Basic rights "continuously at risk" in Colombia, top UN rights official says

17 April 2001

Fundamental human rights - particularly the right to life and personal security - are "continuously at risk" in Colombia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said today in Geneva.

"The human rights situation continues to deteriorate," Mary Robinson told the 57th session of the Commission on Human Rights, the UN's top rights body. "Massacres, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, forced displacement and attacks and threats against the civilian population continue to rise dramatically."

Presenting the fourth report on the situation in Colombia, Mrs. Robinson said her second visit to the country last December had left her "full of deep concern" about the human rights situation there and the vulnerable position in which her Office is placed as it carries out its functions.

She said her concern had been increased by evidence of a worsening situation there, including reports that at least 37 civilians have been massacred by paramilitary forces in the southern part of the country, another 12 people killed by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the Department of Antioquia, and 92 workers of an oil company kidnapped yesterday by the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the Department of Arauca.

Referring to the criticisms made in the Government of Colombia's response to her report, the High Commissioner said she deeply regretted the comments and that they appeared to result from a misinterpretation of her Office's responsibilities. "I am disturbed by some public statements which have been made by national authorities, calling into question the objectivity and impartiality of the work of our Office," she said, expressing concern about how the criticisms, especially in the media, might affect her staff's safety.

Colombian authorities, she said, have taken a number of positive steps in the area of the rule of law, but their efforts to comply with international recommendations on human rights "have failed to produce tangible results, either because these actions have lacked continuity, have had a limited impact or, as in a number of cases, have not been implemented." She encouraged Colombia to implement its human rights policies, as well as international recommendations on human rights.

Created in 1946 by the Economic and Social Council and made up of 53 Member States, the UN Commission on Human Rights carries out studies, prepares recommendations and elaborates draft international instruments on human rights. It also looks into allegations of rights violations.


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