Cablegate: Bogota's Human Rights and Democracy Fund Proposal

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

252114Z May 04




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Background: Colombia remains embroiled in a prolonged
internal armed conflict now involving three major
narcotics-funded terrorist organizations. The conflict has
fueled thousands of violations of human rights and
international humanitarian law by the illegal armed groups
and has led to a serious deterioration in the rule of law,
particularly in the countryside. A key USG goal in Colombia
is to strengthen Colombian democracy's capacity to
successfully confront human rights violations. For example,
human rights training for Colombian security forces has
resulted in dramatic improvements. Another important need is
to strengthen the ability of the justice system and civil
society to understand and apply basic principles of
international humanitarian law (IHL).

2. Purpose: Colombia has adopted many laws intended to
protect IHL norms and prosecute their violations. The Penal
Code (Law 599) of 2000 specifies 30 crimes as IHL violations,
the Military Penal Code of 1997 excludes from military penal
jurisdiction several IHL violations, and the Uniform
Disciplinary Code (Law 734) of 2002 makes reference to many
IHL norms. The effectiveness of these laws, however, depends
on government authorities' understanding of what constitute
IHL violations, according to both statutes and relevant
judicial decisions. Unfortunately, such key information is
not readily accessible in Colombia. For example, much
important material on IHL norms and case studies is available
only in English and French, there are obstacles to accessing
relevant information from specialized internet sites, and
other information is unavailable because of its length or

3. Method: This project proposes the construction of a
publicly accessible electronic database of international IHL
jurisprudence that would include, for example, Spanish
translations of verdicts of international tribunals and
courts in cases involving IHL violations that mirror crimes
occurring in Colombia. The database would include analyses
of such cases demonstrating how national and international
law was applied in each case, how judicial authorities worked
through the relevant facts and law, and how academics and
other experts judged the process and ruling.

4. The project's first six months would be spent
establishing the database with the technical support of
LEGIS, a Latin American equivalent of Westlaw that operates
in six countries and has been compiling legal databases since
1952. The process would include selection and
standardization of consultation sources, establishment of
criteria for searches and translation of relevant materials,
and analysis of pertinent jurisprudence. The database would
include information and cases from tribunals such as those
addressing IHL violations in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, East Timor,
and Sierra Leone. At the close of the first phase, project
implementers would produce a pilot publication aimed at
judicial officials that would provide an index of the
database and explain its contents. The project's second
phase would consist of a quantitative and qualitative
amplification of the database with a system for regular

5. Results: Access to this information will benefit
Colombians working on IHL cases, including judges in
specialized, circuit, and superior courts; judges and staff
of the military justice system; national and regional human
rights prosecutors; criminal and disciplinary investigators,
judicial police; and human rights attorneys, law students,
human rights and humanitarian workers.

6. Implementing Organization: The project will be run by the
Institute for Human Rights and International Relations at
Javeriana University in Bogota.

7. Budget: The project budget is estimated at USD 15,000,
which will cover the initial 6-month phase. The funds will
finance the salaries of the director and his assistant (both
bilingual lawyers) and an expert in legal English, as well as
the initial pilot publication.

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