Published on Friday, July 30, 2010 by Inter Press Service
Report Suggests 'Correlation' between
BOGOTÁ - "There are alarming links between increased reports of extrajudicial executions of civilians by the Colombian army and units that receive U.S. military financing," John Lindsay-Poland, lead author of a two-year study on the question, told IPS.
Lindsay-Poland is Research and Advocacy Director for the U.S.-based Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which presented a new report, "Military Assistance and Human Rights:
The report, produced in conjunction with the U.S. Office on Colombia (USOC), studies the application in Colombia of the so-called Leahy Law, passed in 1996, which bans military assistance to a foreign security force unit if the U.S. State Department has credible evidence that the unit has committed gross human rights violations.
The Leahy Law is one of the main
"If the Leahy Law was fully implemented, assistance would have to be suspended to nearly all fixed army brigades and many mobile brigades in
The report points out that most military training in
Colombia, caught up in an armed conflict for nearly five decades, is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the world, along with Israel,
The study reviewed data on more than 3,000 extrajudicial executions reportedly committed by the armed forces in
"We found that for many military units, reports of extrajudicial executions increased during and after the highest levels of
The results were obtained by comparing the number of reports of such killings in the two years prior to the start of Plan
It also found that reports of alleged killings of civilians by the army dropped when assistance was cut.
"Whatever correlation may exist between assistance and reported killings, there are clearly other factors contributing to high levels of killings. Yet, while we could not fix the causes of increased reports of killings after increases in U.S. assistance, our findings highlight the need for a thorough investigation into the reasons for this apparent correlation," the authors say.
For example, "why
The two plans have undergone radical changes since 2009, according to Lindsay-Poland, when they reached beyond the initial aims of counterinsurgency and counternarcotics, with a view towards strengthening
Uribe offered the U.S. military the use of seven bases at strategic points in Colombia, including both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the province of Caquetá in the Amazon jungle, and the provinces of Meta, Tolima and Cundinamarca in the centre of the country.
Lindsay-Poland and other members of FOR tried to visit the Palanquero base in Cundinamarca, one of the seven, on Wednesday. But "they did not let us in," he said. "They demanded authorisation from the
Furthermore, the agreement for
As a result, the
If the legislature ratifies the deal, the
The report presented by FOR and USOC coincided with the start of an investigation of reports of unmarked graves in the La Macarena cemetery, which is next to an army base, according to a Jul. 22 public hearing in that town in the central province of Meta, which was attended by opposition lawmakers and international observers, including European legislators.
At the hearing, witnesses said military helicopters flew in the remains of bodies to La Macarena, 340 km south of Bogotá. Human rights groups say the bodies were those of civilians killed by the army.
"This is happening at the end of a government marked by grave human rights violations, which have largely affected the most vulnerable groups in society, and which are reflected in the thousands of 'false positives', as the extrajudicial executions have been popularly known," Alberto Yepes, director of the Observatorio de Derechos Humanos (DIH - Human Rights Observatory), told IPS.
The scandal over the so-called "false positives" -- young civilians killed by the army and passed off as guerrilla casualties in the military's counterinsurgency campaign --broke in the press in September 2008.
Although there are no hard statistics on the number of people killed, the report by FOR and USOC puts the number at over 3,000 in the last decade.
A group that calls itself the Madres (mothers) of Soacha, a vast working-class suburb stretching south of Bogotá, has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights over the loss of their 16 sons in 2007 and 2008. The young men were recruited with the promise of jobs, but their bodies were found in morgues or mass graves hundreds of kilometres away.
Yepes said the complaint filed by the Madres de Soacha "is a way to pressure the state to modify this kind of behaviour."
While activists and groups mobilise to pressure the armed forces to live up to the constitution, "the United States should assume its responsibility through better oversight, holding (authorities in Colombia) accountable and adopting corrective measures, so the money of U.S. taxpayers does not end up financing killings in Colombia," he said.
Copyright © 2010 IPS-Inter Press Service
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/30-6
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs