By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia—Despite recent victories over the country’s most powerful rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia remains a nation plagued by violence and human rights abuses.
Last month, Colombians rejoiced after learning that armed forces killed a high-ranking FARC commander, “Mono Jojoy.” President Juan Manuel Santos, who took office on August 7 of this year, announced, “This is the beginning of the end for the FARC.”
But military wins have come at a high cost in Colombia. Colombian armed forces have become increasingly infamous for frequent, and often unreported, human rights abuses with impunity. Concerned human rights organizations have discovered evidence of torture, rape, looting, displacements and restricted freedom of movement against innocent civilians. About 2,300 extrajudicial executions have also been uncovered.
Many believe that the government’s tunnel-vision focus on the FARC has allowed military abuses to go unchecked, while allowing other, smaller rebel paramilitary groups to run rampant. It is even thought that many Colombian troops work with illegal groups to engage in drug trafficking and human rights violations.
A Colombian soldier has recently been accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl on October 2 of this year near a site where three children were murdered this month. The soldier had disappeared from his military camp when both the sexual abuse and murders had taken place; he also fits the description of the offender given by the abused girl. Incidents such as these remain alarmingly commonplace.
Colombia has admitted for the first time that 50,000 of its citizens have been “forcibly disappeared.” The Colombian Commission of Jurists reported that the vast majority of those who vanished were activists who were kidnapped and killed by government soldiers or right-wing paramilitaries.
On Thursday, human rights groups issued a report announcing that over 22 activists were killed in the first 75 days of President Santos’ presidency. The report, a 21-page document, explores the details behind several activists’ deaths, including indigenous leaders, a human rights worker, trade unionists, and community educators. These murders only represent “registered cases,” and many other similar cases are believed to exist.
Maria Paulina Riveros, the director of human rights in the Ministry of Interior and Justice, vowed to investigate the murders “immediately,” and said, “Obviously we recognize that there continue to be very serious threats against human rights defenders; we say that progress is about to open the way to relevant consultation.”
For more information, please see:
Tribune Magazine-Finally, Colombia admits that 50,000 have ‘disappeared’-29 October 2010
Colombia Reports-Army faces further child abuse accusations-29 October 2010
Colombia Reports-22 activists killed in Santos’ first 75 days-29 October 2010
Miami Herald-A fleeting chance to end the war-29 October 2010