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Cablegate: September Human Rights Update

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FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
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INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1187
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UNCLAS BOGOTA 003759

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: SEPTEMBER HUMAN RIGHTS UPDATE

REF: BOGOTA 1697

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SUMMARY
--------

1. The Prosecutor General's office (Fiscalia) voiced concern
over attempts to kill and intimidate witnesses in the case
against Colonel Hernan Mejia, and has taken actions to
protect remaining witnesses. The Fiscalia ordered the arrest
of three Colonels and a police Captain for their alleged
involvement in the Trujillo Massacre of 1990. An indigenous
human rights group released a report stating that 1200
indigenous have been killed since 2002. Security forces were
involved in two incidents in which indigenous were killed.
Landmines killed two in San Jose del Guaviare, highlighting
the continuing threat of landmines planted by the FARC. The
OAS denounced the recruitment of minors by criminal groups.
The Colombian military announced that it would have its first
female officer cadets at its national military academy. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- --------
CASE AGAINST COLONEL MEJIA CONTINUES DESPITE CONCERNS
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. The Fiscalia continued its case against Colonel Hernan
Mejia, ex-commander of the La Popa Battalion, 10th Brigade,
for his links to extrajudicial killings and ties to
paramilitaries. Testimony from paramilitary leaders,
including Jorge 40 (Rodrigo Tovar Pupo), tied Mejia to a
number of murders (Ref A). Still, the Fiscalia fears its
prosecution of Mejia may be in jeopardy due to the murder of
two witnesses and intimidation of others. Mejia also
publicly blamed Vice Defense Minister Sergio Jaramillo for
his prosecution, alleged that Jaramillo used him as a
scapegoat to appease human rights groups. Defense Minister
Juan Manuel Santos publicly removed Mejia--a highly decorated
officer--from his field commander in January 2007 and
assigned him to a desk job due to the allegations.

3. Sandra Castro, director of the Fiscalia's Human Rights
unit, has formally asked the Inspector General to investigate
some GOC officials who may be aiding Mejia in threatening
witnesses or circumventing the formal legal process. The
Inspector General's office is examining the conditions of
Mejia's incarceration, and has brought charges against a
member of the Fiscalia's judicial police for helping Mejia's
to intimidate witnesses. The Fiscalia has also placed some
witnesses in its witness protection program and Fiscal
General Mario Iguaran vowed that the case against Mejia will
continue.

--------------------------------------
TRUJILLO CASE SHOWS MILITARY COLLUSION
--------------------------------------

4. On September 16, the National Commission for Reparation
and Reconciliation's (CNRR) Historic Memory Group presented
its report detailing 342 victims of homicide, torture, and
forced disappearances between 1986 and 1994 by paramilitaries
in Trujillo, Bolivar, and Riofrio of Valle de Cauca
department. Vice President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledged
that the GOC had failed in its duty to protect these victims
and reiterated the government's commitment to pursuing
justice and providing reparations.

5. The Fiscalia arrested Colonel Wilfredo Ruiz of the
Regional Military Intelligence Unit 8 for his alleged role in
the April 1990 Trujillo Massacre in Valle de Cauca
department. Ruiz is under investigation for aggravated
homicide, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy. Others
arrested included former Palace Battalion commander Colonel
Hernan Contreras, Army Colonel Alirio Uruena, and retired
police captain Jose Fernando Berrio. According to testimony
from demobilized paramilitary leaders Henry Loaiza (el
Alacran) and Diego Leon Montoya (Don Diego), the military
colluded with paramilitary and local assassins from the Norte
del Valle drug cartels. The Fiscalia has issued a total of
20 arrest warrants in the case, with twelve still
outstanding. The Fiscalia's investigative corps (CTI) has
been carrying out the arrest orders issued by the Fiscalia's
Human Rights unit.

--------------------------
INDIGENOUS DEATHS REPORTED
--------------------------

6. A report released by the National Organization of
Indigenous in Colombia (ONIC) stated that 1200 indigenous
have been killed in Colombia since August 2002. The report
followed ONIC's condemnation of the September 28 murder of
Raul Mendoza, the indigenous governor of the Paez Indian
reservation, in Popayan, Cauca. Mendoza had allegedly
reported recent threats to the Paez to judicial and security
authorities, but had claimed no action was taken. The
regional Cauca Indigenous Council (CRIC) publicly denounced
Mendoza's murder as well as threats against the El Pe
indigenous community. ONIC announced its plans to take the
1200 deaths to the International Criminal Court, saying the
murders are due to President Uribe's Democratic Security
Policy.

7. In a separate incident, three indigenous in Guachaves,
Narino were killed by police at a checkpoint. The officials
claimed the indigenous failed to stop their motorcycle when
ordered and later fired at the police. Local leaders of the
Pastos community rejected the official version of events.
The killings sparked protests that turned violent, with
members of the community stoning police and GOC officials.
The incident followed the Colombian Army's acknowledgment
that soldiers pursuing alleged terrorists accidentally killed
two Pastos standing watch outside their community. The
Pastos held 12 soldiers hostage after the deaths, but
released them following the apology. The Pastos also
initially prevented entry of the authorities into their
community to investigate the incident, but later allowed GOC
officials to recover the bodies of the two dead guards. We
expressed our concern to the Vice President's Office for
Human Rights and the Ministry of Defense regarding these
incidents.

--------------------------
LANDMINES REMAIN A CONCERN
--------------------------

8. Colombian press reported a 16-year old girl and her baby
were killed after stepping on a landmine in Guaviare
department. The Army said the girl was killed on September
28, when a mine planted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) on the road leading from the small town of
Ceiba to the municipality of San Jose del Guaviare exploded.
The Army's 4th Division denounced the incident as violations
of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Amnesty International released a report earlier this year
claiming that more than 180 civilians and security force
members were killed and 680 injured by landmines in 2007.

----------------------------------
OAS DENOUNCES RECRUITING OF MINORS
----------------------------------

9. On September 23, the OAS Mission in Support of the Peace
Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS) publicly denounced the
recruitment of minors by emerging criminal groups. Sergio
Caramagna, head of the MAPP/OAS mission, said that in at
least three departments, new groups are recruiting minors at
an alarming rate. He also presented evidence that
demobilized paramilitaries are being threatened with death if
they do not join new groups. Caramagna highlighted Uraba,
shanty towns around Medellin, as well as Cesar and Magdalena
departments as areas of particular concern. Additionally,
there are reports of minors displaced by violence being
recruited by new criminal groups.

------------------------------------------
COLOMBIAN MILITARY ACADEMY TO ENROLL WOMEN
------------------------------------------

10. Beginning in 2009, the General Jose Maria Cordoba Cadet
School, Colombia's main military academy, will accept 40
female cadets for officer training. Congress is also
considering a bill backed by the Ministry of Defense that
would allow women to serve as line commanders. Female
officers will be able to lead troops in battle and to serve
in communications, intelligence and aviation regiments.
Former Defense Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez spearheaded the
effort and received support from current Minister Santos and
Armed Forces Commander General Freddy Padilla. At present,
women in the Army can only pursue technical and professional
careers and can only serve as officers in administrative
positions.

BROWNFIELD

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