Colombia’s laws protecting displaced persons not fully applied, UN expert says

27 June 2006

Millions of displaced persons in Colombia do not enjoy the full rights to which they are entitled under the country’s “commendable” laws and policies, a top United Nations expert on the issue said after a mission there that ends today.

“Colombia is a country with a commendable legislation and far-reaching policy framework on internal displacement,” Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) said in the capital Bogotá as he concluded a 15 to 27 June official visit undertaken at the invitation of the Government.

“However,” he added, “there is a clear gap affecting the human rights of many among the up to 3 million displaced persons between what the law says and what is implemented at the regional and local level.”

In particular, he welcomed the various decisions of the Colombian Constitutional Court, as well as work done by branches of the legal system and by what he called a “vibrant” civil society.

But he expressed concern over acts of violence and intimidation against many persons defending the human rights of IDPs as well as against the leaders of displaced or returnee communities.

He said the core of the problem is the lack of respect for the neutral, civilian character of communities by armed groups in troubled areas of Colombia, and the attempts of such groups to control land and populations for various purposes.

“I am concerned in particular with the disproportionate impact of displacement on indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. It is seriously affecting their cultural and land rights,” he said.

Dr. Kälin reiterated his desire for the current constructive dialogue with the Government of Colombia concerning IDPs to continue. The full conclusions of his mission will be contained in a public report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.


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