Colombia Threatened by ‘Human Rights Emergency,’ Amnesty Says
LONDON (AP) _ Colombia’s armed forces have placed the country in a ″human rights emergency″ by extending repression to include not just leftists but anyone who does not support the military, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
A report by the London-based human rights group said Colombia has entered a new phase of political repression that threatens its social fabric.
Murder is purportedly the main cause of death among men between the ages of 15-44, and many victims of political killings ″are tortured and then hideously disfigured both to prevent identification and to instill terror,″ according to the report.
It states: ″A policy of terror and political murder by the Colombian armed forces, which has already resulted in thousands of killings and ‘disappearances’ in recent years, now threatens the civic, cultural and academic lifeblood of the country.
″Political repression in Colombia has entered a new phase and the country is in the grip of a human rights emergency.″
Amnesty International said the new phase began last July with the publication of ″hit lists″ of prominent Colombians and a wave of killings of students, university lecturers and human rights leaders in the city of Medellin.
Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, is the base for a drug cartel which is considered responsible for much of the cocaine shipped to the United States.
The Amnesty report asserts that large-scale human rights violations in Colombia stem from ″a deliberate policy of political murder″ by the armed forces.
It said increased human rights violations ″have occurred in the context of renewed guerrilla activity and pressure for social and political reform.″
But since mid-1987 ″the range of victims has extended far beyond left-wing opponents of the government. The people now singled out are not only those who criticize the goivernment or the armed forces, but also those who merely fail to support them.″
″Whole sectors of society are at risk of being considered ‘subversive,’ and in Colombia that is tantamount to a death sentence,″ it adds.
The report quoted Colombian human rights leaders as saying the government attributes the killings to uncontrollable civilian gunmen.
″But hundreds of case studies show that killings and ‘disappearances’ blamed on the ‘death squads’ were in fact carried out by police and military personnel and their civilian auxiliaries, acting on the authority of the army high command,″ according to Amnesty International.
″Perhaps the most conclusive evidence that the ‘death squads’ are an integral part of the Colombian security forces is the simple fact that no one has been prosecuted and convicted for the thousands of political killings and ‘disappearances’ attributed to them,″ it said.
The report said most of the 500 political prisoners freed under amnesty decrees in 1982 have been killed or exiled or have disappeared.
Last year, 15 members of a Colombian human rights organization received death threats, four were killed, one disappeared and five fled the country, the report said.
It quoted Colombia’s national teachers union as saying more than 300 members received death threats in 1987 and 15 were slain.
Amnesty International said the government is responsible for human rights and it must bring the security forces under control.