Cablegate: Unhchr Report On Colombia

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

id: 14143
date: 2/20/2004 17:20
refid: 04BOGOTA1748
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BOGOTA 001748



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2014

Classified By: Charge Milton Drucker for reasons 1.5 (b&d)

1. (C) Summary: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Colombia is finalizing its report
for Geneva on the GOC's compliance with its 27 human rights
recommendations. The report is likely to criticize the GOC
for slow and uneven implementation of the recommendations and
its refusal to implement two, or possibly three,
recommendations. Nevertheless, it will recognize that the
GOC fulfilled one recommendation, accomplished substantial
progress in another, and achieved varying progress in half a
dozen others. A group of foreign missions seeking to help
the GOC fulfill the recommendations believes that UNHCHR's
compliance assessment may give the GOC insufficient credit on
several recommendations, and has encouraged the GOC to draft
its own assessment for distribution in Geneva. End Summary.

2. (C) The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights (UNHCHR), under director Michael Fruhling, is
putting the finishing touches on its evaluation of the GOC's
compliance with 27 human rights recommendations made in the
office's 2002 human rights report and issued in March 2003.
The office will make public in early March its official
report on the recommendations, prior to the UN Human Rights
Commission's annual meeting in Geneva. In meetings with
foreign embassies, Fruhling has criticized the GOC for
waiting too long to engage seriously on implementing the
recommendations and for its uneven commitment to them. The
Ministry of Defense and Office of the Prosecutor General
(&Fiscalia8) have been particular laggards, he maintains.
Of the 27 recommendations, 20 are directed at the executive
branch, four at the independent Fiscalia, and three at
illegal armed groups. According to Fruhling, the executive
branch has fulfilled one recommendation, accomplished
substantial progress in a second, achieved varying progress
in half a dozen others, and rejected two or three.

3. (C) Fruhling intends to propose in Geneva that the UNHCHR
be given a mandate to develop a second set of
recommendations, drawn from the current 27, that would guide
his office's work for the next 12 months. Colombian Vice
president Francisco Santos, who has the lead on human rights
within the GOC, would prefer to discard the current set of
recommendations and replace them with more general goals that
would allow greater operational flexibility. According to
Santos, the current recommendations place too much emphasis
on taking bureaucratic steps and not enough on addressing
fundamental human rights problems.

4. (C) The European Union and some individual European
countries have emphasized the need for the GOC to comply
fully with the 27 recommendations, in some cases putting such
a premium on compliance with the recommendations that they
overlook real improvements achieved by the Uribe
administration in reducing violence and human rights crimes
in Colombia. Many Colombian human rights NGOs critical of
Uribe and his Government have vociferously advanced the view
that the GOC's uneven compliance with the recommendations
demonstrates a lack of commitment to human rights.

5. (C) To assist the GOC with the implementation of the
recommendations, seven embassies accredited to Colombia --
Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK
and the U.S. -- have formed an informal working group known
locally as the G-7. Over the last two months, G-7
representatives have met with Fruhling and Santos, both
separately and together. Predictably, these meetings have
highlighted differences between the GOC's and UNHCHR's
assessments of the Government's compliance with several of
the recommendations.

6. (C) Although Fruhling has declined to share an advanced
draft of his report to Geneva with G-7 ambassadors, he
provided the following oral snapshot to them on February 13:

--The GOC has fulfilled the recommendation on anti-personnel
mines (13).

--The GOC has achieved significant progress in improving the
effectiveness of the Early Warning System (1).

--The GOC has made some, but still insufficient, progress in:
protecting human rights defenders (2); increasing protection
for communities at risk (4); implementing human rights
training at the Ministry of Defense (8); and improving the
public security forces' adherence to international
humanitarian law (12). (Note: The Embassy believes the
UNHCHR report will give insufficient weight to the
Government's extension of state presence throughout the
country and success at reducing key indicators of violence,
including against human rights defenders and communities at
risk. Virtually all the G-7 ambassadors criticized Fruhling
for not giving the GOC more credit for the Ministry of
Defense's human rights training. Public security personnel
continue to commit only a small fraction of human rights
violations. End note.)

--The GOC has not assigned personnel from the Inspector
General's ("Procuraduria") and Ombudsman's ("Defensoria")
offices to all conflictive areas (5), although international
funding had helped the GOC assign such personnel to many
remote and problematic regions. (Note: Fruhling gives the
GOC insufficient credit for having representatives of the
Ombudsman's office in all 33 of Colombia's departments. End

--The Vice President has established a Special Committee (20)
to advance investigations and prosecutions in select human
rights cases, but progress in closing cases has been too
slow. (Note: The GOC had significantly advanced six of the
one-hundred cases by the end of 2003, and hopes to have
advanced another 15 cases by the end of February. End note.)

--Although the GOC is negotiating with several paramilitary
organizations, neither the FARC nor the ELN are prepared to
enter into dialogue with the Government. It is essential
that the GOC's negotiations with illegal armed groups be
guided by principles of truth, justice, and reparations (14).

--The Inspector General ("Procuraduria") has not taken
disciplinary actions against all state employees who in any
way jeopardized the work of human rights defenders (6). In
this regard, some public pronouncements from senior GOC
officials have been unhelpful.

--Although President Uribe has been clear on the need to
sever the public security forces' links with paramilitaries
(21), more actions need to be taken

--The GOC has begun preparing a national plan of action on
human rights (23), but has not given local governments and
key sectors of society (read human rights NGOs) necessary

--There have been positive discussions with the Ministry of
Education on incorporating human rights education in the
national curriculum (24) and providing human rights training
to judicial entities (25), but little concrete progress has
been achieved.

--Although the Vice President's Office has worked
productively with UNHCHR, the GOC as a whole has not taken
sufficient advantage of the office's human rights expertise
(26 and 27).

--The GOC faces a major challenge in developing policies to
narrow the economic inequality gap in Colombia (22).

--The Ministry of Defense is resisting the requirement to
suspend from duty public security force personnel implicated
in serious human rights violations (19) by relying on what
Fruhling believes is an erroneous reading of relevant legal

--The GOC made it clear, at the July 2003 London Conference
and subsequently, its disagreement with recommendations
calling for it not to adopt anti-terrorism legislation giving
the military arrest powers (15) and for the independent
Inspector General's Office ("Procuraduria") to inspect
military intelligence files on human rights defenders and
publish the results (7). Fruhling maintains that the GOC
agreed to these recommendations in March 2003 at Geneva, and
is therefore bound. (Note: The Colombian Congress approved
an anti-terrorism statute in December and will consider
implementing legislation next session. The UNHCHR is
exploring with the Defense Ministry a possible compromise on
the review of military intelligence files. End note.)

--The Prosecutor General's Office ("Fiscalia") only signed in
November an agreement to work with UNHCHR, so no concrete
results have been achieved on recommendations 3, 16, 17, and

7. (C) During the past week, however, a majority of G-7
representatives concluded at meeting with Fruhling that
UNHCHR gives the GOC insufficient credit for compliance with
some of the recommendations and that in others it demands
that the GOC go beyond the language of the recommendations.
In particular, the Dutch and Swedish Ambassadors, who are
among the most conspicuous champions of human rights within
the local diplomatic community, openly questioned whether
Fruhling has been excessively demanding in his assessments of
GOC compliance.

8. (C) On February 18, Vice President Santos met with G-7
ambassadors and excoriated the draft report Fruhling had
shown him. He said that the report was highly inaccurate in
key sections; the GOC could accept damning assessments, but
they should at least be accurate. Santos claimed that he
"did not know how to show the draft report to President
Uribe." He asked for advice.

9. (C) The Brazilian ambassador urged Santos to produce a
GOC drafted human rights report, noting progress where
warranted but admitting shortfalls, for the UN Human Rights
Committee meeting in Geneva. She was supported by the other
G-7 ambassadors present. The G-7 group then met at the Swiss
embassy without Santos and came to the same conclusion. No
one had much confidence, including the Swedish ambassador,
that Fruhling would modify his report before sending it as a
draft to Geneva. Subsequently, the Swedish ambassador
privately indicated to us that he is considering recommending
that the GOS question the draft report's assessments in
Geneva -- which would be a surprising development, given that
Fruhling is a former Swedish diplomat.

10. (C) Comment: The more critical stance of the G-7
ambassadors regarding certain aspects of the UNHCHR Colombia
office's report may not translate into a willingness to
criticize it in Geneva. It has, however, put Fruhling on
notice that he runs such a risk. End Comment.


=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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