UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions releases report on Colombia

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston released his latest report, which focuses on his last mission to Colombia.

In his report, Alston describes the Colombian Government’s June 2003 Democratic Security Policy, which defined “terrorism” as the central threat to peace in Colombia, together with drug and arms trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, and homicide.  Alston reports that this policy sought to “defeat the FARC and ELN and regain territory taken by them; eliminate drug trafficking; demobilize paramilitaries and reintegrate former members into society; and increase security by strengthening, integrating and expanding the armed forces”.

The Rapporteur stresses that at present

“The existence of an armed conflict in Colombia is the subject of some controversy. The Government’s position is that Colombia is not engaged in an armed conflict and that the FARC and ELN are terrorists, not belligerents under IHL. Some officials were concerned that admitting the existence of an armed conflict would signal a failure of Colombian security policies and negate their successes.” Nonetheless, Alston remarks that in many occasions International Humanitarian Law “will apply in the context of military operations against the FARC or ELN”. Moreover, “whether or not IHL applies in the context of actions against other armed non-State actors will also depend on whether the objective criteria are met. Generally, operations against such groups should be undertaken by the police, in accordance with human rights law.”

The UN independent expert reports that a significant number of civilian murders presented as “killed in combat” (so-called “false positives”) have been carried out by security forces. Although it is not proven that these killings were part of a State policy, Alston highlights that they may have occurred under the pressure to show success against guerrillas, accompanied by a system of incentives to kill or provide information on guerrillas, combined with a general failure of accountability.

In this respect, Alston also notes that in some occasions human rights defenders raising concerns about false positives killings, have been accused by Government officials of  undermining security policies and even of terrorism.

“Unfounded accusations of this type put individuals at great risk and are unworthy of a democratic Government. The Government can address the concerns of its critics without recklessly endangering them”, Alston says.

A recent interview with Philip Alston you can read here.

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