On March 17, OAS representative Sergio Caramagna reportedly met with Colombia’s paramilitary leaders. Hours after the meeting concluded, paramilitaries released a statement announcing that Mr. Caramagna had expanded his role and suggesting that he would participate directly in negotiations. If true, this would constitute a dramatic expansion of the OAS role as authorized by Resolution CP/RES. 859 (1397/04), passed last February.

On March 17, OAS representative Sergio Caramagna reportedly met with Colombia’s paramilitary leaders. The event was widely covered in the national media.

By being involved in active negotiations alongside Mr. Luis Camilo Restrepo, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, Mr. Caramagna appears to have assumed a role very different from the one authorized by the OAS Permanent Council. This has already led to serious misperceptions. Hours after the meeting concluded, paramilitaries released a statement announcing that Mr. Caramagna had expanded his role and suggesting that he would participate directly in negotiations.

If true, this would constitute a dramatic expansion of the OAS role as authorized by Resolution CP/RES. 859 (1397/04), passed last February. The language of the resolution is quite clear on this point. It authorizes the OAS representative in Colombia only to “provide technical support to the verification of the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration initiatives.” It does not authorize the OAS representative to take a seat at the negotiation table and lend the institution’s credibility and prestige to a final deal.

I urge you to request the Secretary General to immediately to instruct Mr. Caramagna that his actions must conform to the resolution approved by the Permanent Council. The function of the OAS should be to provide support in verifying agreements once they are made, in accordance with regional obligations on the protection of human rights. It is not a mediator of the talks themselves.

As you know, Human Rights Watch raised serious questions about the OAS role in talks between Colombia’s government and paramilitaries as this resolution was being debated. We pointed out that it is crucial, given developments so far in Colombia, that the OAS take steps to ensure that it does not bestow international legitimacy on a process that grants impunity to the perpetrators of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

As Human Rights Watch described, the OAS must ensure that its monitoring of the demobilization process takes place under terms consistent with Colombia’s obligation to prosecute and punish the most serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.

If the OAS were to be directly associated with the negotiations, its credibility as an institution could be seriously damaged. The negotiations in Colombia are extraordinarily complex and dangerous. It is in the OAS’s best interests to preserve the clearly delineated limits on its involvement.

Sincerely,

José Miguel Vivanco

Cc: William Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Canada
Cc: Paul D. Durand, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Canada, Organization of Americas States
Cc: Mac Lorti, Assistant Deputy Director for the Americas in the Canadian Foreign Ministry
Cc: César Gaviria, Secretary General, Organization of American States
Cc: Luis Ernesto Derbez, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mexico
Cc: Patricia Olamendi, Subsectary of Global Themes of the Republic of Mexico
Cc: Miguel Ruíz Cabañas, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mexico, Organization of Americas States
Cc: Rafael Bielsa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Argentina
Cc: Jorge Taiana, Subsecretary of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Argentina
Cc: Rodolfo Hugo Gil, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Argentina, Organization of Americas States
Cc: Colin Powell, Secretary of State, U.S. State Department
Cc: Marc Grossman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. State Department
Cc: John Maisto, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United States, Organization of Americas States
Cc: Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. State Department
Cc: Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. State Department
Cc: Michael Kozak, Prinicpal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State
Cc: Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Peru
Cc: Alberto Borea, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Peru, Organization of Americas States