Bra frågor

Amerikanska tankesmedjan Center for International Policy erbjuder journalister som vid något tillfälle ska intervjua företrädare för den colombianska regeringen ett par frågor (med förklarande bakgrunder):

Why are labor union killings still taking place in Colombia?

Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place for labor activists. So far 21 trade unionists were assassinated in 2009 and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice are inadequate. The impunity rate in such cases remains 95%.

Why is the Colombian government undermining freedom of expression?

In a still-unfolding scandal, Colombia’s presidential intelligence agency (DAS) was discovered to be systematically conducting surveillance without warrants, which included tapping the phones and email of hundreds of human rights defenders, journalists, members of the political opposition and Supreme Court judges. More than just wiretapping, the agency was reportedly involved in sending death threats to defenders and fabricating intelligence for use in trumped-up criminal charges. This scandal constitutes a serious assault upon freedom of expression, association and privacy.  In addition, aggressive and unsubstantiated statements by high-level Colombian officials, including President Uribe, continue to undermine the work and safety of human rights defenders, publicly stigmatizing them, unleashing the intelligence services against them and putting their security at risk.

Why is it taking so long to clean up Colombia’s political institutions?

Today, 77 members of the Colombian Congress elected in 2006—more than 30 percent of the legislature—are under investigation, in jail or on trial for links to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries, a group considered a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department. During the first part of this decade, the AUC was responsible for three-quarters of conflict-related killings of Colombian civilians. Most of these AUC-linked politicians represent pro-government political parties. Despite steps taken, including an ongoing investigation of President Uribe’s cousin and political ally Mario Uribe, the process is moving slowly.

Why do most extrajudicial execution cases remain in impunity?

Government forces continue to commit extrajudicial executions and other abuses, with the vast majority remaining in impunity. According to the Colombian Attorney-General Human Rights Unit’s own statistics, of the 1,025 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings assigned to the unit from 2002 to April 2009, only 16 have resulted in conviction.  UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who conducted a special mission on the issue last week, called the killings “cold-blooded, premeditated murder of innocent civilians for profit” and noted that while the most well-known “killings were undeniably blatant and obscene, my investigation showed that they were but the tip of the iceberg.”

For more information on this troubling crime see the U.S. Office on Colombia’s report, “A State of Impunity in Colombia,” released this week.

Indiscriminate use of force by members of the armed forces also remains a concern, especially in Afro-Colombian and indigenous territories. On May 3rd 2009 a Colombian military helicopter indiscriminately machine-gunned several Afro-Colombian areas in Lopez de Micay, in the southwestern department of Cauca. Among the victims was a thirteen year old boy.

Why is the humanitarian crisis increasing in Colombia?

Over 4 million Colombians have been internally displaced by violence, and an estimated 500,000-750,000 refugees have fled to other countries. Colombia has the largest internally displaced (IDP) population in the world, UNHCR recently reported. According to the Colombian group CODHES, 380,000 people were newly displaced in 2008, an increase of 24% from 2007. IDPs are not Colombia’s only humanitarian problem; a recent UNICEF report notes that landmines are found in 31 out of Colombia’s 32 departments. Colombia has more landmine victims that any other country in the world, one-third of them children.

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