COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
2 – 27 August 1999
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES
PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
1. The Committee considered
the eighth and ninth periodic reports of Colombia (CERD/C/332/Add.1) at
its 1356th and 1357th meetings (see CERD/C/SR.1356 and 1357), on 17 and
18 August 1999, and adopted, at its 1362nd meeting (see CERD/C/SR.1362),
on 20 August 1999, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the extensive report submitted by the Government
of Colombia, including information concerning Colombia's large indigenous
and Afro-Colombian communities. The Committee also welcomes the information
provided by the State party delegation during the oral consideration of
the report, including information with respect to Colombia's Roma, Jewish
and Lebanese communities.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee welcomes in particular the candor with which the State
party report recognizes that Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities continue
to be the victims of systemic racial discrimination, which has resulted
in their marginalization, poverty and vulnerability to violence.
4. The Committee notes with
satisfaction that the 1991 Colombian Constitution includes non-discrimination
provisions addressing the rights of minority communities, including formal
recognition of the rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities
to claim title to certain ancestral lands. The Constitution also recognizes
and seeks to protect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the nation.
5. The Committee welcomes
the initiatives taken by the Government of Colombia, including multi-year
development programmes for the support of indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities and the establishment of a new inter-agency human rights commission
under the authority of the Vice-President of Colombia to coordinate the
State party's policy and plan of action on human rights and international
6. The Committee notes the
important decision on affirmative action by the Constitutional Court in
the Cimmarón case.
7. The Committee welcomes
the announcement by the State party representatives that a number of measures
have been undertaken to promote respect for human rights within the military
structure and to restrict the competence of military tribunals to hear
human rights cases involving the armed forces.
C. Principal subjects of concern
8. While noting that the constitutional framework for prohibiting racial
discrimination is firmly in place, the Committee nevertheless expresses
concern that the accompanying legislative framework to give effect to these
provisions has not been fully enacted.
9. The Committee expresses
concern once again that the State party has not adopted legislation in
conformity with article 4 of the Convention, which requires the enactment
of specific penal legislation.
10. Concern is expressed at
reports indicating that violence in Colombia has been largely concentrated
in areas where indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities live; that increasingly
these communities have been targeted by armed groups; and that the Government's
tactics in fighting the drug trade have led to a further militarization
of these regions, creating an atmosphere that is conducive to human rights
violations and the destruction of cultural autonomy and identity.
11. Taking note also of indications
that a climate of impunity has infected all levels of the judicial sector
and that few human rights cases have been successfully prosecuted within
civilian courts, the Committee expresses concern that this climate of
impunity may severely impact the rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities, as these minority communities are subjected disproportionately
to violations of international human rights and humanitarian norms.
12. Serious concern is expressed
at reports that more than 500 indigenous leaders have been assassinated
in the last 25 years and that leaders of the Afro-Colombian community
have come under similar attack. While all parties to the conflict have
contributed to this level of violence, the Committee notes that paramilitary
groups operating in the country are reportedly responsible for a majority
of the abuses.
13. It is noted that indigenous
and Afro-Colombian communities are under-represented in State institutions,
including in the legislature, the judiciary, government ministries, the
military, and the civil and diplomatic services.
14. Emphasizing that the widespread
violence which plagues Colombia has led to one of the world's largest
populations of internally displaced persons, and that both the Afro-Colombian
and indigenous communities have been particularly affected, the Committee
expressed concern that measures by the Colombian Government to assist
the displaced have been limited and that some internally displaced persons
have been forced to return to regions where minimal conditions of safety
could not be guaranteed.
15. Recognizing further that
within the community of displaced persons women are disproportionately
represented, concern is expressed that government programmes are not responsive
to the needs of many indigenous and Afro-Colombian women who are subjected
to multiple forms of discrimination based on their gender and their race
or ethnicity, and their displaced status.
16. Concern is expressed that
development and resource exploration programmes on land subject to the
property rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been
pursued without sufficient consultation with the representatives of these
communities and without sufficient concern for the environmental and socio-economic
impact of these activities.
17. Additional concern is
expressed over the media's coverage of minority communities, including
the continued popularity of television programmes that promote racial
and ethnic stereotypes. The Committee notes that such stereotypes serve
to reinforce the cycle of violence and marginalization that has already
severely affected the rights of Colombia's historically disadvantaged
18. Grave concern is also
expressed at reports of "social cleansing" in urban centres
involving the murder of Afro-Colombian prostitutes and street children,
some of whom appear to have been targeted on the basis of their race.
19. Concern is expressed that
development programmes for the support of indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities have not been and are not expected to be fully implemented
owing to financial limitations.
20. The Committee is also
concerned that few land titles have been allocated under legislative programmes
recognizing the property rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities
and that bureaucratic obstacles appear to have complicated the process.
D. Suggestions and recommendations
21. It is recommended that legislation be enacted, at the earliest possible
opportunity, that explicitly and comprehensively implements the obligations
under articles 2 and 4 of the Convention.
22. Recognizing that many
Afro-Colombians live in extreme poverty in urban slum areas, the Committee
recommends that the State party take steps to address de facto racial
segregation in urban centres. The Committee also requests additional information
in the next periodic report on housing patterns in urban areas and on
legislation that may address discrimination in the housing sector.
23. The Committee recommends
that the State party implement affirmative and effective measures to ensure
increased employment opportunities for minority and indigenous communities
in both the public and private sectors and to advance the social, political,
economic, and educational status of historically marginalized communities.
24. The Committee requests
that the State party include in its next report information about the
implementation and impact of the measures recently announced to promote
respect for human rights within the military, in connection with the implementation
of the Convention.
25. The Committee urges the
State party to take comprehensive steps to protect the security and promote
the well-being of Colombia's large internally displaced population, consisting
mainly of persons of the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and,
as a matter of extreme priority, to guarantee the security of indigenous
and Afro-Colombian community leaders and human rights defenders across
the country who have sought to protect the rights of those communities.
26. The Committee recommends
that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6,
of the Convention, adopted on 15 January 1992 during the fourteenth meeting
of States parties to the Convention.
27. It is noted that the State
party has not made the declaration provided for in article 14 of the Convention,
and some of the members of the Committee requested that the possibility
of such a declaration be considered.
28. The Committee recommends
that the State party's next periodic report be a comprehensive report
in accordance with the reporting guidelines of the Committee and address
the points raised in these concluding observations.