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U.S. Department of StateUnder Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs > Releases > Fact Sheets > 2001 > January - June 
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Washington, DC
February 20, 2001

Plan Colombia and Human Rights


A central goal of U.S. assistance to Colombia is to promote and protect human rights.

In accordance with U.S. law as embodied in the Leahy Amendment, all assistance to the Colombian armed forces is contingent upon human rights screening. No assistance will be provided to any unit of the Colombian military for which there is credible evidence of serious human rights violations by its members unless, as required by U.S. law, the Secretary of State determines that Bogota is taking steps to bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice.

What distinguishes the situation today from past years is the commitment of the Pastrana administration to improving Colombia's human rights record. The Colombian military is undergoing a cultural transformation that, if sustained, bodes well for Colombia. Dramatic steps have been taken to deal with the legacy of human rights abuses and impunity for violators.

President Pastrana recognizes that he needs to do more to address this problem. This is one of the clear motivations for his "Plan Colombia" -- and for the U.S. $1.3 billion assistance package. The U.S. is committed to help the Colombian Government address the conditions that breed human rights abuses, whether by paramilitaries, guerillas, drug traffickers, or elements of the security forces.

In August 2000, the U.S. Government announced its certification of one of the seven Colombia supplemental funding conditions and the waiver of the remaining six. In January 2001, the Executive Branch transmitted to Congress a voluntary report on the human rights situation in Colombia.

U.S. assistance will fund training and support for human rights-related nongovernmental organizations as well as government investigators and prosecutors, including a specialized human rights task force. Working with the Colombian Vice President's office, the U.S. is promoting and assisting the development of a national human rights policy. The U.S. is providing human rights-related training for security force members and judges and assistance to the human rights ombudsman. The U.S. also supports enhanced security protection for human rights monitors in Colombia.

President Pastrana has stated repeatedly that he will not tolerate collaboration, by commission or omission, between security force members and paramilitaries. He has backed this up with direct action last year removing four generals and numerous mid-level officers for having links to the paramilitaries or failure to confront them aggressively. The forced retirements of generals Milan and del Rio because of ties to paramilitary organizations and the arrests of General Uscategui and Lt. Col. Sanchez Oviedo for alleged involvement in the 1997 Mapiripan massacre conducted by paramilitaries are particularly significant.

The U.S. will continue to press the Colombian Government to eliminate any remaining links between security force members and the paramilitaries. On numerous occasions the U.S. has called on the paramilitaries, the FARC guerrilla group, and the ELN guerrilla group to respect international human rights norms and to cease the practice of kidnapping.

U.S. support for the Colombian peace process is in part premised on the principle that a negotiated settlement is ultimately the best guarantee for human rights.

[End.]


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