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Cablegate: Getting Out in Front On Human Rights

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3027/01 2641956
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211956Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0029
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003027

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS ELAB PREL CO
SUBJECT: GETTING OUT IN FRONT ON HUMAN RIGHTS

REF: REF A. BOGOTA 1047; REF B. BOGOTA 1826; REF C. BOGOTA 2836
REF D. BOGOTA 2958

SUMMARY

-------

1. (SBU) Our review of the principal human rights issues in
Colombia has prompted Embassy Bogota to adopt a new human rights
strategy that will more clearly state the USG's support for human
rights here and those who defend them. We will adopt a rigorous
agenda of meetings at the Ambassadorial and senior level with human
rights groups who have received threats or allege to have been
victims of state harassment. The Ambassador, DCM, and other senior
Qficers will systematically raise human rights concerns with
President Uribe, Foreign Minister Bermudez, the Prosecutor
General's Office and the Supreme Court, inter alia. The Ambassador
will work with Defense Minister Silva to revive an informal
consultation mechanism on human rights, supported by key
international organizations. The Ambassador's central message is
that human rights organizations perform an essential function in a
healthy democratic society. Post will continue quarterly NGO
consultations on our assistance to the military. In addition to
press and diplomatic outreach, we will implement our human rights
programs, including actions by U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S.
Military Group (MILGROUP). End Summary.

PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS REMAINS A CHALLENGE

-------------------------------------------

2. (U) Colombia faces several disquieting human rights challenges.
Chief among those are extrajudicial executions (EJEs), violence by
illegal armed groups leading to internal displacements, illegal
surveillance by the civilian and military intelligence agencies,
and continuing threats against human rights defenders. While
Embassy Bogota implements a wide array of human rights programs and
maintains a healthy dialogue with Colombian NGOs, we plan to
increase public and diplomatic activities that express USG support
for the human rights community and advance our overall human rights
goals.

SPEAKING WITH A CLEAR VOICE: PUBLIC OUTREACH

---------------------------------------------

3. (U) We have heard repeatedly that human rights groups feel
besieged by threats from illegal armed groups (refs A, B). There
is also a "culture of threats" unhindered by the state, according
to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. We intend
to express our support for these groups through the following
activities:

-- Ambassadorial Visits to NGOs Under Threat: The Ambassador
visited the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) on September 4
(ref D). After a frank exchange of views, the Ambassador and CCJ
Director gave a press conference in which the Ambassador emphasized
the essential role of human rights defenders in a healthy
democracy. We intend to make visits like these on a monthly basis.
In future months the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission plan to
visit indigenous groups, labor unions, and Afro-Colombian
organizations.

-- Ambassadorial and DCM Travel: We will look for opportunities to
visit human rights groups during the Ambassador's and DCM's visits
outside of Bogota. We will highlight USAID human rights projects
in the field. Unless NGOs oppose it for their own security, we
will publicize these visits.

-- Utilizing Network Technologies: The CCJ visit demonstrated the
challenge in getting our main points out via the Colombian press.
We will reinforce our message through alternative media, the
Embassy's Facebook page, including clips of the Ambassador's
comments in our weekly news program, and posting the Ambassador's
statements on our public website.

-- Political Section Visits: Polcouns and Human Rights Officer
will make less public but more frequent visits to human rights
groups.

PROMPTING ACCOUNTABILITY: DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS

---------------------------------------------

4. (U) Our dialogue with the GOC on human rights is a daily
occurrence, but we will give priority to the following activities:

-- GOC Informal Consultative Mechanism: Ambassador has engaged the
Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, other ambassadors, and key
international organizations with the hope of reviving a regular
consultation to discuss the military's human rights performance
(ref C).

-- The Ambassador, DCM, and other senior officers will
systematically raise specific human rights concerns with President
Uribe, Foreign Minister Bermudez, the Prosecutor General's Office,
and the Supreme Court, inter alia.

-- Quarterly NGO Consultations: Although current legislation
requires NGO consultations on the human rights certification every
180 days, Post believes it beneficial to maintain a 90-day

schedule. Information from these consultations provides useful
information in the Embassy's engagement with the GOC.

-- UNDP Labor Violence Study: As reported in septel, the UN
Development Program launched a study, with Embassy support, to
analyze the causes of violence againsQunionists in Colombia and
provide recommendations for eliminating the causes of violence.
These efforts, we hope, will produce the first comprehensive review
of this phenomenon and inform our efforts to obtain the right kind
of Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.

MAKING HEADWAY: PROGRAMMATIC ACTIVITIES

----------------------------------------

5. (U) USG-supported programs in Colombia are designed to help
protect human rights, strengthen justice, and combat impunity:

-- USAID Programs: Provide support to the GOC and civil society to
protect the human rights of the Colombian people, with a focus on
vulnerable populations, increasing the legitimacy of human rights
defenders, and strengthening the institutions responsible for
monitoring and defending human rights.

-- DOJ Support to the Prosecutor General's Office: DOJ's Justice
Sector Reform Project is targeting support to the Prosecutor
General's Human Rights Unit, particularly in the area of
extrajudicial executions by the military. The project aims to
improve investigation and prosecution techniques, crime scene
management, witness interviews, and use of forensic evidence. The
Unit has made significant progress in more effective investigations
and prosecutions resulting in increased convictions.

-- MILGROUP Support for Rules of Engagement (ROE): MILGROUP is
working with the Ministry of Defense to define and implement its
ROE and new human rights and international humanitarian law
policies.
BROWNFIELD

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