Colombia - Country of Concern: latest update, 31 March 2013

The human rights situation in Colombia has remained broadly unchanged in the last three months. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (FARC) one-month ceasefire over the Christmas period saw the number of FARC attacks drop by about 65%, according to the Colombian think-tank, Conflict Analysis Resource Centre. However, two days after the ceasfire ended, a large car bomb, set by the FARC, killed a civilian in Pradera and injured as many as 60 others.

The Colombian government and the FARC have made some progress on the issue of illegal drug cultivation, the third of six agenda items in the ongoing peace talks. On 13 February, the two sides released a joint statement saying they had begun concrete agreements on the first sub-point on this agenda item: the issue of substitution of other crops for coca currently being grown. However, no final agreement on this issue has yet been announced.

In February, a leading newspaper made allegations that the army's intelligence unit had been carrying out operations without a legal mandate, including interception of the communications of high-ranking government officials. There is an ongoing investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.

The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) visited Colombia on 2-4 February, where he met former combatants, victims of the conflict, and human rights groups, who highlighted the serious challenges that still remain in rural areas. The DPM raised human rights with President Santos, welcoming his commitment to act on abuse and provide an improved national framework. They also discussed the security challenges faced by human rights defenders.

The Foreign Secretary visited on 15-17 February and raised human rights issues with Foreign Minister Holguin, Defence Minister Pinzon, and President Santos. He met NGOs and hosted a high-profile event on sexual violence in conflict, supported by the Defence Minister, the acting Attorney General, the UN, Colombia's leading daily newspaper, and local campaign groups. During the event he launched two projects supported by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office: to build the capacities of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities to respond to cases of sexual violence; and to support investigations of sexual violence by the Office of the Attorney General. The event made front-page and national television news and brought the Colombian authorities together with civil society to talk about the issue, lifting the veil on what has been a fairly taboo, under-reported and under-investigated part of Colombia's tragic internal conflict.


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