Victims of sexual violence in Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict face little hope of ever getting justice, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
The Colombian authorities have repeatedly made promises to address the problem, but Amnesty’s report, Colombia: Hidden from justice. Impunity for conflict-related sexual violence , comes to the chilling conclusion that increasing numbers of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights human rights activists are being threatened and attacked. It finds that by their inaction, the Colombian authorities are giving a green light to rapists.
Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty’s Colombia researcher, said:
“By failing to effectively investigate sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, the Colombian authorities are sending a dangerous message to perpetrators that they can continue to rape and sexually abuse without fear of the consequences.
“The only way of ending sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in Colombia is by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility face justice.”
In Colombia’s armed conflict, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are targets of sexual violence to sow terror within communities to force them to flee their land, wreak revenge on the enemy, control the sexual and reproductive rights of female combatants or exploit Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls as sexual slaves.
Sexual violence is often not reported to the authorities as Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are frequently too scared to talk, fear stigmatisation or believe the crime will not be properly investigated.
Other obstacles to justice include a lack of security for survivors and for those involved in legal proceedings; discrimination by judicial officials towards Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights survivors; and the lack of a comprehensive strategy to combat impunity in such cases. Bureaucratic inefficiencies, underfunding and the infiltration of local state institutions by illegal armed groups also impede the ability of the legal system to deliver justice.
“The problem in Colombia has not primarily been the lack of relatively good laws, resolutions, decrees, protocols and directives, these exist in abundance, but rather the failure to implement them effectively and consistently across the country.
“If Colombia continues to be unable or unwilling genuinely to bring to justice those responsible for conflict-related sexual crimes, then this could require the International Criminal Court to step in.”
A number of high level officials – including Vice-President Angelino Garzón and the Attorney General – have publicly expressed their commitment to find justice for the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.
Several legislative initiatives have also been presented over the past year that could, if implemented effectively, have a positive impact on victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation.
Earlier this year, Colombian legislators Iván Cepeda and Ángela María Robledo, with the support of the human rights ombudsman’s delegate for Children's rights, youth and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Pilar Rueda, presented a legislative bill in Congress to combat impunity in cases of conflict-related sexual crimes.
If approved, this legislation will amend the criminal code to reflect international standards by making conflict-related sexual violence a specific criminal offence under Colombian law.
A number of legislative projects, however, threaten to undermine these efforts.
One of the bills currently being debated in Congress will strengthen the role of the military justice system in investigating and prosecuting crimes under international law in which members of the security forces are implicated. Although the proposed law states that conflict-related sexual crimes are excluded from military jurisdiction, it gives the military justice system greater control over the initial and, therefore, crucial stage of the investigation.
Another initiative, known as the “legal framework for peace”, was passed by Congress in June 2012 and was signed into law by President Santos soon after. The law could allow human rights abusers, including members of the security forces, to benefit from de facto amnesties. It will give Congress the power to suspend prison sentences of members of the warring parties, including security forces.
Amnesty International called on the Colombian authorities to develop and implement an effective, comprehensive inter-disciplinary plan of action to address sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and to support the bill before Congress “to guarantee access to justice for victims of sexual violence, especially sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict.”