Cablegate: Colombian Mod Codifies Human Rights Policies


DE RUEHBO #0377/01 0311150
R 311150Z JAN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 07 BOGOTA 1246

B. 07 BOGOTA 8044
C. 07 BOGOTA 4677
D. 07 BOGOTA 8367
E. 07 BOGOTA 6536
F. 07 BOGOTA 4837


1. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) released a comprehensive
policy document outlining the Colombian military's Human
Rights (HR) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
doctrine. The policy stresses that prudent use of force
earns the armed forces legitimacy with the public, conferring
tactical and strategic benefits in the war with illegal armed
groups. The document identifies five program areas:
integration of HR/IHL into all military instruction; stronger
HR/IHL compliance and control; legal defense of military
personnel; specialized treatment of vulnerable groups; and
better integration of military HR/IHL policy with civilian
and international counterparts. Defense Minister Santos and
Armed Forces Commander Padilla publicly presented the policy.
The local office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human
Rights (UNHCHR) called it a key step in promoting respect for
human rights within the military. End Summary.

Toward a Doctrine on Rights

2. On January 22, the MoD issued a 54-page manual entitled
the "Integrated Policy of Human Rights and International
Humanitarian Law." The policy stresses that respect for
human rights is key to the military's success in fighting
criminal groups, and assembles existing processes and
guidelines into a single, coherent, human rights doctrine.
In publicly presenting the policy, Defense Minister Juan
Manuel Santos said it emphasizes the legal parameters on
military action set by Colombia's Constitution. He added
that military justice reform and recent human rights
directives reflect the military's commitment to improve its
human rights record. Local UNHCHR representative Javier
Hernandez publicly praised the plan -- as well as cooperation
with Colombian military officials -- and called it a key step
in initiating reforms and building a culture of respect for
human rights within the Colombian military.

Context and Rationale

3. The manual outlines legal context and guiding principles,
particularly Colombia's adherence to international norms,
governing the Colombian military's use of force. Colombia's
Constitution -- supplemented by Constitutional Court rulings
and Ministry directives -- sets IHL as the legal standard for
military operations. A November 2007 decree orders military
commanders to give greater weight to the demobilization or
capture of illegal combatants than to kills (bajas) in
evaluating the success of military operations. The document
notes that prudent use of force encourages the trust of the
population on which the military in turn relies for vital
intelligence. It adds that the GOC's ultimate objective is
to restore the rule of law in all territories. Illegal abuse
by the armed forces directly undermines this mission.

Training and Doctrine

4. The first of the document's five program areas builds on
the military's decade old human rights training program by
requiring the integration of HR/IHL into all military
instruction. Last year 109,000 members of the armed forces
received HR/IHL training above and beyond standard courses
for promotion. HR/IHL precepts are an essential component of
ongoing education and doctrine reforms (ref A). A six-level
HR/IHL curriculum will range from practical basics for
conscripts, to complex theory for commanders. At 35 HR
"training fields" on military bases nationwide, tactical,
scenario-based training is tailored to a local context (e.g.
jungle vs. urban operations). A "lessons learned" module
will give soldiers a chance to assess their past actions in a
confidential setting.


Operational Discipline

5. A second program area strengthens HR/IHL compliance and
control. The Ministry will create an Office of Doctrine and
Legal Advice to research HR/IHL, develop operational law, and
formulate new doctrine. The Office will coordinate
operational legal advisors already in place at the brigade
level. Concepts of operations ('conops') are to be written
for every mission -- defining objective, movements, and
collateral impact -- with rules of engagement (ROEs) setting
operational limits and permissible use of force. Inspectors'
roles in oversight, evaluation of management, and adherence
to ROEs will be reinforced. Military Criminal Justice reform
will continue (ref B), as will topical MoD directives. In
2007, the latter included creation of the HR Monitoring
Committee, restrictions on informer networks (ref C), and
support to civilian investigators of combat kills (ref D).
Performance evaluation criteria will be revised to ensure
they do not run counter to HR/IHL objectives.

Military Legal Defense

6. A third area is legal defense for military personnel.
The document notes that individual personnel and the armed
forces overall require adequate legal defense by lawyers
deeply versed in technical aspects of IHL, ROEs, and military
procedure. The MoD aims to establish a policy on the legal
defense of military personnel charged with human rights
abuses including raising the number and quality of defense
attorneys. Military personnel currently pay for their legal
defense out of a fund of private donations. The document
also calls for an interagency group to defend the GOC in HR
cases before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. The
military will also set up a mechanism to provide swift
compensation of civilian collateral damage incurred during

Special Care for Populations at Risk

7. The fourth program area commits the military to provide
special treatment to indigenous, Afro-Colombians, Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs), and other vulnerable groups such as
human rights defenders and unionists. The MoD held 40
regional HR workshops from 2003-6 on specialized attention to
these groups. For the indigenous, the policy includes extra
protection from illegal groups, dedicated liason officers to
respond quickly to complaints, respect for sacred places
carefully mapped and bounded, and granting of reparations
(ref E). The policy also calls for the military to establish
similar permanent lines of communication with Afro-Colombian
communities. With respect to IDPs, the military must take
preventative measures to avoid displacement in the course of
military operations, facilitate processes of return, and
protect IDPs' persons and property (ref F).

Interagency / International Cooperation

8. The policy's fifth program area calls for greater
integration of military HR/IHL policy and action with GOC
counterparts, international partners, and civil society. The
document notes that President Uribe's Democratic Security
policy calls not only for security but for institution
building, social welfare, and economic development as well.
Hence, the document commits the military to work with other
civilian agencies to promote government presence and
territorial control. Cooperation with international
organizations like the Red Cross and UNHCHR will continue, as
will human rights training and guidance from the USG and the
United Kingdom. Finally, the policy calls for expanded
dialogue with civil society.

© Scoop Media

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