COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE
19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.