Colombia: Government in denial over human rights abuses

The Colombian government is painting a positive picture of the human rights situation in Colombia, despite increasing reports of forced internal displacement, attacks against social and human rights activists and killings by security forces, said Amnesty International in a report today.

Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International, said:

“The Colombian authorities are in absolute denial, even refusing to admit there’s an armed conflict in their country, but people are telling us a very different story.

“It’s impossible to solve a problem without admitting there is one. Denial only condemns more people to abuse and death.”

Amnesty International’s report is the most comprehensive up-to-date study on the state of human rights in this South American country. It shows that while some human rights indicators – such as kidnappings and the security situation in some cities – have improved over the years, many others have deteriorated:

- At least 1,400 civilians were killed in 2007, up from 1,300 in 2006. Of the cases where the perpetrator is known, the security forces were responsible for at least 330 of these, the paramilitaries for around 300 and the guerrilla for some 260.

- As many as 305,000 Colombians were displaced in 2007, compared with 220,000 in 2006.

- At least 190 people were victims of either enforced disappearances by the security forces and paramilitaries or missing following abductions by guerrilla groups in 2007, up from around 180 in 2006.

Amnesty’s study also debunks statements repeated by the Colombian government: that paramilitary groups no longer operate, human rights abusers are held to account and the work of social activists and trade unionists is being fully respected.

Marcelo Pollack said:

“For over 40 years, Colombians have been trapped in one of the worst, forgotten conflicts in the world, attacked by the security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups, while the government fails to take any meaningful action to protect them.

“To reverse Colombia’s tragic reality the government and guerrilla groups must once and for all remove the civilian population from the conflict.”

Amnesty International is calling on all parties to the Colombian conflict to demonstrate the political will to end human rights abuses. The organisation also urges the international community to make greater efforts to ensure that both sides of the conflict respect the human rights of Colombians.

Download the report Leave us in Peace: Targetting Civilians in Colombia's Internal armed conflict (pdf)

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