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The US Office on Colombia Blog is a bilingual space to discuss important news about human rights and peace in Colombia. Several of our articles come from prominent Colombian organizations and independent journalists. We encourage you to read our articles and participate by posting comments!


El Blog de la US Office on Colombia es un espacio bilingüe para discutir asuntos importantes acerca los derechos humanos y la paz en Colombia. Muchos de nuestros artículos vienen de prominentes organizaciones colombianas y de periodistas independientes. ¡Le animamos a Usted a que lea los artículos y participe con sus comentarios!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Colombia Policy Watch


UNHCHR being pushed out of Colombia?
 

Despite UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay's recent visit to Colombia, Santos has made it clear that it will only renew the office's mandate for one more year, denying them the typical 3-year renewal.  Santos and his Foreign Minister, Maria Angela Holguín, both made strong statements arguing that protection of human rights has improved so significantly in Colombia that a long-term UNHCHR presence in the country is no longer be necessary. While they acknowledged the need for the UNHCHR in the past and applauded the work that the office has done, they argued that UNHCHR has done its job and now it is time to leave.

It appears that the Santos administration was reluctant to renew the mandate at all, but intense pressure from the international community seems to have led to this compromise. Most likely the impulse to get rid of the office is due to the desire for less scrutiny over Colombia's human rights record, especially from the army (recently under criticism from the UNHCHR for unlawful use of force in the Catatumbo) and the Congress/Administration (highly criticized by the HCHR and other UN entities for the passage of the law expanding military jurisdiction).

USOC maintains that the presence of the UNHCHR in Colombia is critical, especially during the current peace process, and in the eventual implementation of accords. The UNHCHR has been an incomparable ally in the fight against impunity in Colombia and instrumental in many of the human rights successes of the past decades, like the drastic reduction in extrajudicial killings.
 

¿Expulsando la OACNUDH de Colombia?    
 

A pesar de la reciente visita a Colombia de Navy Pillay, la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, el Presidente Santos ha dejado claro que sólo se renovará el mandato de la oficina por un año más, negándole la típica renovación de 3 años. Tanto Santos como su Ministra de Relaciones Exteriores, María Ángela Holguín, ha promulgado fuertes declaraciones, argumentando que la protección de los derechos humanos ha mejorado tanto en Colombia que la presencia de la OACNUDH a largo plazo en el país ya no es necesaria. Si bien reconocieron la necesidad de la OACNUDH en el pasado y aplaudieron el trabajo que la oficina ha hecho, alegaron que la OACNUDH ha cumplido su deber y ya es hora de que se vaya.


Hay indicaciones de que el gobierno de Santos fue reacio a renovar cualquier aspecto del mandato, pero la intensa presión de la comunidad internacional parece haber dado lugar al compromiso actual. Lo más probable es que el impulso para echar a la oficina del país se debe al deseo de evitar tanto escrutinio sobre los derechos humanos en Colombia, especialmente en el ejército (recientemente criticado por la OACNUDH por su uso ilegal de la fuerza en el Catatumbo) y el Congreso / Administración (muy criticada por la Oficina del Alto Comisionado y otras entidades de la ONU por la aprobación de la ley estatutaria que lleva a una ampliación del fuero penal militar).

USOC sostiene que la presencia de la OACNUDH en Colombia es fundamental, especialmente durante el actual proceso de paz, y para la eventual aplicación de los acuerdos. La OACNUDH ha sido un aliado indispensable en la lucha contra la impunidad en Colombia y decisivo en muchos de los éxitos de las últimas décadas en el campo de derechos humanos, como, por ejemplo, en la drástica reducción de las ejecuciones extrajudiciales.

 
"Legal Framework for Peace" in final stages before legal approval     


All eyes are on the Colombian Constitutional Court as it undertakes hearings on the legality of the highly controversial "legal framework for peace" law. Voices from both sides of the political spectrum have  questioned the constitutionality of the law, which would dictate that only victimizers who are considered "most responsible" be tried for violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law while all others would be amnestied, severely limiting victims' access to truth and justice. Several civil society organizations have already issued legal challenges to the constitutionality of the law that is now in its final stages of being put into place, pending the Constitutional Court decision. (For more info please see link from OIDHACO here.)  

The Colombian Administration, in attempts to assuage the fears of the powerful military and come to the table with an attractive offer to the FARC, supports the law wholeheartedly, and asserts that it is a necessary step towards achieving peace in Colombia. In the current hearings, President of the Senate,  Juan Fernando Cristo, stated that it is necessary to sacrifice some justice for peace, but that the Congress will continue to fight for victims' rights to truth, justice, reparation, and no repetition.

However, Gustavo Gallón, Director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, intervened on behalf of the human rights community, arguing that the law should be declared unconstitutional because it violates Colombian and international legal obligations to investigate all human rights violations. He further stated that in the case of this legislation, the "medicine would be much worse than the disease" because the law distorts the concept of transitional justice and does not provide truth or justice to the majority of victims.
 

"Marco Jurídico para la Paz" en las etapas finales de aprobación  

Todas las miradas están fijas en la Corte Constitucional de Colombia ahora que está realizando audiencias sobre la legalidad de la altamente controversial ley del "marco jurídico para la paz". Voces a los dos lados del espectro político han cuestionado la constitucionalidad de la ley, que dicta que sólo los victimarios considerados "más responsables" serán juzgados por violaciones de los derechos humanos y del Derecho Internacional Humanitario, mientras que todos los demás podrían ser amnistiados, lo que limita gravemente el acceso de las víctimas a la verdad y la justicia, y abre una nueva puerta a la impunidad.
Varias organizaciones de la sociedad civil ya han demandado la constitucionalidad de la ley que ahora se encuentra en la última fase de su puesta en marcha, en espera de la decisión de la Corte Constitucional. (Para más información ver link de OIDHACO acá.)

El gobierno colombiano, procurando calmar los temores de las poderosas fuerzas militares y sentarse a la mesa con una oferta atractiva para las FARC, plenamente apoya la ley, y afirma que es un paso necesario para lograr la paz en Colombia. En las audiencias actuales, el Presidente del Senado, Juan Fernando Cristo, afirmó que es necesario sacrificar algo de justicia para llegar a la paz, pero que el Congreso continuará luchando por los derechos de las víctimas a la verdad, justicia, reparación y no repetición.

Sin embargo, Gustavo Gallón, director de la Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, intervino en nombre de la comunidad de derechos humanos, con el argumento de que la ley debe ser declarada inconstitucional porque viola las obligaciones jurídicas colombianas e internacionales para investigar todas las violaciones de derechos humanos. Además, declaró que en el caso de esta legislación, "es peor el remedio que la enfermedad" porque la ley distorsiona el concepto de justicia transicional y no proporciona la verdad o la justicia a la mayoría de las víctimas.


Outreach and Advocacy

USOC is currently in the process of liaising with other groups to develop a coalition of organizations that can take action on the effects of large-scale mining on human rights in the Americas. We're excited to explore this new avenue of work and amplify our voices on this critical topic. Let us know if you'd like to get involved by emailing us at info@usofficeoncolombia.org!

We are also gearing up for fall delegations of Colombian partners who will come to the region to spread the word about issues of impunity and victims' rights. Would your organization like to host a presentation or panel discussion on Colombia with members of our fabulous delegations? Let us know!



Acciones y Campañas 
  
USOC se encuentra actualmente en el proceso de coordinación con otros grupos para desarrollar una coalición de organizaciones que puedan tomar medidas ante el impacto que tiene la explotación minera a gran escala en los derechos humanos en las Américas. Estamos entusiasmados por explorar esta nueva vía de trabajo y amplificar nuestras voces en este tema crítico. ¡Háganos saber si desea participar por correo a info@usofficeoncolombia.org!   

También nos estamos preparando para las delegaciones de otoño de nuestras organizaciones asociadas colombianas que vendrán a la región a hacer conocer los problemas de impunidad y de derechos de las víctimas. Por favor, háganos saber si su organización desea ser anfitrión de una presentación o un panel de discusión con miembros de nuestras fabulosas delegaciones.


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