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Resolution adopted unanimously by the Governing Council
at its 174rd session (Mexico, 23 April 2004)

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, Mr. Manuel Cepeda Vargas and Mr. Octavio Sarmiento Bohórquez of Colombia, as contained in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/174/12(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 173rd session (October 2003),

Taking account of the letter from the Director of the Presidential Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Programme, dated 5 January 2004, and of communications from the Office of the Prosecutor General dated 16 April 2004,

Also taking account of communications from the sources dated 8 and 9 January, 18 February and 19 and 22 March 2004,

Recalling that the MPs concerned, members of the Unión Patriótica, were all assassinated between 1986 and 2001; only in the case of Senator Cepeda Vargas have the murderers, two military officers, been identified and sentenced in 1999 to 43 years’ imprisonment, while Carlos Castaño, accused of masterminding the murder, was acquitted at first and second instance; in 2001, his book “My Confession”, in which he acknowledged that he had ordered and masterminded Senator Cepeda's assassination, was submitted to the Supreme Court as evidence of his guilt; however, the Court has so far not taken this evidence into consideration,

Recalling also its concerns at the death threats against Mr. Cepeda’s son Iván, which for several years forced him into exile, and the disappearance of the wife and one of the daughters of the main witness in this case; taking account in this regard of the information provided by the Director of the Presidential Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Programme, on 5 January 2004, that the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General's office had examined this case, which was awaiting judgment,

Recalling that, in the case of Mr. Jaramillo Ossa, Carlos Castaño and his brother Fidel were identified as the murderers and sentenced in absentia in November 2001,

Recalling further that, in the context of the amicable settlement procedure before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the persecution and extermination of the Unión Patriótica and its members, a Joint Commission was set up in 1999 composed of all interested parties to “define a working method to elucidate the facts of the case and contribute to the realisation of the right to truth and justice and, if appropriate, reparations”, and that recently several subcommittees were set up for the second stage of the process; recalling in this respect that, according to the information gathered by its on-site mission (March/April 2003), there was insufficient funding for the bodies set up within the amicable settlement procedure; according to the Director of the Presidential Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Programme, a draft budget had been prepared for 2004, “with the amount to be decided in the light of the country’s financial situation”,

Recalling that, following the Santa Fe de Ralito agreement of 15 July 2003 between the authorities and the paramilitaries, a bill on their demobilisation and alternative sanctions was submitted to the National Congress, the provisions of which have been widely criticised, including by the Prosecutor General’s Office, for failing to take adequate account of questions of justice and reparation; members of the parliamentary committee studying the bill have reportedly publicly stated that they are being pressured by Carlos Castaño to adopt it as it stands; considering in this respect that, according to the Director of the Presidential Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Programme, the Congress and the Government were conducting the debate on the paramilitary (self-defence) groups publicly and no concession had been made to these armed organisations, as evidenced by the increased number of operational successes recorded by the law enforcement agencies,

Noting that, according to a member of the Colombian delegation at a hearing held on the occasion of the 110th IPU Assembly (April 2004), the bill will be debated in the Senate in the week of 26-30 April if so agreed in the First Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs of the Senate; meanwhile, negotiations continue between the Government and the paramilitary groups, which reportedly insist on further limitations to possible criminal proceedings against their members,

Bearing in mind the Chairperson’s statement on the “Situation of human rights in Colombia” adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights at its 59th session (OHCHR/STM/CHR/03/2) whereby the Government is urged to take further necessary measures to end impunity, recalling “the importance of bringing the full force of the law to bear on those responsible for the crimes committed by bringing them to trial in civilian courts, in accordance with international standards of fair trial, and emphasising that any solution to the conflict must not lead to impunity for such crimes”,

  1. Thanks the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Director of the Presidential Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Programme for the information provided and their cooperation;

  2. Is deeply concerned that, in its present form, the draft bill before Congress on the demobilisation of the paramilitary does not ensure the right to truth, justice and reparation of victims of human rights violations, and would thus entail impunity for perpetrators of gross human rights violations, including paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño;

  3. Expresses concern that the Congress has so far not been represented in the ongoing negotiations with the paramilitaries, thereby preventing it from intervening at an early stage in the negotiations and voicing any concerns regarding the underlying spirit of the current draft bill and the demands of the paramilitary groups for wider impunity provisions;

  4. Considers that Parliament is uniquely positioned to provide a basis for combating impunity, in particular by establishing an effective legal framework for this purpose; strongly urges Congress, in particular its Human Rights Committees, to make the draft bill compatible with Colombia’s national and international human rights obligations, and to monitor the ongoing negotiations to this end;

  5. Reaffirms that any legislation to fight impunity is bound to fail if no concrete action is taken to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to trial; urges therefore the competent authorities to ensure that Carlos Castaño stands trial for his involvement in the murders of Senator Cepeda and Mr. Jaramillo Ossa;

  6. Is convinced that the mechanisms set up within the amicable settlement procedure in the Unión Patriótica case are crucial in advancing recognition of the rights of the victims of human rights violations and in lending fresh impetus to the investigation in the cases of Octavio Vargas, Pedro Luis Valencia, Pedro Nel Jiménez and Leonardo Posada, and therefore warrant all the necessary financial and political support; wishes to be kept informedof any progress made towards these objectives;

  7. Notes with satisfaction that a case has been registered regarding the disappearance of the wife and daughter of the main witness in the Cepeda case; would appreciate receiving more particulars in this respect;

  8. Deeply regrets the absence of any information about the investigation into the murder of Octavio Sarmiento; fears that this may show a lack of resolve on the part of the authorities to act on the ample evidence which would have enabled the early identification and prosecution of the culprits, and reiterates its wish to ascertain the stage reached in the relevant investigations;

  9. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities and to the sources;

  10. 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 111th Assembly (September-October 2004).

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