The Military-Paramilitary Partnership and the United States
November 1, 1996

The junior and mid-level officers who tolerated, planned, directed, and even took part in paramilitary violence in Colombia in the 1980s now occupy senior positions in the Colombian military. To be sure, a few, linked to well-publicized cases, have been forced into retirement or dismissed, but many more have been awarded medals for distinguished service and lead Colombia’s troops. As commanders, they have not only promoted, encouraged, and protected paramilitary groups, but have used them to provide intelligence and assassinate and massacre Colombians suspected of being guerrilla allies. In fact, many victims—community and peasant leaders, trade unionists, and human rights monitors among them—have no ties to guerrillas, but have been trapped in a conflict where few wear uniforms or admit their rank. Human Rights Watch has obtained evidence, including the heretofore secret Colombian military intelligence reorganization plan called Order 200-05/91 and eyewitness testimony, that shows that in 1991, the military made civilians a key part of its intelligence-gathering apparatus. Working under the direct orders of the military high command, paramilitary forces incorporated into intelligence networks conducted surveillance of legal opposition political figures and groups, operated with military units, then executed attacks against targets chosen by their military commanders. Human Rights Watch has also documented the disturbing role played by the United States in support of the Colombian military. Despite Colombia’s disastrous human rights record, a U.S. Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency team worked with Colombian military officers on the 1991 intelligence reorganization that resulted in the creation of killer networks that identified and killed civilians suspected of supporting guerrillas.

Get the Report