunt of conflict-related human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Although precise figures were not available, tens of thousands of people were known to have been forced from their homes in 2012 as a direct result of the conflict. Most were members of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendent and peasant farmer communities in rural areas.

  • In June, over 130 people from El Tarra, Norte de Santander Department, and around 400 from Leiva, Nariño Department, were forced to flee their homes.

Civilian communities, such as the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in Antioquia Department, campaigning to ensure the warring parties did not drag them into the conflict, continued to be subjected to serious human rights abuses.

  • On 28 June, two members of the Peace Community were followed by 50 armed paramilitaries of the “Gaitanista Forces of Colombia” who threatened to kill peasant farmer Fabio Graciano.
  • On 4 February, two paramilitaries on a motorbike shot at Jesús Emilio Tuberquia, the legal representative of the Peace Community. The attack, in the town of Apartadó, took place only about 100m from a police control post.

Bomb attacks in urban areas led to the loss of civilian lives.

  • On 15 May, a car bomb injured more than 50 people, including former Interior Minister Fernando Londoño, in the capital Bogotá. His driver and bodyguard were killed. No group claimed responsibility, although the authorities blamed the FARC.

In July, Colombia ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. However, it did not recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, thereby denying victims and their families an important recourse to justice. Although accurate numbers were hard to establish, at least 30,000 people were thought to have been forcibly disappeared during the conflict.

  • Hernán Henry Díaz, spokesperson for the Departmental Roundtable of Social Organizations in Putumayo Department and member of the National United Trade Union of Agricultural Workers, was last seen on 18 April. At the time of his enforced disappearance, he was co-ordinating the participation of delegates from Putumayo in a national political demonstration due to take place later that month in Bogotá.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

The impact of the conflict on Indigenous Peoples intensified as hostilities raged in their territories, especially in Cauca and Valle del Cauca departments. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, at least 84 Indigenous people were killed in 2012, including 21 leaders.

  • On 12 August, Lisandro Tenorio, a spiritual leader for the Nasa Indigenous People, was shot dead, reportedly by FARC guerrillas, outside his home in Caloto, Cauca Department.

Thousands of Indigenous people were forced from their homes as a result of the hostilities. In July, more than 1,500 Indigenous people were forcibly displaced from their lands in Bagadó, Chocó Department.

High-ranking officials made statements linking Indigenous leaders and communities with guerrilla groups. For example, in August, the Defence Minister accused the FARC of infiltrating the Indigenous movement. Such statements encouraged a climate in which abuses against Indigenous Peoples were tolerated, encouraged or facilitated.