Colombia: Paramilitary leaders should answer for human rights violations

'The international community should insist that the Colombian government finally takes firm and decisive action to combat paramilitary groups, including arresting their leaders and severing their links with the Colombian security forces,' Amnesty International said. 'The international community should also insist that members of the security forces responsible for coordinating and supporting paramilitary forces are brought to justice'.

'As repeatedly recommended by the United Nations, dismantling the paramilitary structures and breaking their ties with the Colombian army, together with action to end impunity, is one of the keys to address the human rights emergency afflicting the country,' the organisation continued.

Paramilitary groups, which act with the tacit or explicit support or complicity of the armed forces and are an integral part of their counter-insurgency strategy, are responsible for systematic, mass scale human rights violations including massacres, targeted killings, 'disappearances' and torture. The vast majority of those responsible enjoy full impunity.

'The Colombian government maintains that it is fighting a war on two fronts, against the guerrilla groups and paramilitaries. However, its failure to take action against paramilitary forces and continuing reports of collusion between these and the Colombian army mean that these claims cannot be taken seriously,' Amnesty International said.

'This makes the recent decision by the United States to release more military aid to Colombia all the more disturbing,' the organisation added, stressing the responsibility of the international community in ensuring that the Colombian government takes appropriate measures to alleviate the human rights crisis rather than deepening it.

Background

There are currently 26 judicial proceedings open in Colombia against Carlos Castaño, leader of the umbrella paramilitary group United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), and the largest paramilitary force, the Peasant Farmer Self-Defence Groups of Córdoba and Urabá, Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU), for charges including murder, attempted murder, massacres and kidnapping. Despite the fact that the media have been able to track him down for interviews on numerous occasions, no serious attempt has been made by the authorities to arrest him or any of the national paramilitary leaders, including Salvatore Mancuso.

View latest press releases