1. The Committee
considered the fourth periodic report of Colombia (CCPR/C/103/Add.3
and HRI/CORE/1/Add.56) at its 1568th, 1569th, 1570th and 1571st meetings,
on 31 March and 1 April 1997, and adopted at its 1583rd meeting, on
9 April 1997 the following concluding observations:
2. The Committee
welcomes the fourth periodic report submitted by the State party and
the opportunity to resume its dialogue with Colombia, through a delegation
composed of officials from various sectors of the administration. Although
the Committee notes with regret that the report submitted by the State
party lacks sufficient information on the practical situation with respect
to the enjoyment of human rights by the population and on the implementation
of the provisions of the Covenant and the relevant national legislation,
it expresses its appreciation to the delegation for the frank answers
it provided to its questions, which enabled it to have a clearer view
of the overall human rights situation in the country. The fact that
the delegation acknowledged to a certain extent the difficulties encountered
in the implementation of the Covenant in the country is appreciated
by the Committee.
3. The information
submitted by a wide range of non-governmental organizations also assisted
the Committee in its understanding of the human rights situation in
the State party.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant
4. The Committee
notes that Colombia continues to suffer from widespread armed conflict,
in the context of which gross and massive human rights violations have
occurred and continue to be perpetrated. The Committee also notes that
recent efforts to restart peace negotiations have yet to bear fruit.
C. Positive aspects
5. The Committee
welcomes the recent establishment of an office of the High Commissioner/Centre
for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the ratification by Colombia
of the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August
1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International
6. The Committee
further welcomes the creation of a number of institutions and offices
to protect and promote human rights, such as the Office of the Ombudsman,
the Department for Human Rights within the Office of the Public Prosecutor
and the Division for Human Rights within the Office of the Attorney-General,
the establishment by the Office of the Public Prosecutor of permanent
offices on human rights in the main cities of the country, as well as
the setting up of programmes concerning women and gender equality, formulated
by the National Economic and Social Policy, and the creation of institutional
structures aiming at the promotion of women's rights, such as the Committee
for Coordination and Monitoring of Policies to Combat Discrimination
and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Youth, Women and the
7. The Committee
expresses its appreciation for the recent jurisprudence of the Constitutional
Court regarding the status of international human rights instruments,
which gives the latter a status equal to that of the Constitution.
8. The Committee
welcomes the adoption of a new Police Code, which includes guidelines
and binding principles concerning the use of force and weapons by the
police. The restructuring of the police, with a view to increasing the
professionalism of police officials and improving relationships between
the police and the population, is also welcomed. Furthermore, the adoption,
in the framework of this restructuring, of decrees with respect to disciplinary
measures in case of unlawful behaviour of police officials, is appreciated.
9. The Committee
expresses its appreciation for the establishment of a Commission of
Inquiry to deal with complaints concerning forced disappearances, which
provides for protective measures for complainants and witnesses. The
establishment of a national registry listing disappeared people, together
with the creation of a commission for the follow-up of cases of forced
disappearances and composed, among others, of the Public Prosecutor,
the Ombudsman and representatives of non-governmental organizations,
is viewed as positive steps in the struggle against forced disappearances.
10. The Committee
notes with appreciation the creation of remedies for the violation of
basic rights of individuals, such as the tutela action, established
by article 86 of the Constitution and the relevant decrees, habeas corpus
and habeas data.
11. The Committee
also welcomes the adoption of legislation which establishes a mechanism
for the compensation of victims of human rights violations in accordance
with decisions adopted by the Committee under the Optional Protocol
to the Covenant and by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
12. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that victims of human rights abuses committed
by members of the armed forces may now be represented as civil parties
during proceedings before military courts.
13. With respect
to the prevailing domestic violence, the Committee welcomes the adoption
of legislation which provides for accelerated judicial proceedings and
immediate protective measures for victims of such violence.
D. Principal subjects of concern
14. The Committee
notes with concern that the suggestions and recommendations it addressed
to the Government at the end of the consideration of the previous report
(see CCPR/C/64/Add.3 and A/47/40, paras. 390-394) have not been implemented.
15. The Committee
deplores the fact that gross and massive human rights violations continue
to occur in Colombia and that the level of political and criminal violence
is still very high. In particular, the Committee deplores extrajudicial
executions, murders, torture and other degrading treatment, forced disappearances
and arbitrary arrests, carried out by members of the armed forces, the
police and paramilitary and guerrilla groups. Journalists, human rights
activists, trade union and political leaders, teachers, members of indigenous
populations and judges appear to be specifically targeted.
16. The Committee
also deplores the fact that so-called "social-cleansing" operations,
targeting street children, homosexuals, prostitutes and petty delinquents,
continue to be carried out and that appropriate and effective action
has not yet been taken to ensure the full protection of the rights of
these groups, especially of their right to life.
17. The Committee
is deeply concerned at the evidence that paramilitary groups receive
support from members of the military. The recently adopted decree which
would have the effect of legalizing the constitution of armed civilian
groups (the so-called Rural Security Cooperatives) would seem to aggravate
18. The Committee
notes with great concern that impunity continues to be a widespread
phenomenon and that the concept of service-related acts has been broadened
by the Higher Adjudication Council to enable the transfer from civilian
jurisdiction to military tribunals of many cases involving human rights
violations by military and security forces. This reinforces the institutionalization
of impunity in Colombia since the independence and impartiality of these
tribunals are doubtful. The Committee wishes to point out that the military
penal system lacks many of the requirements for a fair trial spelled
out in article 14, for example the amendments to article 221 of the
Constitution allowing active duty officers to sit on military tribunals
and the fact that members of the military have the right to invoke as
defence the orders of a superior.
19. The Committee
is concerned that the military and members of security or other forces
allegedly continue to exercise special powers over civilians and civilian
authorities, including judicial authorities, granted to them through
the establishment of Special Public Order Zones by decrees no longer
in force. The Committee is particularly concerned by the fact that the
military exercise the functions of investigation, arrest, detention
20. The Committee
notes with concern that threats against members of the judiciary compromise
the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, which are essential
to comply with the rights provided for in article 14 of the Covenant.
Moreover, the Committee notes that the length of judicial proceedings
creates an unacceptable backlog of cases, including cases of human rights
the Committee notes the forthcoming dismantlement of the regional judicial
system, it nevertheless emphasizes that this judicial system, which
provides for faceless judges and anonymous witnesses, does not comply
with article 14 of the Covenant, particularly paragraph 3 (b) and (e),
and the Committee's General Comment 13 (21).
22. The Committee
notes with concern that there is a significant gap between the legal
framework and reality in the field of human rights. It notes in particular
that although a large number of laws and regulations have recently been
adopted to protect human rights and provide remedies in cases of abuse,
there has been little noticeable improvement in the situation of human
rights in practice.
23. The Committee
expresses its deep concern at the recent proposals for constitutional
reform aiming at suppressing time-limits on states of emergency, eliminating
the powers of the Constitutional Court to review the declaration of
a state of emergency, conceding functions of the judicial police to
military authorities, adding new circumstances under which a state of
emergency may be declared, and reducing the powers of the Attorney-General's
Office and the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate human rights
abuses and the conduct of members of the military, respectively. If
these texts were to be adopted, they would raise serious difficulties
with regard to article 4 of the Covenant.
24. The Committee
expresses its concern over the situation of women who, despite some
improvements, continue to be subject of de jure and de facto
discrimination in all spheres of economic, social and public life. It
notes in this regard that violence against women remains a major threat
to their right to life and needs to be more effectively addressed. It
is also concerned at the high mortality rate of women resulting from
25. The Committee
also expresses its concern that the resort to declarations of states
of emergency is still frequent and seldom in conformity with article
4, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, which provides that such declaration
may be made only when the life and existence of the nation is threatened.
The Committee is also concerned that, despite constitutional and legal
guarantees, enjoyment of the rights provided for in article 4, paragraph
2, of the Covenant is not fully protected in such circumstances and
that under article 213 of the Constitution, the Government may issue
decrees suspending any laws considered to be incompatible with the state
26. The Committee
expresses its concern at appalling prison conditions, the most serious
of which is the serious problem of overcrowding, as well as at the lack
of measures taken to date to address this problem.
27. The Committee
expresses its deep concern at the situation of children in Colombia
and at the lack of adequate measures to protect their rights under the
Covenant. In this respect, the Committee notes that much remains to
be done to protect children from violence within the family and the
society at large, from forced recruitment by guerrilla and paramilitary
groups and from employment below the legal minimum age, and specifically
to protect street children from being killed or otherwise abused by
vigilante groups and security forces.
28. The Committee
notes that although positive measures have been taken by the Government,
members of indigenous communities and of the black minority continue
to suffer discrimination and that they do not fully enjoy their rights
provided for in article 27 of the Covenant.
the Committee expresses concern that the decisions on the admissibility
and the merits of certain cases submitted to the Committee under the
Optional Protocol to the Covenant have again been questioned by the
Government of Colombia when it was presented with the views adopted
by the Committee thereunder.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
30. The Committee
urges the Government to redouble its efforts towards the setting up
of a process of national reconciliation, with a view to bringing lasting
peace to the country.
31. The Committee
urges that appropriate and effective measures be taken to ensure that
human rights are respected by members of the army, the security forces
and the police. The Committee strongly recommends that support given
by military personnel or security forces to paramilitary groups and
operations be investigated and punished, that immediate steps be taken
to disband paramilitary groups and that consideration be given to repealing
the presidential decree legalizing the constitution of Rural Security
32. The Committee
recommends that in order to combat impunity, stringent measures be adopted
to ensure that all allegations of human rights violations are promptly
and impartially investigated, that the perpetrators are prosecuted,
that appropriate punishment is imposed on those convicted and that the
victims are adequately compensated. The permanent removal of officials
convicted of serious offences and the suspension of those against whom
allegations of such offences are being investigated should be ensured.
33. The Committee
recommends that special measures be adopted, including protective measures,
to ensure that members of various social sectors, particularly journalists,
human rights activists, trade union and political leaders, teachers,
members of indigenous populations and judges, are able to exercise their
rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, assembly and association,
without intimidation of any sort. The Committee also urges the authorities
to take stringent measures to ensure full protection of the rights of
victims of "social cleansing", in particular their rights under articles
6 and 7 of the Covenant.
34. The Committee
also urges that all necessary steps be taken to ensure that members
of the armed forces and the police accused of human rights abuses are
tried by independent civilian courts and suspended from active duty
during the period of investigation. To this end, the Committee recommends
that the jurisdiction of the military courts with respect to human rights
violations be transferred to civilian courts and that investigations
of such cases be carried out by the Office of the Attorney-General and
the Public Prosecutor. More generally, the Committee recommends that
the new draft Military Penal Code, if it is to be adopted, comply in
all respects with the requirements of the Covenant. The public forces
should not be entitled to rely on the defence of "orders of a superior"
in cases of violation of human rights.
35. The Committee
recommends that all necessary measures be taken by the authorities to
ensure that the gap between laws protecting fundamental rights and the
situation of human rights in practice is reduced. To this effect, the
Committee recommends that educational and training programmes be devised
so that all segments of the population, in particular members of the
army, the security forces, the police, judges, lawyers and teachers,
can develop a culture of respect of human rights and human dignity.
36. The Committee
recommends that the recently proposed constitutional reforms, referred
to in paragraph 23 above, be withdrawn.
37. The Committee
recommends that the State party review its laws and take measures to
ensure full legal and de facto equality for women in all aspects of
social, economic and public life, including with respect to their status
within the family. In this regard, priority should be given to protecting
women's right to life by taking effective measures against violence
and by ensuring access to safe contraception. Measures should be taken
to prevent and eliminate persisting discriminatory attitudes and prejudices
against women, notably through education and information campaigns.
38. The Committee
reiterates its views that a state of emergency should not be declared
unless the conditions set out in article 4 of the Covenant apply and
the declaration required under the said article is made. Constitutional
and legal provisions should ensure that compliance with article 4 of
the Covenant can be monitored by the courts. The application of decrees
adopted under article 213 of the Constitution and their non-application
at the end of the emergency period should be closely monitored.
39. The Committee
stresses the obligation of the State party under article 10 of the Covenant
to ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are treated humanely
and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. With
particular regard to the problem of overcrowding, the Committee suggests
that the adoption of alternative sentencing measures which would allow
some convicted persons to serve their sentences in the community be
considered and that greater resources be committed to enlarge the capacity
and improve the conditions of the penitentiary system.
40. The Committee
urges that the regional judicial system be abolished and that the Government
of Colombia ensure that all trials are conducted with full respect for
the safeguards for a fair trial provided for in article 14 of the Covenant.
41. The Committee
recommends that the Government put an end to the de facto exercise by
the military of powers in the Special Public Order Zones established
by decrees which are no longer in force.
42. The Committee
urges the Government to adopt effective measures to ensure the full
implementation of article 24 of the Covenant, including preventive and
punitive measures in respect of all acts of child murder and assault
and protective, preventive and punitive measures in respect of children
caught up in the activities of guerrilla and paramilitary groups. The
Committee also specifically recommends that effective measures be taken
to eliminate employment of children and that inspection mechanisms be
established to this effect.
43. The Committee
stresses the duty of the State party to ensure that every child born
in Colombia enjoys the right, under article 24, paragraph 3, of the
Covenant, to acquire a nationality. It therefore recommends that the
State party consider conferring Colombian nationality on stateless children
born in Colombia.
44. The Committee
recommends that further measures be adopted to ensure that the rights
of members of indigenous populations and the black minorities under
the Covenant, in particular articles 2, paragraph 1, 26 and 27, are
protected. The Committee particularly stresses the importance of education
and urges the Government to take appropriate measures to reduce the
illiteracy rate among these groups.
45. The Committee
recommends that the report of the State party, together with the concluding
observations adopted by the Committee, be widely disseminated.