Friday, June 8, 2012

Human Rights and Wrongs

Photos of the disappeared on a Bogotá sidewalk. 
A passersby look at photos of the
disappeared on a Bogotá sidewalk.

Political killings, land mines, kidnappings and forced disappearances, child soldiers, attacks against human rights activists, violence against women and girls, forced abortions...that's just part of the grim list of rights abuses in several recent reports on Colombia.

So, it's striking to consider that such a troubled country might actually be improving.

The reports by Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department make an interesting contrast in half-empty vs. half-full perspectives. AI's report offers a bleak list of grave offenses, by the military, guerrillas, paramilitaries and the regular military. Still, it allows, the Victims and Land Restitution Law "was an important step in acknowledging the rights of many victims of the conflict" and returning land to the victims.

Activists hang up a temporary photo exhibit about
human rights on La Plaza del Periodista.
But AI criticizes the lack of prosecutions for sexual crimes against women, the few prosecutions for the False Positives killings and the possible broadening of jurisdiction of military jurisdiction, which has seldom prosecuted members of the military for rights violations. The AI report also highlights continued crimes by paramilitary groups, now often relabeled 'criminal bands' (BACRIM) by authorities in many parts of the country. For many years, it was an open secret that the paramilitaries worked closely with government forces.

The U.S. State Dep't report covers a lot of the same points as does Amnesty's, but also emphasizes structural problems, including "impunity and an inefficient judiciary, corruption, and societal discrimination." Still Washington gives the Santos administration credit for trying, such as "continued efforts to improve respect for human rights and prosecute and punish officials, including members of the security services, who committed abuses..."

Both reports include long lists of horrors committed by the country's various outlaw groups, which include guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug gangs. They kidnap, plant land mines, force women to abort, recruit children, displace civilians, and on and on. In one case, paramilitaries reportedly cut off the limbs of living victims.

A 'human rights' photo exhibit glorifies Che Guevara,
who helped found the hemisphere's only remaining dictatorship and wholesale rights trampler.
Despite Pres. Santos' new emphasis on human rights, which has been applauded by rights organizations, by some measures things have gotten worse. Amnesty Int'l says that the 17 'false positive' killings reported in the first half of 2011 were an increase from the first half of 2010. And the number of people displaced by the armed conflict grew from 280,000 in 2010 to 308,000 in 2011, also according to Amnesty.

So, it is telling perhaps that Colombia's dominant storyline has switched from violence to sports, economic growth and entertainment.

The same exhibit labels Colombian ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe as a 'dictator'. Uribe was elected twice and stepped down after two terms. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Anonymous said...

A group that is showing Che as a "hero" and Uribe as a "dictator" is a joke with zero credibility.

A good documentary about the aftermath of the Cuban revolution is "Nobody listened" or "nadie escuchaba" which you can get on Netflix.

Miguel said...

After the revolution I understand that Che was put in charge of the prison and had hundreds of political prisoners, including some teenagers, executed without trial. Their crime, of course, was association with the old regime.

But when romantic idealization kicks in, these sorts of details get forgotten.