University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Colombia, U.N. Doc. A/51/44, paras. 66-83 (1996).


Convention Abbreviation: CAT


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

D. Colombia

66. The Committee considered the periodic report of Colombia (CAT/C/20/Add.4) at its 238th and 239th meetings, on 21 and 23 November 1995 (see CAT/C/SR.238, 239 and 242/Add.1), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations:

1. Introduction

67. The Committee thanks the State party for submitting its periodic report, which in general conforms to the Committee's guidelines. Furthermore, it recognizes the frankness and sincerity of the good oral report provided by the government representatives, at the same time acknowledging the difficulties impeding the reduction of the practice of torture. The replies to the concerns expressed by the Committee were also frank and made in a constructive spirit.

2. Positive aspects

68. The Committee notes that the new Constitution of Colombia contains various provisions that are very satisfactory from the standpoint of human rights and mechanisms for their protection, namely, the prohibition of torture, the regulations of habeas corpus, the functions of the Attorney-General and the Ombudsman, and the precedence of international human rights treaties over national legislation.

69. The Committee notes the increase in the penalty for the offence of torture provided for in article 279 of the Penal Code.

70. The Committee draws particular attention to the establishment of the Office of the Attorney-General for the Defence of Human Rights.

3. Factors and difficulties impeding implementation of the Convention

71. The Committee is aware that the general climate of violence caused by guerrilla warfare, drug trafficking and groups of armed civilians restrict effective enforcement of the Convention in Colombia.

72. The Committee considers that the almost total lack of penalties for persons responsible for torture constitutes an obstacle to the implementation of the Convention.

73. The Committee appreciates that the copious emergency legislation and the inadequate functioning of the judiciary also make it difficult to implement the Convention.

4. Subjects of concern

74. The Committee observes with great concern the persistence of a large number of violent deaths and cases of torture and ill-treatment attributed to members of the army and the police, in a manner that would appear to indicate a systematic practice in some regions of the country.

75. The Committee emphasizes with regret that the State party has not yet brought its domestic legislation into line with the requirements of the Convention, as was suggested by the Committee when it received the initial report of Colombia, particularly with regard to the obligations under articles 2, concerning due obedience, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11 and 15 of the Convention.

76. The Committee notes with concern that the light penalties for the offence of torture in the Code of Military Justice do not seem to be acceptable, nor does the extension of military jurisdiction to deal with ordinary crime by means of the inadmissible expansion of the concept of active service and the enactment of provisions which seriously limit the effectiveness of means for protecting rights, such as habeas corpus.

77. The Committee considers that the Government has made virtually constant use of a tool such as the state of internal disturbance which, given its seriousness and pursuant to the Constitution, should be exceptional. Moreover, provisions continue to be adopted that the highest courts of the State have already found to be in violation of constitutional rights.

78. The Committee also views with concern the powers of the regional courts, in particular the non-identification of witnesses, judges and prosecutors. The detention of civilians in military units is also a source of concern.

5. Recommendations

79. The Committee recommends that the practice of torture should be ended forthwith and to this end suggests that the State party should act with great firmness to restore the State's monopoly over the use of force, disbanding all armed civilian or paramilitary groups, and ensure that swift and impartial investigations into allegations of torture are conducted immediately and that informers and witnesses are protected.

80. The Committee believes that the situation of impunity must be terminated by adopting the necessary legislative and administrative amendments to ensure that military courts judge only violations of military regulations, punishing torture by means of penalties commensurate with its seriousness and dispelling any doubt as to the responsibility of anyone who obeys an illegal order.

81. The Committee also suggests bringing domestic legislation into line with the obligations of the Convention with regard to the non-return or expulsion of anyone who fears being subjected to torture, the extraterritorial and universal application of the law, extradition and the express invalidity of evidence obtained under torture.

82. The Committee considers that the State party should keep under systematic review the rules, methods and practices referred to in article 11 of the Convention, conduct human rights education and training programmes for military, police, medical and civilian guard personnel, and establish appropriate systems of compensation and rehabilitation for the victims.

83. The Committee would be pleased if the State party were to make the declaration under article 22 of the Convention and offers such assistance and cooperation as the State party may require.



Home || Treaties || Search || Links