Over 1,000 people were extrajudicially executed by the armed forces or paramilitary groups operating with their support or acquiescence. Human rights activists were subjected to attempts on their lives and death threats. At least 140 people "disappeared" after being seized by the security forces or paramilitary groups. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees were increasingly widespread. Armed forces personnel continued to evade accountability for thousands of extrajudicial executions in recent years. Armed opposition groups committed grave human rights abuses including deliberate and arbitrary killings and the taking and holding of hostages. Liberal Party candidate Ernesto Samper Pizano was elected President and assumed office in August. In September he announced a program of action to improve respect for human rights, including measures to tackle impunity, to eradicate paramilitary organizations and to assist internal refugees. Negotiations initiated in 1993 between the government and the Corriente de Renovación Socialista (CRS), Socialist Renewal Current, culminated in a peace agreement in April. Some 350 members of the CRS, a dissident wing of the armed opposition group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), National Liberation Army, were demobilized under the agreement. Following similar agreements in May and June, 650 members of three Medellín-based urban militia groups, the Milicias Populares, and 130 guerrillas from the Frente Francisco Garnica, a dissident faction of the Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL), Popular Liberation Army, were also demobilized. Other guerrilla-backed militia groups continued to operate clandestinely. The majority faction of the ELN; the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; and the EPL, maintained their campaigns of armed opposition throughout the year. Civilians, including children, continued to be injured by landmines laid by armed opposition groups, principally the ELN, in the Magdalena Medio region of central Colombia. In November President Samper announced his government's willingness to negotiate with armed opposition groups. The government's peace program included extensive reference to human rights and international humanitarian law. In June Congress approved a draft law against "disappearances". The law included important provisions to prevent those responsible for human rights violations benefiting from impunity, including the prohibition of amnesties or pardons. It also specified that a "disappearance" cannot be considered an "act of service" – thereby ensuring that investigations and trials would fall within the remit of the civilian rather than the military justice system – and that the concept of "due obedience" could not be invoked as a defence. The then President, César Gaviria, rejected the draft law on the grounds that these and other provisions were "unconstitutional" and "inconvenient", and the law returned to Congress for review. In September the government of President Samper withdrew two of the three objections, but continued to object to the provision bringing "disappearances" within the remit of the civilian courts. In October the Senate voted to accept the three objections raised by President Gaviria. The bill was passed to the House of Representatives but had not been debated by the end of the year. In September the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States together with the Colombian Government and victims' representatives agreed to create a special commission to investigate the "disappearance" and murder of more than 60 people in Trujillo, Valle del Cauca department, in 1990 (see Amnesty International Report 1991). The special commission's conclusions and recommendations were to be studied by the IACHR in February 1995. In December Congress voted to ratify the Second Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions which regulate internal conflicts. Intense counter-insurgency activities continued in many areas of the country. Peasant farmers, community leaders, members of left-wing political organizations and trade unionists continued to be the main targets. Children were again among the casualties. More than 1,000 people were extrajudicially executed by the armed forces or paramilitary groups. For example, eight-year-old Gustavo Marroquin Iglesias was shot dead in March by soldiers from the army's infantry battalion "Jaime Rooke" in the community of Laureles near Ibagué, Tolima department. Some killings of civilians appeared to be in reprisal for guerrilla attacks against military targets. In January, nine civilians from Puerto Lleras, Saravena municipality, Arauca department, were shot dead by army personnel shortly after guerrilla forces had attacked the army base in Saravena killing three soldiers. The remaining inhabitants of Puerto Lleras were then detained for 24 hours and ill-treated by the military. In August the Procurator General's Public Ministry opened formal disciplinary proceedings against nine soldiers, including a lieutenant-colonel, two majors and a captain, from the General Gabriel Reveiz Pizarro Battalion in connection with the military operation which led to the killings. An increasing number of attacks were reported against community leaders in the departments of Cesar and North Santander. David Reyes Castro was shot dead in June in Pailitas, Cesar department, by two gunmen who were later seen entering the army's Operational Command Base No. 7. In September Jairo Barahona was taken from his home by men who identified themselves as members of the security forces' elite Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Unit. His body was found later that day with four bullet wounds and signs of torture. Further evidence of the armed forces' responsibility for systematic human rights violations emerged in January when two naval sub-officials reported the illegal activities of a naval intelligence unit in the town of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, to the Attorney General. According to the sub-officials, the intelligence unit – which operated under the direct command of the head of Naval Intelligence – had murdered scores of trade unionists, teachers, journalists, human rights workers and others in the city of Barrancabermeja and in the surrounding Magdalena Medio region between 1991 and 1993. Three members of the Regional Human Rights Committee (CREDHOS) – Blanca Cecilia Valero de Durán, Julio César Berrio and Ligia Patricia Cortes – were among the victims (see Amnesty International Report 1993). A judge ordered the arrest of the two sub-officials and took no action against the military officers implicated by their testimonies. In August the criminal investigation was transferred to the military justice system which claimed jurisdiction. Also in August the Special Investigations Unit of the Procurator General's office recommended formal disciplinary proceedings against the National Director of Naval Intelligence for having failed to control the activities of the unit. There was a marked resurgence in serious human rights violations attributed to paramilitary organizations after a guerrilla offensive in July which included widespread attacks against civil and military targets and the killing of a leading counter-insurgency army officer, General Carlos Gil Colorado, in Meta department. At the time of his death General Gil Colorado was under investigation by the Procurator General's office for links with illegal paramilitary organizations. In August, two days after the inauguration of President Samper, Senator Manuel Cepeda Vargas was shot dead near his home in Bogotá, the capital. Senator Cepeda was a leading member of the Colombian Communist Party and the Unión Patriótica (UP), Patriotic Union party. Responsibility for the killing of Senator Cepeda was claimed by a previously unknown paramilitary organization, Muerte a Comunistas y Guerrilleros, Death to Communists and Guerrillas. This group also issued death threats against other opposition activists, lawyers, trade unionists and a Roman Catholic bishop. Another paramilitary organization, Colombia Sin Guerrilla (COLSINGUE), Colombia Without Guerrillas, claimed responsibility for a series of attacks against trade unionists. In September, five heavily armed men forced their way into the office of the Federación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Antioquia (FUTRAN), United Workers' Federation of Antioquia, and opened fire killing Hugo Zapata, the union's disputes secretary, and seriously injuring Carlos Posada, the union's human rights secretary. Although judicial investigations were opened, no action was taken to implement outstanding arrest warrants and judicial sentences against paramilitary leaders found responsible for serious human rights violations in previous years. The killing of so-called "disposables" by "death squads" with links to the security forces continued in many cities and towns. Victims included petty criminals, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals and "street children". In February, three homeless youths, 16-year-old Javier González, 14-year-old Jairo Murcia and a 12-year-old boy known as "Asprilla", were shot through the head as they were sleeping in front of a warehouse in the Timiza district of Bogotá. According to reports, hundreds of youths were killed in the cities of Cali and Medellín. Many of the victims had participated in local government initiatives to disarm and rehabilitate members of juvenile street gangs or mili-tia groups. In addition to police-backed "death squads", responsibility for the killings was attributed to rival gangs and drug-trafficking organizations. At least 140 people "disappeared" after being seized by the security forces or paramilitary groups. In November, a group of 30 heavily armed men broke into the Judicial Prison in Aguachica, Cesar department. The gunmen, some of whom were dressed in army uniforms, shot dead political prisoner Hermés Molina in his cell and forced seven others to accompany them. The bodies of four prisoners were later found on the outskirts of Aguachica with gunshot wounds. The whereabouts of three prisoners – César Cruz, Alfredo Tarazona and Eledis Rosado – remained unknown. The eight prisoners, whose names appeared on a list carried by the gunmen, were facing charges in connection with guerrilla activities. In the vast majority of cases armed forces personnel believed to be responsible for extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" continued to evade accountability. Military tribunals investigating human rights violations by army personnel have persistently failed to bring those responsible to justice. An apparent exception to this practice was reported in June when a war tribunal sentenced an army captain and 17 soldiers to prison terms of between six and 20 years for the murder of five men in Entrerrios, Antioquia department, in December 1992. Although initially reported as "guerrillas killed in combat", the military tribunal established that the five victims were peasant farmers who had been detained and then killed by the soldiers attached to the army's Pedro Nel Ospina Battalion. Reports of torture of detainees by both the military and police increased. In August the then Procurator General, Dr Carlos Arrieta, said that there had been a 23 per cent increase in reports of torture between January 1993 and April 1994. A report produced by three Colombian non-governmental human rights organizations stated that in the town of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, of the 183 people detained between January 1993 and June 1994 by government security agencies, 170 had been physically or psychologically tortured. The majority of cases of torture were reported to have occurred in the army's Nueva Granada Battalion in Barrancabermeja. No information was available about criminal investigations into allegations of torture, although in some cases disciplinary sanctions were imposed. In November the People's Defender called for the immediate suspension of a police lieutenant and five police agents believed to be responsible for the illegal detention and torture of three men in Bucaramanga, Santander department. The three men had been arrested in October and tortured, including by beatings and near-asphyxiation with plastic bags. Despite statements by both outgoing and incoming governments recognizing the legitimacy of their work, human rights workers' lives continued to be at risk. In March human rights lawyer Luis Narváez García survived an attempt on his life when five men armed with sub-machine guns burst into his home in Sincelejo, Sucre department. The caretaker of his property, Johny Rafael Márquez, was shot dead in the attack. Yanette Bautista and Gloria Herney Galindez, president and secretary-general of the Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos (ASFADDES), Association of Relatives of the "Disappeared", received anonymous death threats in September. The threats occurred after ASFADDES had led a campaign for the new government to retract former President Gaviria's objections to the draft law against "disappearances". Nancy Fiallo Araque, a human rights educationalist working in Bucaramanga, Santander department, received repeated anonymous death threats throughout the year. All three women presented official complaints to judicial authorities but little effort was apparently made to identify and bring to justice those responsible. Armed opposition groups continued to commit grave human rights abuses including scores of deliberate and arbitrary killings. In January, 35 people were killed and 12 injured when guerrillas of the FARC's "5th Front" opened fire on a group of supporters of Esperanza, Paz y Libertad, Hope, Peace and Freedom – a political movement formed by demobilized epl guerrillas – in La Chinita neighbourhood of Apartadó in the Urabá region of Antioquia department. The victims, who had been participating in a street party following a political meeting, included three children. Responsibility for the killing of Manuel Humberto Cárdenas, the mayor of Fusagasugá, Cundinamarca department, in July, was also attributed to the FARC. In May ELN guerrillas abducted a group of municipal council officials from Aguachica, Cesar department. The body of council president, Oswaldo Pájaro García, was found two days later, shot dead. The whereabouts of another of the kidnap victims remained unknown. Eleven policemen and two high-school students were killed in October when FARC and ELN guerrillas attacked a police convoy in the municipality of Puracé, Cauca department, with rockets and grenades. According to reports, several policemen injured in the initial attack were then shot dead. The two dead students were aboard a school bus travelling behind the police vehicles. In October the ELN claimed responsibility for killing a former senator, Felix Salcedo Gauldion, in Cúcuta, North Santander department. Guerrilla groups kidnapped over 400 people, the majority of whom were held hostage until ransom demands were met. In March Amnesty International published a report, Colombia: Political Violence – Myth and Reality, which documented the continuing pattern of gross human rights violations under the government of President César Gaviria. Amnesty International called on his government to end human rights violations and impunity and to dismantle paramilitary forces. It also called on opposition groups to end deliberate and arbitrary killings and hostage-taking. No formal response was received from the government. In November an Amnesty International delegation, led by the Secretary General, visited Colombia to discuss the organization's concerns with senior government officials, including President Samper, and human rights defenders. In an oral statement to the UN Commission on Human Rights in February, Amnesty International included reference to its concerns in Colombia.

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