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Resolution adopted unanimously by the Governing Council
at its 173rd session (Geneva, 3 October 2003)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the outline of the case of Mr. Pedro Nel Jiménez Obando, Mr. Leonardo Posada Pedraza, Mr. Octavio Vargas Cuéllar, Mr. Pedro Luis Valencia Giraldo, Mr. Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa and Mr. Manuel Cepeda Vargas of Colombia, as contained in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/173/11(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 171st session (September 2002),

Recalling that the MPs concerned were all assassinated between 1986 and 1994 and that only in the case of Senator Cepeda Vargas have the murderers been brought to trial, while in the case of Mr. Jaramillo Ossa the murderers have been sentenced in absentia; recalling also that former paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño Gil, who was acquitted at first and second instance in the case of Senator Cepeda, acknowledged in his book "My Confession" (December 2001) that he had ordered and masterminded Senator Cepeda's assassination, and that the book has been submitted to the Supreme Court as evidence of Carlos Castaño's guilt; in mid-May 2003, Judge Edgar Lombano returned the book to Iván Cepeda stating that on grounds of "procedural honesty", it could not be accepted; Iván Cepeda lodged an amparo action with the Supreme Court against that decision; however, it was rejected, which rejection has become the subject of a petition to the Constitutional Court which is still pending; noting in this respect that, according to the President of the Supreme Court, new evidence can only be taken into account in review but not in cassation proceedings,

Having before it the written report on the on-site mission carried out on 31 March and 1 April 2003 for the purpose of putting IPU's concerns about these cases to the Colombian authorities and gathering first-hand information from them,

Having also before it the case of Mr. Octavio Sarmiento Bohórquez, a former member of the Colombian House of Representatives, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in accordance with the "Procedure for the examination and treatment, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of communications concerning violations of human rights of parliamentarians"; noting that Mr. Sarmiento was killed on 1 October 2001 on his farm "Bellavista" in Arauca Department by paramilitaries who, on several occasions before the murder, trespassed on his farm and who as of late September 2001 occupied it, holding the Sarmiento family captive,

Taking account of additional information obtained by the Secretary General during his subsequent visit to Colombia (May 2003) when he met the Attorney General and the Ombudsman to discuss these cases and means of ensuring progress in the investigations,

Noting that, following the Santa Fe de Ralito agreement of 15 July 2003 between the authorities and the paramilitary, a bill on their demobilisation was submitted to the National Congress, the provisions of which have been widely criticised for failing to take adequate account of questions of justice and reparation; noting that members of the parliamentary committee studying the bill have publicly stated that they are being pressured by Carlos Castaño to adopt it as it stands,

Taking account of a communication dated 13 August 2003 from the Director of the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General's Office in which she undertook to provide further updated information on the investigations into the outstanding murder cases, which has nevertheless not been forthcoming,

  1. Thanks the authorities of Colombia and, in particular, the President of the National Congress for their cooperation and for the arrangements made to ensure that the delegation was able, as requested, to travel to Bogotá, meet all concerned parties and enjoy the necessary facilities;

  2. Commends the delegation on its work and fully endorses the findings and recommendations as contained in its report;

  3. Nevertheless regrets that, except for the National Conciliation Commission, which expressed full support, the authorities have failed to respond to the report;

  4. Is convinced that the National Congress of Colombia must take a more active part in ensuring that proper investigations are carried out and in facilitating information-sharing regarding these cases, in particular with the Ombudsman;

  5. Is also convinced that parliamentary human rights committees can be an effective tool in combating impunity if they have the necessary powers and facilities; calls therefore on the presidency of the National Congress to ensure that the human rights committees in both chambers are granted the necessary powers and facilities to perform their work effectively;

  6. Urges the authorities, and in particular the National Congress, to ensure that the joint commission set up in the framework of the amicable settlement procedure before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the Unión Patriótica case is granted sufficient financial resources to do its work expeditiously, which would certainly lead to progress in these cases;

  7. Urges the authorities to lend fresh impetus to the investigations into the murders of Octavio Vargas, Pedro Luis Valencia and Octavio Sarmiento, and in particular those of Pedro Nel Jiménez and Leonardo Posada, as in these two cases suspects were identified before the proceedings were dropped;

  8. Eagerly awaits the substantive information the Attorney General's Office and the Director of its Human and Humanitarian Rights Unit undertook to provide regarding the investigations in question, including whether an investigation has been launched to ascertain the whereabouts of the wife and daughter of the key witness in the Cepeda case, and whether measures have meanwhile been taken to ensure that the convicts in this case are indeed serving their sentences;

  9. Urges the State Council to conduct the proceedings pending before it regarding compensation for Senator Cepeda's family without further delay;

  10. Deeply regrets that a book containing an unequivocal confession by Castaño of his guilt in Mr. Cepeda's murder has not been taken into account by the Supreme Court; notes that an appeal in this regard is under way; and earnestly hopes that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure that this important exhibit is taken into due account;

  11. Expresses deep concern at the bill before Congress on the demobilisation of the paramilitary, which, in its present form, includes the option of excessively lenient sanctions for those who have committed crimes under national and international law, and would entail impunity for Carlos Castaño for his involvement in the murder of Manuel Cepeda and Bernardo Jaramillo;

  12. Stresses that it is an internationally recognised human rights principle that amnesties and pardons can only be granted if the right to truth, justice and reparation of victims of human rights violations is respected; calls on the Congress to ensure that the law it adopts on this matter is consistent with this paramount principle;

  13. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the President of the National Congress of Colombia and to the authorities concerned, inviting them to inform the Committee of any action they may have taken to implement its recommendations;

  14. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session to be held on the occasion of the 110th Assembly.

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