Christian Peacemaker Teams chart humanitarian law violations in Colombia

By agency reporter
March 3, 2009

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Colombia has released its compilation International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations witnessed by or reported to the Colombia team in the calendar year of 2008.

The Colombian government officials maintain that paramilitary groups are now "extinct." CPT's documentation provides evidence that paramilitary activity continues in the Bolivar and Santander. New generations of paramilitary groups continue to commit the majority of the violations. Allied with the Armed Forces, they operate with impunity.

Many of these violations are directed at human rights workers, community leaders, and union organizers. Team members report, "We have yet to see any real progress toward the rule of law and a negotiated peace."

In the document, CPT outlines violations of IHL observed in Colombia's Magdalena Medio region (Bolivar and Santander provinces) and Nariño province from December 2007 through to November 2008. This report includes only cases related to Colombia's armed conflict of which CPT has direct knowledge, either by having witnessed the violation or by taking information directly from victims or witnesses.

Three principle actors in Colombia's armed conflict committed the International Humanitarian Law violations that this report covers: the Armed Forces with 20 violations documented; the paramilitary groups with 21 cases documented; and the guerrilla groups with 5 cases documented.

In light of these statistics, CPT is urging citizens of the US and Canada to contact their government officials to advocate for the following changes in Colombia policy:

The United States Congress and President Obama's administration must continue to cut military and police aid and increase economic and social aid, says the peace agency.

The United States cannot continue to fund a war whose participants continue to violate International Humanitarian Law, says CPT. Instead, the US should provide social and humanitarian assistance to Colombia's 4 million internally displaced people.

CPT is calling on Canada and the US to refuse to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia.

“While extrajudicial killings and other violations of IHL continue, The United States and Canada cannot support an FTA with a country that fails to provide basic protection to its union organizers, community leaders, and human rights workers,” it says.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), founded by Mennonites and others, seeks to enlist the churches in organized, non-violent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.

The full report can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/aoywzd

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