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Cablegate: Colombia's New Victims' Protection Program Under

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #6932/01 2671853
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD0FC7E3 MSI1989-695)
P 241853Z SEP 07 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9084
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9332
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP 8925
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 0652
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6019

UNCLAS BOGOTA 006932

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY TEXT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PREL CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA'S NEW VICTIMS' PROTECTION PROGRAM UNDER
JUSTICE AND PEACE LAW


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SUMMARY
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1. The Ministry of Interior and Justice (MIJ) issued a
decree on September 18 creating an integrated program to
protect almost 70,000 victims who have denounced paramilitary
crimes or sought redress under the Justice and Peace Law
(JPL). The decree assigns the national police (CNP) the task
of working with victims groups in high-risk municipalities,
instructs the MIJ to extend its current protection program to
leaders of victims' groups who face medium or high risk
threats, and orders the Prosecutor Generals's Office
(Fiscalia) to expand its witness protection program to
victims who are at risk because of their involvement in the
JPL process. Still, the GOC must issue implementing
regulations before the new scheme becomes fully operational.
End Summary

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NEW VICTIMS' PROTECTION PROGRAM CREATED
---------------------------------------

2. Decree 3570, issued by the MIJ on September 18, 2007,
creates an expanded program to protect almost 70,000 victims
who have come forward as part of the Justice and Peace Law
(JPL) to denounce paramilitary crimes or seek redress.
President Uribe instructed the MIJ to work with the CNP and
the Fiscalia to design a new, unified protection scheme after
the January murder of victims' advocate Yolanda Izquierdo
revealed serious gaps in the GOC's existing protection
programs. Under the decree, each agency will receive
additional funding to reflect its expanded work load. Still,
the GOC must issue implementing regulations before the new
scheme becomes fully operational.

------------------------------------
THREE-PRONGED APPROACH TO PROTECTION
------------------------------------

3. Presidential Human Rights Director Carlos Franco provided
us the text of the protection decree, which envisions a
three-part scheme including: 1) CNP to set up dedicated
police units, with additional resources, in 30 high-risk
municipalities to provide collective protection to victims
and to build relations with victims' groups; 2) MIJ to extend
its existing protection program for journalists, human rights
activist, and labor leaders to include leaders of victims'
groups who face medium or high risk threats; 3) the
Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia) to extend its witness
protection and relocation program to include victims who do
not fall within the MIJ's categories but face medium or high
individual risks due to their participation in the JPL
process. Franco said the GOC will allocate an additional $3
million in 2007 to help the CNP and the Fiscalia cover the
cost of these new duties. The budget of the MIJ program will
be increased from 77 billion pesos (approximately $38
million) to 82 billion pesos (or approximately $41 million)
in 2008.

4. MIJ Protection Program Director Rafael Bustamante said
under the proposed protection scheme, MIJ will provide
immediate, individualized protection measures to 250 victims
determined to be at greatest risk. Such measures may include
armored cars, bodyguards, home security, and surveillance
systems, depending on the level of risk identified by
investigators from the national intelligence service (DAS).
He confirmed the collective security measures provided by the
police will focus on the broader population of victims
involved in the Justice and Peace process. An inter-agency
subcommittee for the protection of victims and witnesses will
convene every two months to identify the 30 municipalities in
which victims are at greatest risk. The Interagency
Committee for Justice and Peace will approve those
municipalities, and the police will focus their protection
efforts in those areas.

5. Bustamante said a key goal of the new protection scheme
is to strengthen dialogue between victims' groups, local
authorities, and the police. Increasing confidence in first
responders through training for both the local police and the
victims will enable local authorities to better protect
victims. Police designated to the protection program will
receive training in gender sensitivity and human rights. The
GOC believes that if victims feel comfortable seeking
protection from local police, they will get assistance sooner
than by contacting centralized authorities in Bogota.

----------------------------
CURRENT PROGRAM IS EFFECTIVE
----------------------------

6. The MIJ's current protection program for at-risk groups
has been largely successful. Over 6,000 individuals were
protected by that program in 2006. None of the 1,500
unionists enrolled in the program were killed in 2006.
Bustamante said that in addition to protecting victims'
leaders, his office plans to expand the program to cover more
people in each at-risk group as needed. Still, he cautioned
that admission to the program would depend on careful
analysis and DAS risk assessments.
Brownfield

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