The ICJ calls on EU Member States not to contribute blindly to Colombia’s programme of demobilization and reintegration of paramilitaries and armed opposition groups.
Under Colombian government plans, paramilitaries or armed opposition groups that agree to demobilisation can be pardoned for even gross human rights violations such as crimes against humanity and war crimes. “International law says clearly that there can be no amnesty or pardon for such grave human rights crimes,” said Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General of the ICJ.
“Before committing financial support to the Colombian reintegration programme, the EU should ensure that any negotiation process with the above mentioned groups bring truth, justice and reparation, not more impunity. The voice of victims in Colombia should be heard in Brussels,” added Nicholas Howen.
Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, confirmed last September the EU’s political support for the demobilisation and reintegration of illegal armed groups at a meeting with Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco. The Minister’s visit to Brussels last month was aimed at seeking EU financial support for this new programme. Colombia is now waiting for the EU Council and Parliament to examine this request.
The ICJ is concerned that the EU Council of Ministers’ Committee on Latin America (COLAT) meeting to be held in Brussels tomorrow could be the first step towards approval by the EU Council and Parliament of a new element in European cooperation with Colombia.
“It should be unthinkable for the EU to approve cooperation with the Colombian government which would perpetuate impunity”, said Nicholas Howen.
In July 2004, the Colombian government started peace talks with the AUC (Autodefensas unidas de Colombia), the main paramilitary group in Colombia. Thousands of paramilitaries are now waiting for demobilisation. To facilitate these talks, the Government previously issued Decree n°128, granting pardon to those who have not been sentenced for or who have not been accused of human rights violations. A bill, by virtue of which those found responsible for serious human rights abuses including war crimes and crimes against humanity, could be released, is currently being debated in Congress. The ICJ has been closely monitoring the negotiations between the Colombian government and the paramilitaries. In June 2004, the organisation presented an Amicus Curiae brief before the Consejo de Estado, the highest administrative court in the country, on Decree n° 128.