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Cablegate: President Uribe Announces New Military Human

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #4066/01 3152052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 102052Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5514
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1300
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV 9762
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6720
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7414
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4679
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 004066

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT URIBE ANNOUNCES NEW MILITARY HUMAN
RIGHTS INITIATIVE

REF: A. BOGOTA 3959
B. BOGOTA 4028

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) On November 6, President Uribe announced that the
Colombian military would designate a special official in
every division, brigade, battalion, and police command to
receive public complaints of possible human rights abuses by
the security forces. The officials will provide publicized
weekly reports to build public confidence following the
Soacha scandals. Defense Ministry officials told us they are
working to implement the President's announcement. At his
change of command ceremony, newly appointed Army Commander
General Gonzalez Pena highlighted respect for human rights
and international humanitarian law as his "primary task."
Gonzalez added that the military cannot allow "false
positives" to undermine the military's legitimacy. In press
interviews, he defended his human rights record and said he
has ordered the Army's inspector delegates to focus
exclusively on human rights. END SUMMARY

-------------------------------- -----------------------
URIBE ANNOUNCES NEW HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICERS FOR EVERY UNIT
-------------------------------- -----------------------

2. (U) On November 6, President Uribe announced that the
Colombian military would designated a named official in every
division, brigade, battalion, and police command to receive
public complaints of possible human rights abuses by the
security forces. The officials will provide publicized
weekly reports to regain public confidence. They will also
regularly report any complaints received to their chains of
command. Uribe said the GOC hopes to work with the Inspector
General's Office (Procuraduria), Prosecutor General's Office
(Fiscalia) and the United Nations on the project. The
announcement follows the resignation of Colombian Army
Commanding General Mario Montoya Uribe and the appointment of
Major General Oscar Enrique Gonzalez Pena to replace him on
November 4 (ref A). Uribe also dismissed 27 military officers
for their roles in the disappearance and subsequent murders
of young men from Soacha and Antioquia in late October (ref
B).

3. (U) Officials in the Defense Ministry's Human Rights Unit
told us they are working to implement Uribe's announcement,
and will likely designate an existing officer within each
unit to fulfill this function. Their Bogota-based office
occasionally receives calls from citizens reporting human
rights abuses, but it does not have a dedicated hotline. The
MOD's Integrated Policy on Human Rights, unveiled in December
2007, calls for the placement of legal advisors in every
brigade, but these officers' main task is to provide legal
advice to commanders, not to investigate abuses. The Human
Rights Unit was not consulted on the new initiative prior to
Uribe's press conference.

--------------------------- ---------------------
NEW ARMY COMMANDER GONZALEZ PROMISES TRANSPARENCY
--------------------------- ---------------------

4. (U) At his change of command ceremony on November 6,
newly appointed Army Commander General Gonzalez Pena
highlighted building respect for human rights and
international humanitarian law as his "primary tasks." He
said commanders at all levels are responsible for promoting
institutional ethics, and added that he would instruct
existing inspector delegates (each division is assigned an
inspector delegate) to focus exclusively on human rights
issues. Gonzalez reiterated his commitment to maintain the
military's public credibility by obtaining unimpeachable
results and providing service to the general populace. In
follow-on press interviews, Gonzalez defended his human
rights record from criticism by human rights groups, and said
"I am not (Montoya's) clone." He stressed that that the
military cannot allow "false positives" to undermine
legitimate military operations. Gonazalez reiterated the
need for results, but said this did not include criminal
acts.

BROWNFIELD

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