In a landmark decision, the Constitutional Court of Colombia overturned the worst provisions of a demobilization law that granted grossly reduced sentences to paramilitary groups responsible for human rights atrocities, without even requiring them to confess their crimes. During the debate over the law’s drafting, as well as after its passage in July 2005, Human Rights Watch spoke out against the serious problems in the law and the demobilization process. The Court's recent decision, as per our recommendations, will require paramilitaries to admit their crimes and pay real reparations to their victims in order to receive reduced sentences.
Abuses by guerrillas and paramilitary groups in Colombia's forty-year internal armed conflict have forced millions of civilians to flee their homes. Despite the supposed demobilization of over 30,000 paramilitary troops, these groups continue to recruit new members and regularly commit serious abuses, funding their activities largely through drug trafficking. Human Rights Watch will continue to press the Colombian government, as well as its international donors—including the United States—to aggressively implement the demobilization law, in full compliance with the Constitutional Court's decision.