ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
In Communication No. 168 of April 1, 1980, The Government of Colombia
invited the Commission to undertake an on-site investigation in Colombia.
As part of this work the Commission was to attend the public stage of the
cases being tried in Oral courts-martial and acquaint itself with the
investigations into alleged abuses of authority in the area of human rights.
The aforementioned note reads as follows:
I have the honor to transmit to you the note addressed thought me to you
and the others members of that Commission by Dr. Diego Uribe Vargas, Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Colombia.
Bogotá, April 1, 1980
Chairman and members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
has been a longstanding hope of the Colombian government to invite the
Commission, whose honesty and rectitude are internationally recognized, to visit
our country for the purpose of examining the general situations of human rights
and, at the same time, to be present at the public part of the oral proceeding
of Oral courts-martial now being conducted, in accordance with the Constitution
and the laws of the Republic, and to apprise itself of how the trials are
the Government wishes that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
acquainted itself with the investigations being conducted into alleged abuses of
authority with respect to human rights.
Particular, we wish to move ahead with the investigations that came about as a
result of the report of Amnesty International; it is our obligation to make the
veracity of these investigations clear. The
competent authorities are also interested in having the Commission become
familiar with the numerous investigations initiated after the charges were made.
Many of these investigations have been concluded and we wish you to see for
yourselves the impartiality with which they were conducted. /
goes without saying that the sooner you can visit Colombia, the more effective
and significant the results of that visit will be.
the renewed assurances of my highest consideration,
Diego Uribe Vargas
Minister of Foreign Affairs in Colombia
Mr. Chairman, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Carlos Bernal Tellez
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Colombia
at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., on the occasion of its 49th
session, the Commission immediately took up the invitation formulated by the
Colombian government of Colombia and expressed its decision in the following
Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro
accordance with the pertinent Regulations, the special commission that was to
conduct the on-site investigation in Colombia was established.
The Special Commission was composed of the following members: Prof. Tom
J. Farer, Chairman; Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Vice Chairman; Prof. Carlos
A. Dunshee de Abranches; Dr. Andrés Aguilar; and Dr. César Sepúlveda.
Dr. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro did not participate in the Commission due
to prior commitments. This
communication is contained in part 2 of this section.
The Special Commission, was accompanied by the following professional and
technical staff members of the Secretariat: Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreno,
Executive Secretary of the Commission; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive
Secretary of the Commission; and by two additional staff lawyers, Dr. Edgardo
Paz Barnica and Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark.
The administrative staff that worked with the Special Commission during
its visit to Colombia was composed of Mrs. Dafne de Murgia, Mrs. Elsa Ergueta,
Miss Gabriela Restrepo and interpreters, Mr. Marcelo Montesinos and Mrs. Eva
on-site investigation began April 21 and its first stage came to an end on April
28, 1980. At the start of its work
in Colombia the Commission issued its first press release dated April 21, 1980.
The Special Commission established its main offices in Colombia at the
Tequendama Hotel in Bogotá. In
accordance with the work schedule approved for the on-site investigation, the
Commission carried out the following activities.
Interviews with public authorities
From the starts of its activities and during the on-site investigation,
the Commission conducted interviews with Colombian authorities of varying ranks.
On April 21, it met with the President of the Republic, Dr. Julio César
Turbay Ayala, at Nariño Palace. The
President was accompanied by several members of his cabinet.
The Commission also held later interview with the Colombian Chief
In addition, the Commission met separately with the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Dr. Diego Uribe Vargas, with the Minister of Government, Dr. German Zea
Hernández, the Minister of Justice, Dr. Hugo Escobar Sierra, the Minister of
Defense, General Luis Carlos Camacho Leyva and the Minister of Communications,
dr. José Manuel Arias.
In addition, the Commission met with the Chairman of Congress who is also
the Chairman of the Senate of the Republic, dr. hector Echeverri Correa.
It also met with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Dr. Juan
Manuel Gutierrez Lacouture, and the Procurator general of the Nation, Dr.
Guillermo González Charry.
In their wide-ranging and frank exchanges of impressions, the members of
the Commission explained to these government officials the objectives of their
mission in Colombia. They reviewed
several cases relating to the observance of human rights.
In these interviews, the Commission received from government authorities
offers of fullest support to help make the Commission’s activities in Colombia
as effective as possible.
During its visits to Cali, the capital of the Department of Valle del
Cauca, to Medellín, the capital of the Department of Antioquía, and to
Bucaramanga, the capital of the Department of Santander, the Commission met with
departmental and local authorities as well as with the directors and other
authorities of detention centers and military centers in Bogotá and in the
above mentioned cities.
Interviews with former Presidents of the Republic
Commission considered it appropriate and useful to discuss the Colombian
situation with former Presidents of the country.
For that purpose, it met with Dr. Alberto Lleras Camargo, Dr. Misael
Pastrana Borrero, and Dr. Alfonso López Michelsen.
Dr. Darío Echandía was not able to meet with the Commission for reasons
of health. Dr. Carlos Lleras
Restrepo was not in the Colombian capital at the time of the Commission's visit.
Interviews with religious figures
During the on-site investigation, the Commission visited the cardinal
primate of Colombia, Monsignor Anibal Muñoz Duque.
It exchanges impressions about different aspects of life in Colombia and
listened to the opinion about these matters of the distinguished Colombian
prelate. The Commission also met with the Archbishop of Cali,
Monsignor Alberto Uribe Urdaneta.
In addition to these persons, the Commission spoke during its hearings in
the other cities it visited with other figures and representatives of religious
Human rights agencies
During its stay in Colombia the Commission held individual meetings with
leaders and representatives of national human rights agencies.
The Commission held a number of meetings with the Permanent Commission
for the Defense of Human Rights, presided over by Dr. Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa,
a former Chancellor of the Republic, and with the Colombian Pro-Human Rights
Association, presided over by Dr. Luis Agudelo Ramírez, a university professor.
In Bogotá, the Commission also met with the Committee of Family Members
of Political Prisoners, the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and
a delegation from the Boyaca Human Rights Committee.
In Cali, the Commission met with the Committee of Family members of
Political Prisoners, delegates from the Popayan Human Rights Organization an
representatives of the Regional council of the Cauca Indians, (CRIC)
In Medellín, the Commission conducted a hearing with representatives of
that city’s Human Rights Commissions, and of other organizations.
In Bucaramanga, it met with representatives of human rights groups of the
Department of Santander.
During its stay in Colombia, the Commission met with executives and
representatives of professional organizations.
One of these that deserves special mention is the Association of
Democratic Jurists, presided over by Dr. Apolinar Díaz Callejas.
Attorneys who defend political prisoners make up this association, which
is headquartered in Bogotá.
In addition, the Commission held a hearing with a delegation from the
Association of Democratic Jurists of Medellín.
In Bogotá, the Commission exchanged ideas with the Association for
Colombian Physicians (ASMADES), presided over by Dr. Eduardo Arevalo Burgos.
Employees and Trade Workers Unions
The Commission met in Bogotá with leaders and representatives of
different labor organizations. It
had a full exchange of impressions with the delegates of several trade union
organizations in the country through the Consejo Nacional Sindical.
These interviews included the Union of Trabajadores de Colombia (UTC);
the Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia (CSTC); and the Confederación
General del Trabajo (CGT).
in Bogotá, the Commission met with leaders and members of the Sociedad Odontológica
Sindical Colombiana, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Notariado y
Registro, and the Asociación Nacional de Funcionarios y Empleados del Poder
Judicial (ASONAL JUDICIAL). In Cali,
the Commission met with representatives of Trade union sectors and in
Bucaramanga, with leaders of the Union de Trabajadores de Santander (UTRASAN).
Representative of Private Enterprise
In Bogotá, the commission held a hearing for members of different
sectors of Colombian private enterprise. These
persons were from the fields of law, banking, industry and commerce.
It also met with members of the Asociación Nacional de industriales (ANDI)
who expressed their points of view about the state of affairs in Colombia to the
Other interviews and Hearings
In Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Bucaramanga, the Commission met with and
held hearings for representatives of different types of organizations as well as
individuals interested in meeting with the Commission.
the Capital city, the Commission engaged in a full exchange of ideas with
members and executives of the Asociación de Estudiantes Universitaríos
Colombianos, presided over by Mr. José Antequera.
The Commission released three press communiques, which are given in this
report. Apart from these, the
Commission gave press interviews every day to explain the objectives of its
visits and how its work was going. These
interviews were with different organs of the mass communication media such as
the press, radio and television.
Detention Centers and Military Centers
As part of the on-site investigation, the Commission visited a number of
detention centers and military centers both during the investigation proper and
after it. The purposes of these
visits were to meet with the prisoners both political and common, to inspect the
conditions of the detention centers and to listed to and receive any chares
presented to it.
In Bogotá, the Commission visited to the Villanueva jail, in Medellín,
the National jail of Bellavista and in Bucaramanga, the Local Men’s Jail and
the El Buen Pastor Women’s Correctional Jail.
this, the Commission visited to the Artillery School, the Cavalry School, the
Military Institute Brigade and the Baraya Batallion.
The chapel of the La Picota Penitentiary was the scene of the military
trials against presumed members of the M-19 movement.
At the Baraya Batallion, Military trials were held for alleged members of
the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (FARC).
Hearing of Claims
the outset of its activities in Colombia, and in its first press release, the
Commission invited persons who believed that their human rights had been
violated to present their charges.
the Commission heard the charges at its main offices at the Tequendama Hotel
located in Bogotá. It received
claims from both individuals as well as different organizations.
the Commission visited Cali, Medellín and Bucaramanga, it heard the charges of
a number of individuals and organizations.
this, when it visited the detention centers, the Commission heard the charges
and claims of individual prisoners.
charges that the Commission received during the on-site investigation and after
it are reviewed and processed in accordance with the Commission’s Rules of
The Commission and the solution of the problem posed by the seizure
1. On February 27, 1980, at about mid-day a group of guerrilla commandos, belonging to Movimiento M-19m occupied the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogotá during a diplomatic reception being held to celebrate the Independence Day of the Dominican Republic. The guerrilla group took as hostages more than fifty persons, among them the diplomatic representative of several countries, state officials and members of Colombian Society. /
an interview with the President of the Republic and members of his cabinet
conducted April 21, 1980 the participants exchange impressions about the
activities to be carried out during the on-site investigation and the status of
human rights in Colombia. At this
time, the Colombian Chief Executive raised the problem posed by the occupation
of the Dominican Embassy. He
explained several aspects of the negotiations held up to that time by government
delegates. He also stated that 16
conversations had been held between government spokesmen and the captors.
He requested the valuable assistance of the Commission with the hope that
it might help lead to a legal settlement of the problem that would be acceptable
for all parties involved.
Furthermore, a Special Commission of diplomatic agents of countries
having hostages in the Dominican Embassy, led by the Apostolic Nuncio of the
Holy See in Argentina, Monsignor Pio Laghi, who was also the delegate of His
Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in Bogotá on the occasion of the aforementioned
event, visited the Commission at its offices in the Tequendama Hotel.
His purpose was to request their opportune intervention in bringing about
a favorable solution of this problem that has international ramifications.
In furtherance of the mandate regarding its competence, the Commission
accepted this request and visited the Dominican Embassy on several occasions,
met with the President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and
other Colombian authorities, and also held a number of conversations with the
members of the guerrilla group and the hostages.
this context, the Commission and the Government of Colombia reached a decision
on a settlement for the problem, by means of an exchange of notes dated April 23
and 24, 1980. The Government note,
No. DM.00174, addressed to the Chairman of the Commission, reads as follows:
Tom Farer, Chairman of the
Commission on Human Rights
Diego Uribe Vargas
Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Commission’s note to the Government, through the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Dr. Diego Uribe Vargas, reads as follows:
I have the honor to refer to your note No. 00174 of April 23, 1980, which
reads as follows:
Diego Uribe Vargas
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In reply, it is my pleasure to inform Your excellency that the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights fully accepts the proposal formulated
by the illustrious Government of Colombia in the note transcribed above.
The Commission over which I preside is of the view that the activities
listed in that note conform to the function assigned to the Commission in the
American Convention on Human Rights and to the obligations that the Government
of Colombia has assumed by virtue of that instrument.
In that regard, I am pleased to confirm for Your Excellency that the
Commission –either directly or through a delegation which it will appoint from
among its members or the attorneys serving within its Executive
Secretariat—will conduct freely and in accordance with the provisions of
Colombian law and the Rules of Procedure of the Commission, the activities
listed in Your Excellency’s note.
Further, the Commission is willing to serve as guarantor vis-à-vis the
individuals who took over the premises of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic,
of the Colombian Government’s strict compliance with all the clauses of Your
excellency’s communications, which shall take effect immediately.
Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Tom J. Farer
On April 25, the guerrilla group occupying the Dominican Embassy wrote to the Commission in reference to the notes transcribed above. /
Amnesty International visited Colombian in January of
1980 at the invitation of the President of the Republic in July 1979.
On April 1980, the aforementioned agency handed over to the Colombian
government a 44-page document with it made public several days later.
This report analyzed the situation of human rights in Colombia and
went on to draw conclusions and make recommendations.
In a speech to the country on April 19, 1980, the Colombian chief
executive referred to that report and refuted several of its points.
The fist press release reads as follows: Today the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights will begin its activities in Colombia. One of its purposes is to promote the observance of human
rights in the member states of the Organization of American States.
The Commission is made up of the Chairman, Prof. Tom J. Farer, and by
the members, Drs. Francisco Bertrand Galindo, Andrés Aguilar, Carlos A.
Dunshee de Abranches, Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro and César Sepúlveda.
The Executive secretary is Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreno, who will be
assisted by professional and administrative staff members of this office.
Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, the Vice Chairman and members of the
Commission, is a Colombian national and will not participate in the
investigation, in accordance with the provisions of the Commission’s rules
of procedure. This rules bar a
member from participating in an on-site investigation of the country of
which he is a national. The
Commission’s visit to this country follows an invitation for this purpose
issued by the Government of Colombia. The
Government has given its fullest assurances that the Commission will have
unrestricted freedom and all necessary facilities to it this area.
Charges will be heard at the offices of the Commission located in
suite numbers 330 and 332 of the Tequendama Hotel in Bogotá, from Tuesday
April 22 to Friday, April 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00
p.m. to 6:00 p.m. the Commission hopes that during its stay in Colombia the
different sectors of the country will contribute their valuable help so the
Commission can gain an impartial understanding of the actual state of
affairs in Colombia in the field of human rights.
these events, on March 25, 1980, the OAS Permanent Council adopted
Resolution CP/RES.303 (417/80), the text of which follows:
THE PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE
ORGANIZATAION OF AMERICAN STATES
Concerned at the serious events
that occurred at the headquarters of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic
in Bogotá, assaulted by an armed subversive group, calling itself M-19,
which took as hostages diplomatic and consular personnel accredited to the
Government of Colombia, officials of the Foreign Ministry of that country
and other persons,
The provisions of the Vienna
convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 and the resolutions of
the General Assembly of the Organization condemning acts of terrorism and
especially the kidnapping of persons and related extortion, particularly
when perpetrated against representatives of foreign states, because they
violate not only human rights but also the standards that govern
To express its emphatic rejection of the unacceptable assault on the
headquarters of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogotá and the
consequent taking as hostages of diplomatic and consular personnel
accredited to the Government of Colombia, officials of the Foreign Ministry
of that country and other persons. These acts constitute a flagrant violation of the fundamental
rights of man, of the dignity and value of the individual, and of the
essential principles of international law.
To express its solidarity with the Government of Colombia, confident
that the efforts it is making to ensure the well-being of the hostages and
to secure their release will lead to an appropriate solution of the problem.
To instruct the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs to
expedite the studies it is conducting on this subject in accordance with
Resolution AG/RES. 366 (VIII-O/78) of the eight regular session of the
General Assembly of the Organization.
In addition, in its 49th
Session held on March 27, 1980, the Commission adopted the following
resolution on the same matter:
ON THE TAKING OF HOSTAGES AND THE OCCUPATION OF THE EMBASSY OF THE DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC IN COLOMBIA
The persons who have taken
control of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogotá invoke for the
taking of hostages, in addition to other reason, their concern for the human
rights of those detained and at the disposition of justice, whom they hope
That invocation implies a
serious confusion of values, since human rights cannot be defended by
actions which themselves violate the same judicial protections afforded by
the rules that recognize human rights:
The taking of hostages is
incompatible with the full effectiveness of human rights and fundamental
liberties of persons,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
To condemn the taking of
hostages and the seizure of the headquarters of the Embassy of the Dominican
Republic in Bogotá, Colombia.
letter from the guerrilla group reads as follow: His Excellency, Tom Farer, Chairman of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, and other members of the Commission.
I am pleased to inform you that the members of the Jorge Marco
Zambrano guerrilla column have read the contents of both note DM.00174 of
April 23, signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Dr. Diego
Uribe Vargas, and your reply dated April 24, in which the Commission on
Human Rights accepts fully the proposal formulated by the Government of
Colombia. In that sense, it is
our duty to state to you that the exercise of the activities in the two
notes represents to us a full guarantee that our comrades in arms who are
being held prisoner, accused of crimes of a political nature, will receive
the protection of your Commission, will enjoy all procedural and legal
guarantees to avoid any violations to their rights and will allow the
evidence obtained in clear validity of the trials. Likewise, we are pleased to see that the Government of
Colombia recognizes the rights of the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights to “apprise itself of the investigations being conducted into
abuses of authority and the denunciations of specific cases of violations of
human rights, so that any individuals responsible for those reprehensible
acts may firm decision, s M-19 guerrillas, to continue granting to the
hostages all the considerations and protection that we have been giving them
to date and that we will grant them their liberty as soon as possible.
Attentively, Rosenber Pavon Pavon, Commander No. 1, Jorge Marco
Zambrano Guerrilla Column.