Colombian Paramilitary Groups - Human Rights Violations

Human Rights Violations

Right-wing paramilitary groups have been blamed for the vast majority of human rights violations in Colombia. The United Nations has estimated that approximately 80% of all killings in Colombia's civil conflict have been committed by paramilitaries, 12% by leftist guerrillas, and the remaining 8% by government forces. In 2005, Amnesty International stated that The vast majority of non-combat politically-motivated killings, "disappearances", and cases of torture have been carried out by army-backed paramilitaries. In its 1999 report, Human Rights Watch cited estimates from Colombian human rights organizations CINEP and Justice and Peace, which indicated that paramilitary groups were responsible for about 73% of identifiable political murders during the first half of 1998, with guerrillas and state security forces being blamed for 17 and 10 percent respectively. The Colombian Commission of Jurists reported that, in the year 2000, approximately 85% of political murders were committed by the paramilitaries and state forces.

" mutilated bodies with chainsaws. They chained people to burning vehicles. They decapitated and rolled heads like soccer balls. They killed dozens at one time, including women and children. They buried people alive or hung them on meat hooks, carving them ... the victims ... were civilians accused of supporting the guerrillas by supplying them with food, medical supplies, or transportation."

Robin Kirk, Human Rights Watch investigator in Colombia

Paramilitary violence is overwhelmingly targeted towards peasants, unionists, teachers, human rights workers, journalists and leftist political activists.

Paramilitary abuses in Colombia are often classified as atrocities due to the brutality of their methods, including the torture, rape, incineration, decapitation and mutilation with chainsaws or machetes of dozens of their victims at a time, affecting civilians, women and children.

Paramilitary forces in Colombia have additionally been charged with the illegal recruitment of children into the armed ranks. Though this is an offense punishable by national law, the prosecution rate for these crimes is less than 2% as of 2008.

Many of these abuses have occurred with the knowledge and support of the Colombian security forces. A 1998 Human Rights Watch report stated:

... where paramilitaries have a pronounced presence, the army fails to move against them and tolerates their activity, including egregious violations of international humanitarian law; provides some paramilitary groups with intelligence used to carry out operations; and in other cases actively promotes and coordinates with paramilitary units, including joint maneuvers in which atrocities are the frequent result. ... In areas where paramilitaries are present, some police officers have been directly implicated in joint army-paramilitary actions or have supplied information to paramilitaries for their death lists. Police have also stood by while paramilitaries selected and killed their victims. On many occasions, police have publicly described whole communities as guerrillas or sympathetic to them and have withdrawn police protection, a violation of their responsibility under Colombian law to protect civilians from harm. Instead of reinforcing the police after guerrilla attacks, police commanders have withdrawn officers, thus encouraging or allowing paramilitaries to move in unimpeded and kill civilians.

A 1999 human rights report from the U.S. State Department said:

"At times the security forces collaborated with paramilitary groups that committed abuses; in some instances, individual members of the security forces actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups by passing them through roadblocks, sharing intelligence, and providing them with ammunition. Paramilitary forces find a ready support base within the military and police, as well as local civilian elites in many areas."

In 2006, Amnesty International reported that:

"The security forces have tried to improve their human rights image by letting their paramilitary allies commit human rights violations and then denying that the paramilitaries are operating with their acquiescence, support or sometimes direct coordination."

Read more about this topic:  Colombian Paramilitary Groups

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