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Jul 102008

Colombia’s Jesuit-run Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP) maintains a database of human rights violations committed by all parties in Colombia. In June, they finished analyzing numbers from 2007.

Their data revealed that the problem of “false positives” – Colombian military personnel killing civilians and presenting them as guerrillas killed in combat – continued unabated through the end of last year. CINEP found 132 cases of these extrajudicial executions in 2007, though their frequency was less intense during the second half of the year than during the first half.

Here is a translation (thanks to CIP intern Stephanie DiBello) of the introduction to CINEP’s report [PDF] summarizing its disturbing findings.

The Center for Investigation and Popular Education (CINEP) is aware of the international community’s great interest and concern for helping Colombia find peaceful alternatives. In our interest in monitoring diverse aspects of the country’s human rights situation, we wish to share a new report with you about cases of “false positives” [civilians killed outside of combat and presented as insurgents killed in combat], which were brought to our attention through the consolidation of our organization’s database.

Units of the security forces have reported these cases as positive results of operations against illegal armed groups. Although these deaths were reported in official accounts as “killed in combat”, denunciations by social organizations, human rights defenders, victims, families of the victims, and regional and national press revealed them to be actions against the civil population outside of combat, thus making them violations of human rights and infractions of international humanitarian law.

Along with the update of the cases that we presented in October of last year, we consolidated a total of 132 occurrences of “false positives” between January and December of 2007. We reiterate the need to pave a way towards peace with respect for human rights, and we demand lawful actions from the security forces in Colombia.

Based on the information that was brought to our knowledge we point out the following aspects which we have presented in this report:

  • In the first six months of 2007, 85 cases involving a total of 150 victims were reported, while in the second six months 47 cases with a total of 87 victims were reported.
  • In general, during both periods of time the social group most victimized were campesinos, representing around 60% of the victims; among others, independent workers, indigenous people, and manual laborers were also victimized.
  • With respect to geographic location of the cases, it is worth noting that in the first period of 2007 the “false positives” occurred in 18 of the 32 departments of the country; in the second period they occurred in 15 departments.
  • According to department of incidents (see map), in the first half of 2007 the greatest number of cases were reported in Meta, particularly in the town of Vistahermosa; the second greatest number of cases was in the department of Huila, with the largest number in the town of Garzon; and the third greatest occurrence was in Norte de Santander. During the second half Norte de Santander had the greatest number of cases, with the town of Teorama reporting the most incidents; Antioquia was in second place with the department of Tolima in third.
  • In relation with the previous period, July 2006 – June 2007, cases appear in new departments such as Tolima, Bolivar, Quindio, Cordoba, and Risaralda.
  • During the second half of 2007, a considerable increase in cases was reported in the department of Huila (13 in total), which only had reported two cases in the July 2006 – June 2007 report. This is due to the fact that in the aforementioned report the information of the 11 cases in Huila was not available, but were later announced and published as updates in the journal Noche y Niebla 36, pages 25-28.
  • It is important to note that in the department of Meta, where 24 cases were recorded in the period between July 2006 – June 2007, only two more cases were reported in the second half of 2007. On the other hand, the department of Antioquia, which had reported three cases in the first report, reported nine new cases in the second half of 2007, while the department of Norte de Santander increased by three cases in the same period of time. However, although Norte de Santander went from having 8 reported cases to 11, the number of victims was reduced from 17 to 11.

15 Responses to “CINEP: extrajudicial executions still a big problem”

  1. Chris Says:

    I was watching Caracol this morning and they were reporting on the discovery of laptop computers and multimedia (along with cash and ammo) in a hidden cache that belonged to Ivan Rios.

    We might see another round of revelations on par with the Raul Reyes computer episode…

  2. AR Says:

    Adam,

    The link to the PDF with the translation of CINEP’s report seems to be broken.

  3. Adam Isacson Says:

    The link is fixed (stupid WordPress). Thanks AR.

  4. Chris Says:

    http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=25235

    CNN Situation Room is hosting Ingrid… you can ask her a question here.

  5. Jaime Bustos Says:

    yesterday’s cnn interview with Ingrid was pathetic, she seemed sedated or something, and sometimes she did not make any sense at all.

  6. Lou Says:

    This is excellent data to confirm what people say on the ground and what many analysts have been saying for a while. Thanks for publicizing this.

  7. Will Says:

    Chris,

    Why are you bringing up labtop computers in response to Adam’s post detailing the fact that elements of the Colombian military are murdering people? I realize that the hostage release was a dramatic episode and that the labtops have been quite sensationalistic, but I am frustrated by the fact that the release of 15 individuals is overwhelmed with media coverage but the fact that 132 people were murdered by the Colombian military in one year won’t come close to the front page of the New York Times. I would love to see Anderson Cooper do an interview with a relative of one of the individuals who was assassinated by the Colombian army, but I am not holding my breath.

    Best,

    Will

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Will, Anderson Cooper has got guts, but he must also keep his job. :mrgreen:

  9. Chris Says:

    Why is the death of 132 people at the hands of the Colombian Army a non-issue for the mainstream media?

    Is it old news?

    Are these people insignificant and therefore not newsworthy?

    Is the media-biased and govt controlled such that these issues are being swept under the rug?

    Is the perception that the issue is being blown way out of proportions by special interests and therefore not given any real consideration?

    Thoughts?

  10. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Chris, in the same order: no, to the msm yes, yes and probably. ;-)

  11. jcg Says:

    Since nobody else will probably say this, the burden falls on me….even if this report was apparently not publicized, which is regrettable because the issue is important and deserves to be the subject of public debate regardless of everything else one might say, it’s also true that there have been previous stories about the issue and there will likely be others, sooner or later, even in the mainstream media.

  12. Will Says:

    jcg,

    With all due respect give me a break. Can you at least acknowledge that comparatively speaking we should not expect anything close to the coverage of the hostage release? Ingrid received a two-hour special from CNN for crying out loud and she is still alive! Maybe CNN could give the 132 deaths a half-hour, but of course its understood by most of us on this blog, including you, that this is not going to happen. Forero’s work on this issue in the Washington Post has been an important exception, but overall these crimes of the Colombian state are not going to receive the attention that they justifiably deserve from the U.S. media, helping to warp the perceptions/understandings that United Statians have about Colombia.

    Best,

    Will

  13. MZR Says:

    JCG: Please forgive me, but I’m not quite sure what it is that you’re trying to say with your post. I don’t think that you’re actually claiming that the “hostage rescue” will receive the same level of news coverage as the topic of extra-judicial killings covered in this article. But I’m not quite sure what “burden” you speak of either. Although I’m not criticising your post, there is hardly anything sensational, offensive, groundbreaking, etc, about it (that would imply some kind of a burden). Nonetheless, although something *may* appear on the news regarding extra-judicial killings, such stories will not come close to the level of news coverage given to the recent “rescue mission”. (This despite the claim that 132 people have been murdered by the Colombian military in a single year). You surely will not disagree with this statement?

    Will: excellent post and I completely agree. The successes of the military are so generously reported at every possible opportunity by the western media. But its flaws, such as murder on such a wide-scale, will receive scant (if any) reporting. The bias in the media is both palpable and nauseating. Moreover, it is such bias that shapes many people’s skewed opinion about Colombia and its conflict.

  14. jcg Says:

    The curious thing, believe it or not, is that I wasn’t even thinking about the hostage release, at least not consciously, when I wrote that…

    Will: Yes, but to make my point clearer, I was mostly speaking about Colombian, not United States, media when I wrote that.

    After all, this is a Colombian report by a Colombian organization, isn’t it? It even had to be translated into English from Spanish, if you noticed. So my first reaction wasn’t really about CNN, to say the least. Why would it be?

    But if you want to involve U.S. media in this, even that small amount of coverage you mention, as disproportionate as it may be, will probably surface, sooner or later, too.

    And finally…I’d be willing to bet that even mainstream Colombian media has talked about this issue more than CNN or the Washington Post, even if still probably far less than would it deserve.

    I’ve read articles / columns on EL TIEMPO, EL ESPECTADOR, SEMANA, CAMBIO and heard discussions on Caracol Radio about the issue, off the top of my head, in the previous months / years. So I do expect that it will come up again, sooner or later, even if this report remains in relative obscurity until it does.

    However, there’s also the added importance that almost ANY U.S. coverage, no matter how relatively insignificant, gives to the issue, both in terms of political and media perceptions. A lone WP story can, to speculate a little, also spark renewed interest in Congressional circles in the U.S. and motivate Colombian outlets to report something more.

    MZR:

    “JCG: Please forgive me, but I’m not quite sure what it is that you’re trying to say with your post.”

    I would hope the above makes my intentions clearer, if nothing else.

    “I don’t think that you’re actually claiming that the “hostage rescue” will receive the same level of news coverage as the topic of extra-judicial killings covered in this article.”

    See above.

    “But I’m not quite sure what “burden” you speak of either. Although I’m not criticising your post, there is hardly anything sensational, offensive, groundbreaking, etc, about it (that would imply some kind of a burden).”

    The “burden”, so to speak, has to do with my voluntarily choosing to say several things that may not be too welcome, even if they aren’t particularly “sensational” or notable. And in this case, while the discussion took a somewhat different direction than what I anticipated, it still kind of fits.

    “Nonetheless, although something *may* appear on the news regarding extra-judicial killings, such stories will not come close to the level of news coverage given to the recent “rescue mission”. (This despite the claim that 132 people have been murdered by the Colombian military in a single year). You surely will not disagree with this statement?”

    I do not know.

  15. jcg Says:

    Correcting myself…

    I wrote

    “I do not know.”

    But actually meant to type “I do not disagree”.

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