Certification With Respect to Human Rights Related Issues In Colombia

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 26, 2014

On September 17, 2014, the Department of State certified to Congress that the Colombian Government, including its Armed Forces, are meeting statutory criteria related to human rights. This certification, pursuant to Section 7045(a)(2) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2014, permits the full obligation of FY 2014 Foreign Military Financing funds for the Colombian Armed Forces.

The Colombian Government continued to make progress on improving respect for human rights, both within the Armed Forces and in Colombia at large. Cases involving credible allegations of human rights violations were subject to civilian jurisdiction, and the Colombian military cooperated with civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities on those cases. President Santos recently reaffirmed his government would ensure military justice reform legislation pending in Colombia’s congress would retain civilian jurisdiction over human rights violations.

The government investigates, prosecutes, and punishes persons responsible for human rights and humanitarian law violations, consistent with its international obligations. Reviewing the Legal Framework for Peace law in August 2013, Colombia’s Constitutional Court affirmed that government authorities must implement any peace agreement in accordance with Colombia’s international commitments and obligations. President Santos has also reiterated that Colombia will comply with its obligations. Colombia’s peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) holds the potential for securing justice for victims and accountability for atrocities and gross violations of human rights. The U.S. Government continues to strongly support Colombia’s effort to reach a just and durable peace agreement.

The Colombian Government worked to dismantle illegal armed groups, protect human rights defenders, and respect the rights and territory of members of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. In 2013, the Colombian Government arrested 2,757 criminal gang members. While violence against and homicides of activists continues to be a significant concern – 35 unionists were killed in 2013 – Colombia employs substantial resources to protect over 6,600 community leaders and human rights defenders. At the same time, Colombians continue to face significant challenges in areas with a heavy presence of illegal armed groups, including mass displacements in the Choco Department and violence in the port city of Buenaventura. Challenges also remain in protecting vulnerable individuals, including investigating threats against human rights defenders and others.

The United States and Colombia discuss human rights issues openly and frankly, including through our on-going High-Level Partnership Dialogue and the Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality. The U.S. Government remains committed to engaging with the Colombian Government, international organizations, and human rights groups to improve respect for human rights throughout Colombia.