1.      On February 6, 2004, the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), meeting in the Permanent Council, unanimously expressed their “unequivocal support for the efforts of the Government of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez to find a firm and lasting peace” in the Republic of Colombia, as well as their interest in the Organization accompanying these efforts.[1]  Several weeks earlier, then-Secretary General of the OAS César Gaviria and President Álvaro Uribe Vélez had signed an agreement on establishing a Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (hereinafter “the MAPP/OAS Mission”) with a mandate to verify initiatives to bring about a ceasefire and end of hostilities, demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration into society of the illegal armed groups that operate in Colombia.[2] The Permanent Council’s resolution authorizes the establishment of the MAPP Mission and at the same time highlights the need to “ensure that the role of the OAS is fully consistent with the obligations of its Member States with respect to the effective exercise of human rights and international humanitarian law.”[3]


2.      In its resolution, the Permanent Council invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission” or “the IACHR”)[4] to provide advisory services to the MAPP/OAS Mission.  During its 119th session, held in February-March 2004, the IACHR in plenary considered the invitation, and on April 7, 2004, the Commission presented its points of view to the Permanent Council through its Executive Secretary, Santiago Canton.  On that occasion, the Commission indicated that it would continue carrying out its mandate to promote and protect human rights in Colombia pursuant to the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “the American Convention”) and the Charter of the OAS, and that together with those permanent monitoring functions, it would develop its role of advising the MAPP Mission, subject to provision of the necessary funds. In addition, it was noted that the IACHR would adopt measures aimed at establishing liaisons and channels of communication with the members of the MAPP/OAS Mission in Colombia in order to provide advisory services, monitor the process of demobilization both through the channels established in conjunction with the MAPP and autonomously, and report periodically to the Permanent Council, the international community, and public opinion.


3.      On May 10, 2004, as the first step in its advisory function, the IACHR forwarded to the MAPP/OAS Mission background information in the form of case-law and doctrinal writings on peace processes and administration of justice to be taken into account in the demobilization process, with a view to carrying out the objective established by the Permanent Council to ensure that the role of the OAS unfolds in keeping with the obligations of its Member States with regard to the full observance of human rights and international humanitarian law. On May 26, 2004 the Commission made contact with the MAPP/OAS Mission in the wake of the kidnapping of the indigenous Governor of the Embera-Katío of the upper Sinú, Ovidio Domicó, by the AUC in the vicinity of Tierralta, department of Córdoba.[5]  The Embera-Katío indigenous people are protected by precautionary measures issued by the IACHR,[6] in keeping with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure.[7]  Hours after the efforts made, Ovidio Domicó’s release was secured.


4.      From July 11 to 17, 2004, a delegation of the IACHR headed by Vice-President and Rapporteur for Colombia, Susana Villarán, and the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Santiago A. Canton, travelled to Colombia to examine the initiatives for the demobilization of illegal armed groups as well as the applicable legal regime and mechanisms aimed at ensuring that the process unfolds in keeping with the State’s international obligations. During its visit, the delegation of the IACHR held meetings with high-level government authorities, including the Vice-President of Colombia, Francisco Santos; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolina Barco; the Minister of Defense, Jorge Alberto Uribe Echavarría; the High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo Ramírez; and the Attorney General of the Nation, Luis Camilo Osorio.  The delegation also visited the offices of the MAPP/OAS Mission in Bogotá, where it was received by Sergio Caramagna and his staff. In addition, it traveled to the city of Medellín, where it met with Mayor Sergio Fajardo Valderrama and the staff in charge of the program for demobilization of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara, and with officials of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (Fiscalía Especializada) of Medellín and members of what is known as the Facilitating Commission (Comisión Facilitadora) of Antioquia.  During those meetings, the IACHR received the invaluable assistance of staff of the regional office of the MAPP/OAS Mission in Medellín.


5.      The delegation of the IACHR also met with representatives of various civil society organizations, including peace organizations, human rights organizations, and members of the Church. During its stay in the city of Medellín, the IACHR had the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of persons who have benefited from the collective demobilization of members of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara, affiliated with the organization known as “Corporación Democracia.”  In addition, the IACHR received complaints of human rights violations in the neighborhoods and districts in which this AUC Bloque operates.


6.      The IACHR wishes to highlight the willingness displayed by the authorities of the State during its delegation’s visit to Colombia.  The Commission was afforded all the guarantees and cooperation needed to gather information and complete its observation successfully.  The IACHR would also like to express gratitude for the cooperation of all of those who provided information or testimony to the Commission.


7.      The IACHR has analyzed the situation based on the input obtained, both through the channels of cooperation with the MAPP Mission in Colombia, and through contacts with other entities of the international community, civil society, the government, and its on-site observation.  Having considered all of the above, the IACHR presents its first report on the mandate entrusted to it in Resolution CP/RES. 859, in the framework of its powers to publish reports and its mission of promoting and protecting human rights in the Member States.


8.      This report constitutes an initial approach to the question of the negotiations between armed actors and the Government of Colombia with the participation of the MAPP Mission as verifier, and the challenges vis-à-vis the State’s international obligations in the area of human rights.  It sets forth the conclusions reached by the IACHR as a result of its observation of the situation, and includes a series of recommendations for those who are participating actively in the process.


9.      In order to properly appreciate the nature and significance of the negotiations and agreements reached with some leaders of the AUC, consideration must be given to the historical context and the situation in which they are being pursued, as well as to the international obligations of the State.  Accordingly, after making reference to the principles and standards of international law that should guide the efforts aimed at overcoming the internal armed conflicts, the report provides an overview of the origins of the internal armed conflict in Colombia, its impact on the civilian population, and the legislative measures adopted in the past to clear the way for the armed actors’ return to civilian life.  The report then presents the IACHR’s observations on current peace efforts as materialized, respectively, in the processes of individual demobilization and collective demobilization, and in the formation of a “placement zone” (“zona de ubicación”), and the legal framework in which they are being pursued.

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§ Pursuant to the advisory function entrusted by the Permanent Council of the OAS by Resolution CP/Res. 859 (1397/04) “Support to the Peace Process in Colombia.”


[1] Permanent Council of the OAS, Resolution CP/RES. 859 (1397/04) ”Support to the Peace Process in Colombia,” first operative paragraph.

[2] “Agreement between the Government of Colombia and the General Secretariat of the OAS for Monitoring of the Peace Process in Colombia,” signed January 23, 2004, by the Secretary General of the OAS, César Gaviria, and President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

[3] Permanent Council of the OAS, Resolution CP/RES. 859 (1397/04) ”Support to the Peace Process in Colombia,” third operative paragraph. The Permanent Council also instructed the Secretary General to report quarterly on the work of MAPP/OAS and “its continued ability to contribute … to the fulfillment of the values and principles contained in the Charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”  The first report was given on May 17, 2004 by the Advisor to the Secretary General, Jorge Mario Eastman, who made reference to an agreement signed by the Colombian Government and the AUC to establish a zone of concentration, where the MAPP/OAS Mission would verify the development of the peace process. On August 5, 2004, the Director of the MAPP Mission, Sergio Caramagna, presented a second oral report to the Permanent Council of the OAS in which he outlined progress in the work done. A major part of his report was intended to highlight the important financial support provided by the Government of Colombia to the MAPP Mission –which, indeed, has enabled it to operate from the moment it was set up— as well as the efforts to expand the sources of financing.  On September 28, 2004, the “Second quarterly report of the Secretary General on the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OEA), pursuant to resolution CP/RES. 859 (1397/04)” OEA/Ser. G CP/doc.3944/04, was submitted in writing.  On December 8, 2004 the MAPP Mission presented a third oral report before the Permanent Council which included information on the demobilization of approximately 3,000 AUC members during November and the beginning of December, 2004 and on a donation by the Netherlands.


[4] The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights, and which acts in representation of all the member countries of the OAS. It is made up of seven independent experts elected by the General Assembly in their personal capacity. The IACHR holds regular and special  sessions various times a year during which its members deliberate and adopt reports and other types of decisions. At present the members of the IACHR are commissioners José Zalaquett, President; Clare Kamau Roberts, First Vice-President; Susana Villarán, Second Vice-President; Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Evelio Fernández Arévalos, Freddy Gutiérrez, and Florentín Meléndez. They are assisted by the Executive Secretary, Santiago Canton.  The directives of the IACHR are carried out by an Executive Secretariat, which operates permanently from OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

[5] See IACHR, “CIDH expresa preocupación por el secuestro del gobernador indígena en la República de Colombia”, Press Release 14/04, Washington D.C., May 26, 2004.

[6] On June 4, 2001, the IACHR issued precautionary measures on behalf of Kimi Domicó, Uldarico Domicó, Argel Domicó, Honorio Domicó, Adolfo Domicó, Teofan Domicó, Mariano Majore, Delio Domicó, Fredy Domicó, and other members of the Embera-Katío indigenous community of the Upper Sinú allegedly kidnapped by the AUC in the resguardo and neighboring areas, in Tierralta.  The State was asked to urgently take the measures needed to establish the whereabouts and protect the life and personal integrity of the above-mentioned persons, to take the measures needed to protect all other members of the Embera-Katío indigenous community of the upper Sinú, with the agreement of the petitioners of the precautionary measures, and to clarify judicially the acts of violence against the indigenous community. After the State’s response the parties continued to submit information and observations in relation to these precautionary measures. Annual Report of the IACHR 2001, OEA/Ser./L/V/II.114 doc. 5 rev.

[7] Article 25 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure provide that: “(1) In serious and urgent cases, and whenever necessary according to the information available, the Commission may, on its own initiative or at the request of a party, request that the State concerned adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons. (2) If the Commission is not in session, the President, or, in his or her absence, one of the Vice-Presidents, shall consult with the other members, through the Executive Secretariat, on the application of the provision in the previous paragraph.  If it is not possible to consult within a reasonable period of time under the circumstances, the President or, where appropriate, one of the Vice-President shall take the decision on behalf of the Commission and shall so inform its members.  (3) The Commission may request information from the interested parties on any matter related to the adoption and observance of the precautionary measures. (4) The granting of such measures and their adoption by the State shall not constitute a prejudgment on the merits of a case.”