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Saturday, March 17, 2007


Yesterday we went to the Ministry of Defense that featured a United States Navy bomb in the lobby. We met with the Ministry’s viceminister Sergio Jaramillo. His take home message was to let the justice system do its work. The military, he emphasized, is doing a lot of human rights work and pressing for a more integrated approach to working with rural communities. From his point of view, the government was not perfect but going in the right direction and with time things would improve.

We then met with Birgit Gerstenberg at the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. They have just published a report on the current situation in Colombia. It concludes that “The right to life was affected by the persistence of murders, with the characteristics of extrajudicial executions, attributed to members of the security forces, particularly the army.” The number of human rights violations increased from 2005 to 2006, with Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, social leaders, human rights defenders, peasants, women, children, labor union members, journalists, and displaced persons particularly affected. “High levels of impunity persist,” the report states. Gerstenberg noted that NGOs were not very confident in the attorney general’s office to solve these problems, and she also noted failings and shortcomings of the Law of Justice and Peace. They are dealing with more than 10,000 cases, which is perhaps ten times the number that they can handle. Nevertheless, she has faith in the attorney general’s office to pursue this process, even though it will take a long time. Truth, Gerstenberg said, is the most important. Colombia continues to register 3-4 cases of death or threats of death per day.

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