Certifying Worse as Better: Washington tells it like it isn’t
The U.S. Department of State announced today that Secretary of State Clinton has certified progress in human rights in Colombia. The action released tens of millions of dollars of funding for the Colombian military, despite worsening impunity for thousands of civilian killings attributed to the army and strong opposition by Colombian and U.S. human rights organizations.
“The Colombian government has taken positive steps to improve respect for human rights in the country,” the State Department said. U.S. officials apparently feared “losing” the funds, in effect rewarding a worsening human rights record with certification.
Colombia “has taken a significant step backward during the last year-long certification period, particularly in failing to bring human rights crimes by security forces to justice,”eighteen human rights organizations wrote earlier this month. The certification is especially destructive because even in the most high-profile cases of army murders, previous progress was reversed: in the San José Peace Community massacre, and in the killings for pay of young men from Soacha, soldiers on trial for participating were released earlier this year.
Certification requires progress in dismantling paramilitary groups, yet these groups have grown in the last year, now operating in 600 of 1,090 municipalities. The certification also flouts a new condition on respect for human rights defenders: 26 defenders have been killed in the last year, nine of them May alone, and threats to defenders have risen exponentially.
Certification expends some of the U.S. Government’s leverage to strengthen respect for human rights in Colombia. But the State Department has another decision pending that will reflect human rights priorities: approval of Colombian military units for U.S. assistance.
U.S. officials are reportedly studying the FOR report on extrajudicial killings and military aid, as they determine which army units the United States will support in the fiscal year that begins October 1. FOR and others are pressing the State Department to respect the law this time.
- What do they teach them?
- Soldier Testifies to Killings and Drug Trafficking by US-Supported Battalion
- Certifying Worse as Better: Washington tells it like it isn’t
- Medellín Youth Network statement, Sept 2010
- Organizations urge Clinton to suspend aid to Colombian Army units
- The Power of Granting Forgiveness