HUMAN RIGHTS MISSION TO COLOMBIA
Report of the Executive Committee endorsed by the IPU Council at its 172nd session
(Santiago de Chile, 12 April 2003)
- The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is at present examining several cases of former and incumbent members of the Colombian Congress. They concern six members of parliament belonging to the Unión Patriótica who were assassinated between 1986 and 1994; the case of one Unión Patriótica MP who, because of death threats, was forced into exile; the case of an MP who had been kidnapped by a paramilitary group, received death threats and has been the target of attempts on her life, and finally the case of six MPs who have been taken hostage by FARC, the main Colombian guerrilla group.
- The Committee and the Council have consistently expressed concern that only little progress, if any, has been made in these cases since they were referred to the Committee. As regards the Unión Patriótica cases, only the murderers of Mr. Jaramillo Ossa and Mr. Cepeda Vargas have been identified, and only in the latter case were they arrested. There are serious doubts whether those convicted of Mr. Cepeda's murder, two military officers, are actually serving their sentences. No steps seem to have been taken to execute the arrest warrants issued for paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño in these cases. As for the MPs held by FARC, some of them since 2000, their release is uncertain. In view of this worrying situation, the Council therefore requested the Committee to carry out an on-site mission to share with the competent authorities the IPU's concerns about these cases, to gather first-hand information from them and the other parties concerned, and to offer the assistance of the IPU in helping to obtain the release of the FARC hostages.
- Following the approval of the Colombian authorities and taking up their suggestion for it to take place in the week starting 31 March, and following consultations with the Committee members, the Secretary General, accompanied by the Committee's Secretary, carried out the mission on 31 March and 1 April. In addition to meeting the Presidents of both Chambers of the Colombian Congress and the Chairpersons of their Human Rights Committee, the mission met the Vice-President of the Republic and the Director of the Human and Humanitarian Rights Programme of his Office, the High Commissioner for Peace, the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General and the Director of the Human Rights Unit of his Office, members of the group established to facilitate contact with FARC, members of the political opposition, human rights NGOs, lawyers involved in some of the cases, and families of the FARC hostages.
- The mission, which received the full cooperation of the Colombian Parliament, was able to gather important information on the cases of murder, death threats and attacks. Most importantly, the authorities gave it assurances of their cooperation in the future. As for the politicians held by FARC, the mission noted the declared intention of the authorities to reach a humanitarian agreement regarding their release. However, it was also made aware of the many obstacles to securing such an agreement and the risk to the hostages' lives from the ongoing military operations. The mission, which will issue its written report shortly, is convinced that the only solution lies in the rapid conclusion of a humanitarian agreement.
- The Executive Committee therefore recommends that the IPU and its member parliaments take initiatives in support of concluding a humanitarian agreement between the Colombian Government and FARC to put an end to the plight of fellow MPs held by it and pave the way for peace negotiations.
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