8. Torture

133. Armed dissident groups in Colombia also engage in torture. According to statistics provided to the Commission, members of armed dissident groups tortured 21 individuals in 1996 and 23 in 1995.( 88 ) The acts of torture committed by these groups constitute approximately 15% of the total number of acts of torture which took place in 1996.( 89 ) In almost all of the cases involving these groups, the torture victim is found dead. The statistics regarding the incidence of torture are thus based largely on the number of bodies found dead with signs of torture.

134. The Commission notes that international law prohibits the use of torture absolutely and in all circumstances. As noted above, Protocol II specifically forbids, in all circumstances, the cruel treatment of individuals held under the control of the armed parties. The infliction of torture is a particularly serious violation of humanitarian law.

9. Acts of Perfidy

135. International humanitarian law prohibits, in all armed conflicts, the killing, wounding or capture of an adversary by resort to acts of perfidy. Nonetheless, armed dissident groups in Colombia occasionally engage in such acts. According to the accepted definition found in Article 37(1) of Protocol I, perfidy refers to acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to protection under the rules of international law, with intent to betray that confidence.

136. The Commission has received information regarding a perfidious act committed by the ELN against Venezuelan soldiers on Venezuelan territory on October 31, 1994. Several Venezuelan soldiers had come forward to assist what they thought were victims of a highway accident, but in fact were members of the ELN who had feigned the accident. As the soldiers approached the scene, armed dissidents attacked them with explosives and machine guns. Three soldiers were killed.

137. A similar incident occurred on March 13, 1996 in La Paz, Department of Cesar when a Police patrol sought to register and carry away the cadaver of a person who had been kidnapped several weeks before. The FARC used the body to prepare an ambush of the Police patrol, which resulted in injury to five Police agents.

138. The FARC committed a particularly horrifying act of perfidy on February 18, 1998. After an armed confrontation occurred between the FARC and the Army in Fómeque, Department of Cundinamarca, members of that armed dissident group concealed a grenade in the genitalia of an Army officer who was killed during the fighting. After the confrontation, the Army evacuated the dead bodies in a helicopter. When the bodies were removed from the helicopter at a military base, the grenade exploded, mutilating the corpse and killing two soldiers and injuring five more.

10. Attacks on Civilian Objects

139. Armed dissident groups frequently attack objects which would normally be considered civilian in nature, such as cars, buses, stores and residences. Although a civilian object may become a legitimate military target in certain cases, the information received by the Commission indicates that these groups generally attack these objects without having verified whether they were, at the time, making an effective contribution to military action, thereby losing their protection against attack. Armed dissident groups therefore act in a manner incompatible with the norms of international humanitarian law as a result of these attacks.

140. It is reported that armed dissident groups set fire to approximately 300 vehicles in 1996, including buses, trucks and taxis.( 90 ) For example, a group of armed men, apparently members of the ELN, stopped several buses carrying members of the Scout Association of Colombia on July 5, 1997. The group of scouts included 140 children and young people who had taken part in a Jamboree. The dissidents ordered the passengers to abandon the buses and then proceeded to douse the vehicles with gasoline and set them on fire.

141. These groups also attack electric towers and oil and gas pipelines. As previously noted, because these facilities have "dual-uses" during hostilities, they may not always enjoy immunity from attack as presumptively civilian objects. However, in order to be lawfully attacked, the object in question must meet the test of a military objective in the circumstances ruling at the time of the attack. That is, the object must make an effective contribution to military action and its destruction must offer a "definite military advantage." Even in those cases where such objects may legitimately be attacked, international humanitarian law requires the attacker to take precautions to ensure that collateral damage to the civilian population is minimized and to cancel an attack if the collateral damage expected would be excessive in relation to the clear-cut advantage anticipated by the target's destruction or neutralization.

142. Although the Commission does not have sufficient information to adequately analyze all of the attacks by armed dissident groups on electric towers and oil and gas pipelines, the Commission believes, based on their sheer numbers, that many of these attacks may not have complied with the strict standards of international humanitarian law. The Commission understands that armed dissident groups, particularly the ELN, carried out 65 and 58 pipeline bombings in 1997 and 1996 respectively.( 91 ) According to this same information, the ELN has attacked pipelines more than 600 times since 1986, releasing many gallons of oil.( 92 ) Most of these pipelines are owned or operated by large multinational enterprises, such as British Petroleum, among others. The Commission has not received information which would enable it to assess the degree to which the civilian population has been affected by each of these attacks, which would presumably result in considerable contamination of drinking water, soil, etc.

143. Nonetheless, the Commission finds it difficult to believe that, in each such occasion, the oil pipelines constituted a legitimate military objective whose destruction would offer, in the specific circumstances obtaining at the time of the attack, a "definite military advantage." Given the ELN's ideology of opposition to foreign exploitation of Colombian resources, the Commission is of the opinion that the ELN frequently carries out these attacks as a symbolic political gesture and/or in retaliation for the non-payment of "war taxes" by these foreign enterprises, rather than for the purpose of obtaining a military advantage. Some attacks on oil pipelines can be categorized as clear violations of the norms of international humanitarian law. The recent attack by the ELN on the Central pipeline in Segovia, Antioquia, is an example of such a clear violation. The attack on the oil pipeline in that case resulted in an explosion and fire which killed 46 perons and injured 70 more from the small village of Machuca. Based on the circumstances of the attack, it is clear that the armed dissident group did not take the necessary precautions to avoid excessive damage to the civilian population.

11. Attacks on Health Services

144. Armed dissident groups in Colombia have, on occasion, attacked medical personnel and medical facilities and vehicles, including vehicles utilized by the Colombian Red Cross. For example, on August 10, 1995, the FARC fired against an airplane which displayed the markings of the Colombian Red Cross. The plane carried approximately 30 civilians, including Colombian Red Cross staff. Similarly, in May of 1996, members of the FARC installed a roadblock in Saravena, Department of Arauca in the area known as Carunal. During this operation, the members of the armed dissident group attacked a vehicle of the International Committee of the Red Cross, firing at the tires and the gas tank. On April 13, 1998, the FARC stole two ambulances in Arauca.

145. International humanitarian law clearly prohibits attacks of this nature. The intended victims of these attacks on protected objects appear frequently to have been relief workers and other persons entitled to use the Red Cross emblem. It should be emphasized that the protection of these persons from acts of violence is based on their status as civilians and the neutral and impartial nature of their humanitarian activities. The rendition of such activities to the victims of any armed conflict cannot in any way be regarded as acts hostile or harmful to any party to the conflict. These are therefore particularly deplorable and serious infringements of international humanitarian law.

12. Threats and Food and Medicine Blockades

146. Armed dissident groups have sometimes threatened the civilian population. The Commission has received numerous reports of situations where guerrilla combatants entered towns and warned inhabitants that they must comply with their instructions or face violent consequences. Similar threats are often issued to local governmental authorities. Armed dissident groups also often warn civilians that any contact with paramilitary groups will trigger violent reprisals.

147. The Commission notes that where these threats rise to the level of acts or threats "the primary purpose of which is to spread terror," the armed dissident groups act in contravention of Article 13(2) of Protocol II. In addition, the threats by armed dissident groups sometimes seek to achieve the forced displacement of persons out of an area. Acts causing the forced displacement of persons may well contravene a number of basic principles established in international humanitarian law.

148. The Commission has also received information indicating that armed dissident groups sometimes impose blockades on food, medicine and supplies. For example, in September of 1996, guerrilla groups blocked access to the Urabá region of Antioquia from Medellín. As a result, civilians in the Urabá region suffered shortages of supplies.

149. The Commission does not have sufficient information to conclude that the armed dissident groups have acted in a manner which contravenes the prohibition against starvation of civilians set forth in Article 14 of Protocol II. The actions of the armed dissident groups in blocking civilian access to food and medicine are nonetheless of an extremely serious nature. They violate the spirit of Protocol II which seeks to prevent the parties from using access to food as a means of controlling civilians and involving them in the conflict.

13. Forced Displacement and Recruitment of Minors

150. Armed dissident groups are responsible for a significant portion of the massive forced displacement of persons which occurs in Colombia each year. In addition, the Commission has received information indicating that the armed dissident groups continue to recruit minors. The Commission will discuss these issues in Chapters VI and XIII, which specifically deal with issues relating to forced displacement and children.


1. Applicable Legal Norms

151. The State's combined public security forces, namely the Military Forces and at least some elements of the National Police, act as a party to the internal armed conflict in Colombia. The Commission thus clarifies that, as to the State's security forces, the appropriate standards for judging their actions are those derived from both international human rights and humanitarian law. In analyzing the violent actions of State agents, the Commission will thus refer to both human rights and humanitarian law in relation to many situations.

152. The Commission will conduct the analysis in this manner, because, in many cases, violent actions which constitute human rights violations also constitute violations of international humanitarian law, when they take place in the context of the armed conflict. As the Commission noted above, international humanitarian law applies throughout the national territory in a situation of armed conflict, and much of the socio-political violence in Colombia relates to the armed conflict. Thus, for example, an summary execution of a peasant farmer for alleged cooperation with the guerrilla, which constitutes a violation of the right to life under human rights law, will also involve a violation of the protections provided to civilians under international humanitarian law, since the death was related to the armed conflict.

153. In other cases, where human rights law alone does not provide adequate standards, the Commission will utilize humanitarian law in connection with human rights law in order to determine whether certain practices are violative of international law. The Commission generally must employ humanitarian law to inform its interpretation of human rights law in those cases where death or injury are caused as a result of actual combat activities, and it is not clear whether the harm caused was arbitrary within the meaning of the American Convention.

154. Finally, in certain cases, the Commission will apply human rights law exclusively. The Commission must apply human rights norms alone to those situations which occur outside of the context of the armed conflict. For example, the alleged use of excessive force by the police in the detention of persons will generally only require the application of human rights law norms.

155. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between those acts which occur within the context of the armed conflict and those which occur outside that context in analyzing the violence in Colombia. The Commission will therefore treat both types of violent actions in this Section. The Commission will seek to clarify which norms apply to each type of violent action.

2. Measures Taken by the Colombian State

156. The Commission notes that the number of complaints regarding violent human rights violations committed by State agents in Colombia, particularly the Army and the National Police, has decreased continuously over the last several years. Thus, for example, in a communication directed to then Commander of the Military Forces, General Manuel José Bonett Locarno, the Procurator Delegate for Human Rights of the Office of the Procurator General of the Nation noted that it received significantly fewer complaints in 1997 than in 1996. In 1996, the Procurator Delegate received 2,000 complaints, while complaints numbered only 463 in 1997.( 93 )

157. This decrease in the number of violent human rights violations committed by State agents may be attributed in part to the adoption of new policies and attitudes in the Military Forces and the National Police which are expressed in statements like the following:

For members of the military, human rights are not conceived as antagonistic or contradictory to the principles which nourish the State's public security forces. Their promotion, defense and protection constitute an ethical duty and a legal obligation necessary for the plain fulfillment of the constitutional mission of the Military Forces.( 94 )

The Military Forces have also expressed their recognition that, "any case involving the violation of fundamental rights and liberties constitutes a grave situation which requires investigation and sanction."( 95 )

158. The State's security forces have also adopted new strategies for educating their members in human rights law and international humanitarian law. The Military Forces and the National Police have undertaken and/or participated in numerous training sessions and seminars relating to the application of human rights and humanitarian law norms. This training is conducted by experts both within and outside of the State's security forces. For example, the Military Forces recently carried out a program with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Colombian Red Cross, whereby 1,120 members of the Military Forces received training in 28 different workshop-seminars.( 96 )

159. In addition, the Military Forces have established at least 146 human rights offices in different military installations.( 97 ) The State's security forces have also sought to establish a more positive dialogue with non-governmental organizations by engaging in discussions and meetings with those organizations which work in human rights and related fields. In this regard, a directive was issued ordering meetings with non-governmental organizations in all of the military installations.( 98 ) In compliance with this directive, the various Brigades of the Army carried out 46 meetings with non-governmental organizations.( 99 )

160. These initiatives undoubtedly have contributed to the improvement in the human rights record of the State's security forces. The Commission fully supports the continued implementation of such measures.

161. Nonetheless, the Commission also expresses its concern regarding several aspects of the current policies of the State's security forces. In some cases, there may exist an undue emphasis on creating a law-abiding image for those forces as opposed to an emphasis on addressing the human rights reality in Colombia.

162. For example, several publications provided by the Military Forces to the Commission during its on-site visit mention the need to improve the human rights situation for the purpose of "strengthening the legitimacy and credibility of the State's security forces at the national level as well as in the international sphere."( 100 ) These publications suggest that this action is necessary in order to counteract the "accusations, defamation and other actions of the violent agents and their political apparatuses, carried out against the prestige of the institution." (101 ) At the same time, it is suggested that, "there does not exist a serious human rights or humanitarian law crisis in Colombia, at least in relation to facts attributable, for action or omission, to State agents."( 102 )

163. In addition, although current military policy requires regular reporting and follow-up on cases involving complaints regarding violations of human rights law and humanitarian law allegedly committed by the Military Forces and armed dissident groups,( 103 ) the Commission received no information from the Military Forces regarding the number or status of complaints against its members. On the other hand, the Commission received from the Military Forces extensive information regarding alleged violations of international law by armed dissident groups.( 104 ) In fact, it appears that the primary work of the human rights offices established in military installations involves the collection of information regarding attacks by armed dissident groups, which are treated by the military as "human rights violations," rather than addressing abuses committed by members of the military. During its on-site visit, the Commission received several bound reports from the Army regarding human rights violations. These publications listed numerous "violations" by armed dissident groups but listed no abuses by the Army and only very few by paramilitary groups. The Commission notes that, based on all of the information it has received regarding responsibilities for human rights violations in Colombia, the Army reports fail to provide an objective or complete portrayal of the human rights situation. They demonstrate a marked lack of focus on violations committed by the State's public security forces and the paramilitaries.

164. The publications given to the Commission show a tendency to downplay alleged violations by the Military Forces or to treat such allegations as a tactic of the adversary, rather than creating mechanisms to investigate and expose them. Although the numbers of human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by State security forces have apparently declined significantly, serious human rights violations continue to occur. The Commission considers that the implementation of an effective human rights program in the State's security forces requires maximum transparency in regard to alleged violations committed by those forces. The effective investigation and sanction of those violations constitutes the most effective means of achieving the elimination of violations in the future and of contributing to a lasting improvement in the image and reality of the role of the security forces in the protection of human rights.

165. In addition, by emphasizing image rather than acceptance and investigation of alleged human rights violations, the security forces lend credibility to allegations that they have simply learned that they must not directly carry out violations of human rights and humanitarian law, because the consequences in the international and domestic spheres are too great. According to these allegations, the security forces have thus found it more convenient for their proxies, namely certain paramilitary groups, to commit and thereby be held responsible for such violations. The Commission will analyze the issue of the relation between the paramilitaries and the State's security forces in the next Section in this Chapter concerning the violence attributable to the paramilitary organizations.

3. Violations of the Right to Life

a. Statistical Information Regarding Violations of the Right to Life and Forced Disappearances

166. According to statistics provided by various organizations, State agents have been responsible, in recent years, for approximately 10-15% of all deaths and disappearances, where the authorship is known, carried out for socio-political reasons, outside of combat-related activities. In 1995, State agents allegedly killed or disappeared approximately 154 individuals outside of combat, while the total number of individuals killed or disappeared as a result of socio-political violence not directly related to combat, where the author was identified, was 982.( 105 ) In 1996, State agents allegedly killed or disappeared approximately 126 individuals outside of combat while the total number of individuals killed or disappeared as a result of socio-political violence not directly related to combat, where the author was identified, was 1,198.( 106 ) In 1997, State agents were held responsible for approximately 59 socio-political killings outside of combat.( 107 ) The majority of these killings are attributed to the Colombian Army, with the National Police following as the author of the second greatest number of killings.( 108 )

167. In addition, according to these statistics, State agents are responsible for the death of a significant number of persons each year as a result of combat-related activities. For example, in 1995, State agents were allegedly responsible for the deaths of 536 persons as a result of combat-related activities.( 109 ) In 1996, the number of killings by State agents occurring in combat presumably increased to 637.( 110 )

168. As with the analysis of violence attributable to armed dissident groups, these statistics provide information regarding the number of violent deaths directly attributable to State agents for socio-political reasons but do not provide clear information regarding violations of international law by those agents. This lack of clarity again arises, because the statistics categorize killings only according to their connection with combat activities.

169. Pursuant to human rights law, a violation of the right to life occurs where the victim is arbitrarily deprived of his life. Not all killings occurring outside of combat activities necessarily imply arbitrary deprivations of life. Thus, for example, deaths which occur as a result of police actions in the defense of the public order do not constitute violations of the right to life where they are carried out with proper respect for proportionality and in conformity with the law. Also, in those cases occurring in the context of an armed conflict, humanitarian law provides standards for determining whether a loss of life is arbitrary. As noted above, pursuant to international humanitarian law norms, not all deaths occurring outside of combat-related activities automatically constitute violations of international law. On the other hand, as was also noted above, certain acts carried out during combat-related activities may, in fact, constitute arbitrary deprivations of life and may violate international humanitarian law and human rights norms.( 111 )

170. The Commission has received numerous complaints and reports regarding violence carried out by State agents in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite the lack of clear statistics, the Commission nonetheless finds it possible to conclude that State agents have engaged in violations of the right to life and other human rights. Many of these violations have occurred in the context of the armed conflict and also imply violations of international humanitarian law.

Masacres of Civilians

171. The Commission has received information indicating that members of the State's security forces commit massacres of members of the civilian population. According to statistics provided to the Commission, State agents committed four of the 48 massacres carried out in 1995.( 112 ) Although the overall number of massacres has increased significantly since 1995, State agents are being held responsible for fewer massacres. The Army was allegedly responsible for 2% of the 185 massacres committed in 1997 with social and political motivation.( 113 )

172. The Colombian Army has been held responsible for the massacre of at least seven individuals in Puerto Patiño, Aguachica, Department of Cesar. This massacre took place on January 15, 1995, when several armed members of the paramilitary group known as "Los Masetos" entered the town of Puerto Patiño with a list in their hands. They called out the names of nine persons and then carried them away. The bodies of four victims were found on the road between the village and a nearby military base. The bodies of three more were soon discovered on another road.

173. In February of 1995, the police commander in Aguachica stated that the paramilitary group presumably responsible for the massacre was directly sponsored by the State's public security forces, in particular by the commander of the local military base, Major Jorge Alberto Lazaro Vergel. According to the police commander, Major Lazaro had told him, in the presence of a DAS officer, that he had a list of suspects who were to be located and killed by paramilitary forces. A Judicial Police investigation concluded that the paramilitary groups operating in the area functioned under the command of Major Lazaro. The Judicial Police report also concluded that members of the military worked with the paramilitary groups in joint operations under the coordination of the Army commander. An investigation carried out by the Office of the Prosecutor General for Barranquilla also determined that the Army commander sponsored the paramilitary group responsible for the massacre at Puerto Patiño and had been involved in the massacre. The Office of the Prosecutor General ordered his arrest. However, Major Lazaro was subsequently released, because he was not brought to trial within the time allowed by Colombian legislation.

174. Members of the Army were also allegedly involved in the massacre of 18 people perpetrated in Chigorodó, in the Urabá region of Antioquia on August 12, 1995. The massacre was carried out at the El Aracatazo bar in the El Bosque neighborhood of Chigorodó. Government investigations linked the group which carried out the massacre to demobilized EPL guerrillas with ties to the Army's Voltigeros Battalion. The Voltigeros Battalion operates under the command of the XVII Brigade. Further confirmation of Army participation in the massacre came from Colonel Carlos Alfonso Velásquez, then second in command of the XVII Brigade. In early 1996, Colonel Velásquez sent a letter to then Army commander, General Manuel José Bonnett, in which he accused the command of the XVII Brigade of failing to take steps to combat paramilitaries in Urabá. In that letter, he suggested that Army members were involved in the Chigorodó massacre.

175. Members of the XVII Brigade are also allegedly responsible for the massacre of four persons in the village of San José de Apartadó, Antioquia on September 7, 1996. Villagers who witnessed the massacre allege that members of the Army appeared in San José de Apartadó at approximately 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and began to kick in the villagers' doors and to carry out certain persons. María Eugenia Usuga David, a 19-year old woman who was four months pregnant, was killed in the attack. Three others were also killed. The Army allegedly threatened other residents of the village after the attack suggesting that they had been lucky not to be killed. The residents told State authorities that an official military watch stood immediately next to the village at the time of the attack. Approximately eight days before the attack, the watch had been removed, but a new group of soldiers had arrived to carry out the watch approximately 3 days before the massacre. The massacre, along with other violent incidents and threats, in San José de Apartadó led to the forced displacement of the entire population of the village. Persons from smaller hamlets surrounding San José de Apartadó, fleeing from threats and violence allegedly committed by joint military and paramilitary operations, subsequently took up residence in the town.

176. The Commission has received information about another massacre allegedly committed by the Colombian Army in a small community on the road to Solita, in the municipality of Valparaiso, Department of Caquetá. According to this information, approximately 50 armed men dressed in military uniforms entered the community at 11:00 am on April 5, 1997. The men captured four individuals. The bodies of two of the detained persons were found later that same day. No further information was obtained regarding the other two persons, although another two unidentified corpses were found on the same day in the nearby municipality of Morelia. The community of Solita prepared a letter on April 7, 1998 alleging that members of the Army, under the command of an Army captain, not paramilitaries, had carried out the massacre. They stated that witnesses had recognized the captain responsible for the Diosa del Chaira patrol as a participant in the massacre.

177. As the Commission has noted, the right to life remains protected even in time of armed conflicts, and civilians who do not or no longer directly participate in hostilities are always protected from attack. Massacres of civilians thus constitute grave violations of the right to life. In addition, where massacres occur in the context of the armed conflict, they also entail violations of international humanitarian law.

c. Disproportionate and Indiscriminate Attacks Resulting in Civilian Loss of Life and Damages to Civilian Objects

178. The Commission has received credible information indicating that the State’s public security forces, particularly the Army, carry out disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks, resulting in civilian loss of life and damages to civilian objects. According to this information, some of these attacks are land-based while others are aerial.

179. The Commission has received a significant number of complaints indicating that the Army attacks residences, plazas, schools or other similar objects and areas where it expects to find members of armed dissident groups. According to the complaints, the Army carries out these attacks indiscriminately by firing their weapons at and throwing explosives into the residences or other areas without any apparent concern for civilians whom it knows or should know are also present within the structure or vicinity.

180. The Commission recognizes that the presence of members of armed dissident groups in a home, plaza, school or similar area may convert those structures and areas into legitimate military objectives. However, the Commission expresses several concerns regarding the complaints it has received.

181. First, the Army may only attack an object that meets the test of a military objective. Thus, for example, the Army may not attack a house on the basis of mere suspicion that its usual inhabitants are members of armed dissident groups or that, on the given occasion, armed dissidents have entered the house to eat or sleep. Before attacking, the Army must carry out sufficient information-gathering to be adequately assured of the military nature of the objective. The Commission has received complaints indicating that the Army does not always take such necessary precautions.

182. Second, as the Commission has explained above, the legitimacy of a military target does not provide unlimited license to attack it. The Army must take measures to protect civilians to ensure that the attack will not result in excessive collateral damage to civilians and civilian objects. Thus, where armed dissidents have entered a home or other civilian structure, the Army must consider the expected damage to civilians which will be caused by attacking those objects. Where civilian casualties would be disproportionate in relation to "concrete and direct military advantage" to be obtained, the Army simply may not carry out the attack. The Commission has received complaints indicating that members of the Army sometimes attack homes and other structures ignoring this principle of proportionality.

183. For example, on May 5, 1996, in the municipality of Dabeiba, Department of Antioquia, a group of armed dissidents approached the home of María Celsa Pernía y Bernardo Domicó and demanded permission to sleep there. At 5:30 am, the Army attacked the home with gunshots and a grenade. The attack resulted in the death of María Celsa and her son Eduardo as well as three armed dissidents. Two more children, ages 11 and 6, were injured by the grenade and were taken to the local hospital.

184. Evidence gathered by the Office of Special Investigations of the Office of the Procurator General showed that the two civilians who were killed died from gunshot wounds delivered at less than a meter of distance. The Army thus either made no distinction at all, even where possible, between civilians and armed dissidents during its attack or carried out extrajudicial executions of the civilians after the attack had been completed. Either scenario presents a grave violation of the right to life, as guaranteed by human rights and humanitarian law.

185. Non-governmental organizations indicate that, in 1995, the Army was responsible for indiscriminate machine gun attacks from aircraft in three different areas of the country, resulting in the deaths of two civilians and injuries to seven more.( 114 ) Those organizations indicate that, during 1996, four complaints of indiscriminate aerial attacks by the Military Forces were received.( 115 ) The Commission received information about similar complaints regarding attacks in 1997.

186. For example, from December, 1996 to February, 1997, the Colombian Military Forces undertook large-scale military operations in the Riosucio region of the Chocó Department. Residents from that area have alleged that, as part of these operations, the Military Forces fired indiscriminately from airplanes and helicopters at civilians and civilian buildings. The violence taking place during this period resulted in the massive forced displacement of persons from this region of the Chocó to the Antioquian portion of the Urabá region.

187. In September and October of 1997, Colombian public security forces conducted a sustained joint air-land operation against the FARC, primarily in the Yari region of the Meta, Guaviare and Caquetá Departments. Those living in the area denounced indiscriminate attacks from the air against the indigenous communities in the Department of Caquetá. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman subsequently confirmed that there had been indiscriminate bombings by the military in the indigenous communities of Pijao, Piratapuyo and Tucano.

188. Similarly, on February 10, 1995, machine guns were fired from eight helicopters, five planes and a larger plane, at objects in Puerto Trujillo, in the municipality of Puerto Gaitán, Department of Meta. The attack caused the death of one civilian and injuries to several others. Witnesses stated that armed dissident groups were not in the area on the date of the attack.

189. The Commission notes that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited by international humanitarian law. Thus, all deaths resulting from indiscriminate attacks are necessarily incompatible with international humanitarian law and also constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life. As a result, they also constitute violations of the right to life protected in Article 4 of the Convention.

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( 88 ) See 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 8, 63. It should be noted that the statistics for 1996 include those acts of torture committed by armed dissident groups against members of "marginal groups" while the statistics for 1995 do not.

( 89 ) See id.

( 90 ) See 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 70.

( 91 ) See Mario Murillo and Steven Dudley, Oil in a Time of War, NACLA Report on the Americas, March-April 1998; 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 70.

( 92 ) See Murillo and Dudley.

( 93 ) See Communication from Jesús Orlando Gómez López, Delegate Procurator for Human Rights, to General Manuel José Bonett Locarno, Commander General of the Military Forces, November 19, 1997.

( 94 ) General Command of the Military Forces, Culture of Respect and Promotion of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Military Forces, at 2 [hereinafter Culture of Respect].

( 95 ) General Command of the Military Forces, Permanent Directive No. 001 of 1995, at 6.

( 96 ) See id. at 24.

( 97 ) See Culture of Respect, at 7.

( 98 ) See Directive No. 19198.

( 99 ) See Culture of Respect, at 10.

( 100 ) Id. at 2.

( 101 ) General Command of the Military Forces of Colombia, General Strategy of the Military Forces of the Republic of Colombia: 1997, at 55.

( 102 ) Culture of Respect, at 4.

( 103 ) See, e.g., General Command of the Military Forces, Permanent Directive No. 001 of 1995, at 10; Annex A, at 2.

( 104 ) See National Defense Ministry D-2 Department, Infractions of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, October, 1997; National Defense Ministry, Human Rights Groups, December, 1997; Public Report of the XVII Brigade Regarding the Human Rights Situation in Urabá, Carepa, Antioquia, December 1, 1997.

( 105 ) See 1995 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 4.

( 106 ) See 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 6.

( 107 ) See Balance Sheet, at 4.

( 108 ) See Balance Sheet, at 4; 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 10.

( 109 ) See 1995 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 4.

( 110 ) See 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 6.

( 111 ) The Commission notes that, in contrast to the situation for members of armed dissident groups, State agents who cause legitimate deaths in the course of military and police actions generally will not be subject to prosecution by the domestic courts. State agents act within the law, even when they cause death or physical harm, so long as their acts comply with domestic norms and with the requirements of international human rights and humanitarian law.

( 112 ) See 1995 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 23.

( 113 ) See Balance Sheet, at 6.

( 114 ) See 1995 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 55.

( 115 ) See 1996 Comisión Colombiana Report, at 73.