Holding Uribe accountable

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Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s Crimes of State

Gilberto Lopez y Rivas – La Jornada

English Translation: Machetera and Manuel Talens

Between February 24th and March 11th, 2009, the Ethics Commission Against the Crimes of State in Colombia carried out its sixth visit. This Commission is an initiative by international civil society, meant both to safeguard the victims’ collective memory and attend to their process of denunciation, resistance, and dignification, keeping in mind that “the voices of those silenced will be heard.”

On this occasion, besides accompanying the indigenous Embera people and Afro-descendants from the basin of the Jiguamiandó river in the First Peoples’ Consultation, and paying visits to the departments of Sucre and Putumayo, the Ethics Commission attended the “Meeting with relatives of extrajudicial execution victims in Colombia” that took place on March 5th and 6th, listening to multiple testimonies of extrajudicial executions — wrongly called “false positives” [1] — and analysis by organizations from the Movement of Victims of Crimes of State that accompany this process, with the objective of putting facts into context. As numerous relatives arrived from the different regions of the country they presented a highly representative panorama of a national situation.

Hundred of murders have been committed throughout the entire country following the pattern of forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions; both considered crimes against humanity committed by the State, mainly by members of the Colombian armed forces and/or their paramilitaries in a systematic and widespread manner. This serious violation began some time ago and has developed exponentially during President Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s terms of office, through the practice of the so-called “Democratic Security” policy and since the implementation of Plan Colombia, so that victims are presented as “combat losses” in order to receive economic rewards and enjoy both recognition and the promotions repeatedly offered by the very Commander in Chief of the Military Forces.

These aberrant practices are presented as “results” of the counterinsurgency war in order to justify the support obtained through the Plan Colombia, and clearly infringe the Criminal Law of Colombia, the Geneva Convention, the International Law of Human Rights and, especially, the American Convention of Human Rights.

The victims of extrajudicial executions follow a defined pattern: young men not older than 35, belonging to the most popular and excluded sectors, with an important presence of rural peasants or from suburban and urban areas, all of them considered “dispensable.” This pattern also includes the disabled or young people who are considered potential or real opposition to the regime, for which we found reason to qualify these crimes against humanity as a policy of “social cleansing,” comparable only to that practiced by the execrable fascist regimes prevalent in the last century. It can be said, without resorting to any kind of rhetoric, and facing the dimensions of the tragedy of the Colombian people, that the Uribe government has made State crime the policy of the State.

Impunity is a common characteristic of these crimes for which the perpetrators are never investigated, let alone judged or sanctioned. The Colombian authorities in their three branches, and the agencies of state control such as the Attorney General’s office, and even agencies that supposedly defend and preserve human rights have acted as accomplices, by omission or commission, while the major communications media for the most part, echo the official versions surrounding the condemned acts, when they don’t completely mask or conceal these serious transgressions as well as the principal responsibility of the Colombian state.

The courage of the victims’ families who took to the streets, accompanied by sectors of civil society and with the observation of the Ethics Commission, is amazing. They demonstrated their profound indignation in front of the Defense Ministry and the Attorney General on March 6th, despite the threats and real dangers that they face in a country where there is no rule of law and its institutions are at the service of State terrorism.

The Ethics Commission endorsed the demand of the “Movement of Victims of State Crimes” that in the case of extra-judicial executions, a special team be formed within the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General in Bogota, in order to avoid the eventual interference that, given the status and influence of the investigated – in the places where the incidents occurred – might affect the impartiality of the proceedings.

The Commission also highlighted a broad militarization, visible and evident in Colombia’s departments [translator’s note: states] through the innumerable roadblocks, repeated demands for identification, impediments to people’s free movement, helicopter overflights, military barracks and installations in local areas, forced and expedited recruitment (a levy in every sense of the word), prostitution of girls and teenagers, constant movement of troops on the highways and through the villages, a military presence in the daily life of the civil population (stores, houses, farms, etcetera), and the continuity and conversion to paramilitarism, all of which affect the normality and security of the people and constitute a clear violation of international humanitarian law. This is the Dantesque reality of the Colombia that Álvaro Uribe Vélez is proud to present as a model to follow, and that the ultra-rightwing wants to impose at all costs on the rest of Latin America, with the help of his mentors in the United States.

[1] Translators note: The so-called “false positives” are murdered civilians whose corpses are then dressed in military fatigues in order to be presented as dead combat guerrilla fighters. Their family members are opposed to such a denomination and prefer to refer to them as “extra judiciary executions as crimes of State.”

Machetera and Manuel Talens are members of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. Talens is also a member of Rebelión. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.

This article also available at Tlaxcala.

One response to “Holding Uribe accountable

  1. Why doesn’t a group get together and take some these cases to the Human Rights Court?

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