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President Gaviria's November 1992 declaration of the state of internal commotion capped one of the worst years of political violence in recent Colombian history. Colombian human rights groups registered over 4, 100 deaths in political violence in 1992, an increase of nine percent over the 1991 total and a figure comparable to the record of 4,200 set in 1988, following a surge in massacres committed by paramilitary groups. The 4,100 figure for 1992 included several categories of political murder: outright political assassinations by government forces and the guerrillas; socalled "social cleansing" killings of beggars, prostitutes, the-homeless, and other "undesirables"; and disappearances.

Together, murders and disappearances accounted in 1992 for approximately two-thirds of the total deaths in political violence. The remaining one-third involved combat deaths in the guerrilla war. Combat deaths in 1992 also rose slightly over previous years, testimony to the quickening pace of the war following the collapse of peace talks between the government and the guerrillas earlier in the year. 1

The first nine months of 1993 showed no abatement in the incidence of political violence. More than eleven people a day continued to be killed or "disappeared" for political reasons, approximately three in the armed conflict, six in acts of outright repression (political murders and presumably political murders), and one in "social cleansing." That lamentable tally was augmented by an average of one disappearance a day; 2 according to Presidential Counsellor for the Defense of Human Rights Carlos Vicente de Roux, Colombia ranks third in the world in the number of disappearances. 3 Other violations, including torture, remained at appalling levels, while the incidence of arbitrary detention, particularly for crimes of "terrorism," increased. We are convinced that the continuing incidence of such high levels of abuse are directly related to the pervasive impunity enjoyed by members of the Colombian security forces for human rights crimes. Despite sometimes vigorous investigative and disciplinary activity on the part of governmental authorities, those who commit abuses are rarely apprehended and punished.

Political violence as a proportion of overall criminal violence in Colombia is relatively small: perhaps twelve-fifteen percent of the total homicides in Colombia in recent years have been politically motivated. 4 Within the category of political violence, however, the role of state agents and paramilitary groups allied stands out. According to the Andean Commission of Jurists - Colombian Section (CAJ-SC), of the political murders in the first nine months of 1993 in which a perpetrator could be identified, approximately fifty-six percent were committed by the army and security forces, twelve percent by paramilitary groups, twenty-five percent by the guerrillas, and seven percent by a group known as the PEPES or by private assassins. Of those abuses attributed to state agents, over seventyseven percent were committed by the army and eleven percent by the police. 5 The proportionate responsibility for political violence shifted in 1993, due to an intensification of the war and an increase in targeted and indiscriminate violence by members of the Medellín drug cartel as well as by insurgent forces. According to official figures (which are no doubt under-estimates), for example, approximately 800 policemen lost their lives in 1992 at the hands of drug-traffickers and guerrillas. The figure for January to May 1993 was over 230, a slight decrease. 6

The figures compiled by Colombian human rights groups, demonstrate exactly the opposite of what is claimed by the Colombian government and echoed by the U.S. Embassy and State Department; the figures demonstrate that state agents and the paramilitary groups that operate with state acquiescence are responsible for the bulk of the killing. The Colombian and U.S. governments, meanwhile, place the majority of the blame for human rights abuses on the guerrillas and drug traffickers. While we do not wish to diminish the seriousness of guerrilla abuses or downplay the headlinegrabbing brutality of the drug cartels, we find that the official characterizations of Colombia's human rights problem are a gross distortion. They serve to obscure the armed forces' preeminent responsibility for Colombia's human rights nightmare and serve to mask the widespread failure to prosecute and punish those responsible for abuses against civilians.

As we have reported in the past, the victims of political violence represent a cross-section of Colombian society;7 the multiple perpetrators of abuse have contributed to what Presidential Counselor Carlos Vicente de Roux has called a "macabre democratization" of political killing. 8 Targets include peasants living in zones of military conflict, members of leftist political parties, trade unionists, human rights activists, members of the judiciary, ex-guerrillas who have laid down their weapons, those killed in "social cleansing" campaigns, and soldiers, police, and combatants themselves. Rural peasants constitute the social group suffering the greatest number of assassinations, disappearances, and torture. 9

In late 1992 and throughout 1993, the Colombian government adopted exceptional measures to deal with violence, measures embodied in the state of internal commotion decrees and subsequent efforts to convert the decrees into permanent legislation. We deal with these measures at length because we believe that they represent the wrong path to social peace in Colombia. Limitations on individual freedom and enhanced powers to a military establishment already renowned for its brutality may temporarily satisfy a thirst for tougher measures to restore law and order. But ultimately, a continued concentration of power in the hands of the executive branch, additional restrictions on due process and civil rights, and a resort to force in general pose dangerous threats to Colombian democracy. Exceptional powers invite abuse, arbitrariness, and corruption, ills which pose equal, if less immediate threats to the Colombian political system. Americas Watch does not underestimate the dangers to democracy posed by drug trafficking cartels or the guerrilla insurgents. But it should be the government's primary task to ensure that the remedy is not worse than the affliction.


The decrees announced by Gaviria in November 1992 and the extensions of emergency powers at ninety-day intervals throughout the first eight months of 1993 marked a rupture, if not definitive break, in Colombia's process of democratic opening and inclusionary politics. Although one of Latin America's oldest nominal democracies, Colombia has been ruled for thirty-five of the last forty-two years under a state of siege. 10 But beginning in 1990, and in response to a popular initiative, Colombians from across the political spectrum organized to debate and draft a new Constitution to replace the one in effect since 1886. Running parallel to and eventually contributing to this process was a dialogue with insurgent groups that began in the early 1980s and culminated in 1990 and 1991 with the demobilization of three guerrilla groups. 11 The subsequent election of numerous former guerrillas to the Constituent Assembly drafting the new Constitution broadened participation beyond traditional elites and helped cement constitutional human rights guarantees.

The political opening in the early 1990s coincided with a partial abatement of violence carried out by drug trafficking cartels. Drug lords who had unleashed an unprecedented wave of terrorism and violence in the late 1980s - assassinating presidential candidates and declaring open war on Colombia's citizenry - took advantage of new provisions of the Constitution that barred extradition to foreign countries for the purpose of standing trial. Important traffickers turned themselves in to Colombian authorities in exchange for reductions in their sentences. The most notorious of the drug kingpins to surrender was Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellín cartel, who in June 1991 entered a prison he had personally designed on the outskirts of his hometown of Envigado, Antioquia, outside Medellín. Sixteen months after a prison escape in July 1992, Escobar was killed by the security forces.

Now, however, what Colombian analysts have called the period of distensión, or expansion of political space, has come to a close. 12 The declaration of the state of internal commotion in November 1992 and the wave of emergency decrees issued in its aftermath marked a reversion to authoritarian patterns of rule by which power was concentrated in executive hands and governance carried out by executive decree. There are notable restraints on presidential power, embodied most prominently in the Constitutional Court, which was established in 1991 to ensure that decrees issued during a state of emergency were consistent with constitutional protections. The Court has provided important protection against arbitrariness and illegality. But it has been unable to reverse an overall trend toward the weakening of protections guaranteed in the Constitution. 13 (See below.)

The immediate impetus for Gaviria's declaration of the state of exception November 8, 1992, was the November 7 killing of twenty-six policemen in the southern province of Putumayo by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC). The assault, along with guerrilla bombings in urban areas and relentless attacks on a major oil pipeline leading to the Caribbean coast, took place in the context of renewed guerrilla offensives following a breakdown in May 1992 in peace talks with the government. As discussed later in this report, the guerrilla offensive embodied major and catastrophic violations of international humanitarian law.

The November guerrilla attacks represented yet another in a series of frustrations and set-backs for the government in 1992. In March Colombians learned that drastic power shortages and rationing of electricity were connected not only to a severe drought but also to massive corruption involving the construction of a state hydroelectric plant. 14

On July 22, 1992, a little over a year. after he had surrendered to Colombian authorities, drug lord Pablo Escobar defied a government order that he be transferred to another prison and walked out of the jail he had effectively controlled during his incarceration. The day of the transfer, Escobar took National Prison Director Col. Hernando Navas Rubio and Assistant Justice Minister Eduardo Mendoza as hostages and slipped away with nine fellow prisoners. Escobar's escape was made possible by corrupt prison guards and army soldiers surrounding the prison, and marked a serious defeat for the government's policy of negotiating the surrender of drug traffickers. 15 Subsequent revelations - that Escobar's posh jail was equipped with a bar, kitchenette, big-screen television, jacuzzi, fax machines, computers, and cellular telephones, 16 that the conditions of his confinement were known to government officials, and that he had continued to direct drug trafficking operations and order assassinations from his jail cell - all humiliated the government, which mounted an intense man-hunt to track Escobar down. 17

If Gaviria's popularity sank to new lows by the end of 1992 - an opinion poll conducted by Colombia's leading newsweekly magazine Semana showed overall approval ratings at just twenty-two percent in January 1993, down from seventy-nine percent a year earlier 18 - attitudes toward the guerrillas also hardened. Egregious violations of international humanitarian law, including summary executions, attacks in urban areas, kidnapping for ransom, and economic sabotage causing massive ecological damage, reaped a whirlwind of public hostility. In November 1992, dozens of prominent writers, journalists, lawyers and academics led by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez wrote an open letter to the Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinator (CGSB) charging that "your war, understandable in its origins, now runs against history....

Kidnapping, coercion, extortion, which today are your most fruitful instruments, are at the same time abominable violations of human rights. Terrorism, which you yourselves always condemned as a legitimate form of revolutionary struggle, is now a daily occurrence. Corruption, which you reject, has contaminated your own ranks, through your dealings with drug trafficking .... The innumerable needless deaths from both sides, the systematic attacks on national wealth, the ecological disasters, are costly and undeserved taxes for a country that has already paid so much. 19

Growing disenchantment with the guerrillas, even by previouslysympathetic intellectuals, merged with overall exhaustion with violence in general. Together they created a strong reservoir of public sympathy for tougher government measures to reestablish order. Thus, according to a survey conducted by the El Tiempo newspaper, when President Gaviria declared the state of emergency, only twenty-one percent of those polled thought the measures went far enough. 20


In his November 9, 1992, President Gaviria lashed out at "the terrorists, murderers, and kidnappers, against that handful of deranged fanatics who have not read in the newspapers the sorry story of the end of communist totalitarianism," and announced a series of financial, military, and political measures to combat the guerrillas. 21 The speech and the measures outlined in it appear to have two roots: 1) a decision by the government beginning in 1990 to commit significant new resources to the armed forces, as part of a multi-faceted effort to end the guerrilla insurgency; and 2) the breakdown of peace talks between the guerrillas and the government in mid-1992 amidst a sea of mutual recriminations. By late August 1993, the government's confidence in the military strategy and lack of faith in guerrillas' desire for peace was so complete that Defense Minister Rafael Pardo Rueda ruled out future peace talks with the major rebel groups. "We do not believe there is need to modify the strategy and policy to restore public order," Pardo said following the funeral for thirteen policemen killed in an August 1993 attack by the FARC. "Instead, we must strengthen and intensify them." 22

President Gaviria described the contours of the government's security policy in a speech the day before he declared the state of emergency.

For two years we have been strengthening the army's capacity, creating new mobile brigades, professionalizing the soldiers who face the guerrillas, improving the salaries of the troops and officers, bolstering military intelligence, and significantly increasing the resources of the Colombian armed forces. 23

So-called "war taxes" were first assessed in 1991 via levies on oil, coal, and nickel exports as well as on international phone calls and domestic electric consumption. Additional surtaxes on income and oil exports were announced by the Finance Ministry in mid-March 1992, designed to generate some $210 million in additional funds for the military budget. 24 According to Minister of Defense Pardo, the funds were used "to create several mobile counterguerrilla groups, battalions, and brigades" made up of professional soldiers that had completed their military service and reenlisted, receiving additional training. 25 According to official figures, between 1990 and 1992 the number of professional soldiers increased from 2,000 to 12,000; by 1993 the number rose to 15,000. Between 1991 and 1993, the number of professional police increased by 8,000. Twenty-two new Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Units (UNASE), elite units of police and army officers specializing in the freeing of kidnap victims, were also created during the 1991 1993 time period.

Overall, defense spending in 1993 was two-and-a-half times what it was in 1990, whereas it had already doubled between 1980 and 1990. Gaviria proposed adding 140 billion pesos (approximately $185 million) to the defense budget in 1993, in order to add 6,000 more professional soldiers and 4,000 professional policemen. 26 In early August 1993, the government issued an emergency decree to add 64.2 billion pesos (about $84.6 million) to the budgets for the Defense and Justice Ministries, to cover a deficit created when the Constitutional Court declared illegal the government's attempt to issue mandatory war bonds to increase defense spending. 27

The beginning of the precipitous increase in the size of the Colombian military coincided precisely with the moment of greatest success in peace negotiations with the guerrillas. The dual strategy of negotiating while expanding the armed forces reflected the government's determination, in Defense Minister Pardo's words, "not to put all its eggs in one basket." 28 Another major component of the government's effort to defeat the guerrillas was the plowing of new resources into the judiciary, particularly into the special court jurisdictions set up to deal with crimes of drug trafficking and terrorism. (See below)

In 1993, however, the government appeared bent on a new stage of confrontation without dialogue in order to finish off the guerrillas. The armed forces' confidence in the possibility of military victory appears to be prompted by the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc, and the conviction that, in Gaviria's words, the guerrillas "no longer represent any ideals ... they only seek the enrichment of their leaders and the growth of checkbooks based on kidnappings, extortion, hired assassins, and protection money." 29

The guerrillas bear a large measure of responsibility for the breakdown of the peace talks in 1992, as noted by Presidential Counselor Horacio Serpa when he resigned on September 30, 1992 as head of the governmental peace commission. The March 1992 kidnapping of former goverment minister Argelino Durán and his death while in guerrilla custody caused an indefinite suspension of the peace dialogue on March 31, 1992. New rounds of talks, scheduled for May and October, never got under way, due to irreconcilable demands made by both sides: the government, for an immediate ceasefire, and the guerrillas, for immediate discussion of socio-economic and human rights issues. Important divisions within the guerrilla movement and within the FARC in particular, over the desirability of a negotiated solution fueled the stalemate. 30 In mid- to late 1993, the government engaged in fitful preparations for talks with the Corriente de Renovación Socialista (Socialist Renovation Current), a dissident faction of the ELN, but the talks were suspended after the deaths Of two CRS spokesmen in late September in circumstances suggesting army responsibility. 31

The guerrillas clearly do not shoulder all of the blame for the failure of the dialogue; in fact, according to CRS leaders, their spokesmen were murdered in cold blood while concentrating troops who, with government knowledge and approval, were about to lay down their weapons. The existence of sectors of the government hostile to peace talks was confirmed by Peace Counsellor Serpa, who condemned in his resignation letter "a war-like stance within the government that hasn't been dealt with. To talk about closing off all options, except that of a war, is wrong." 32 Indeed, army and armed forces commanders Generals Hernán José Guzmán and Ramón Emilio Gil Bermúdez, respectively, declared openly in July 1993 that military measures were the only alternative to defeat subversive groups and pacify the country. 33

Such a strategy would be less troubling were it not for the systematic abuses, described in this report, by the very elite troops being thrown into battle against guerrilla insurgents. Newly-created counterinsurgency units and Mobile Brigades have been responsible for massive human rights violations against the civilian population living in conflict zones, including indiscriminate attacks, murder, torture, the destruction of property, and arbitrary arrest and incarceration. Furthermore, despite governmental assurances that substantial resources have been channeled into the judicial system in order to punish abuses and speed up trials of those detained, we see no sign that there is a will on the part of the armed forces to prosecute those who have committed human rights violations, in order both to punish the perpetrators and to set an example that abusive behavior is not to be tolerated. The civilian justice system has proven no more successful in prosecuting human rights cases involving the army and security forces. Impunity remains the principle obstacle to long-term improvement in the human rights situation.


Colombia's political system counts with an extensive civilian apparatus to investigate human rights cases, publicize findings, initiate disciplinary and criminal proceedings, and carry out education and advocacy on behalf of human rights. A Consejería Presidencial para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Presidential Counselor for the Defense of Human Rights) advises the president on human rights matters, responds to public inquiries, and conducts human rights education and training within the armed forces and other branches of government. A Procuraduría General (General Prosecutor) investigates misconduct by government officials, including human rights violations by members of the armed forces; the Procuraduría can issue disciplinary sanctions, the most severe of which is dismissal. The newly-created office of the Fiscal General (Attorney General) conducts criminal investigations and prosecutions, notably in the volatile areas of drug-trafficking and terrorism. 34 The Office of the Defensor del Pueblo, or human rights ombudsman, was also created by the 1991 Constitution. It has taken over much of the case work previously undertaken by the Presidential Counselor on Human Rights, and its Complaints Office (Oficina de Quejas) serves as a key point of contact between civilian victims of abuse and the government.

Despite this impressive infrastructure, prosecutions of those who commit human rights crimes are extremely rare. A report released in October 1992 by the Defensor del Pueblo, for example, documented 717 cases of murder of elected officials, candidates, and members of a small leftist party, the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union or UP), between the party's founding in 1985 and September 1992. 35 The Defensoría attributed the majority of the killings (306 out of 717) to paramilitary groups, and a high percentage to the army and police (129 out of 717). Despite the pervasive persecution of members of the up, however, the report demonstrated that a judicial sentence had been reached in only ten of the 717 cases. (Six cases were acquittals and four were convictions.) 36 The Defensoría noted that the height of the killings coincided with major up electoral successes, and occurred despite a government pledge in 1985 to provide the "indispensable guarantees and security" necessary for full participation in the political life of the country. 37

There are numerous obstacles to accountability in Colombia, but one of the most serious is a provision of the 1991 Constitution granting military court jurisdiction in cases involving military personnel, and the extension of that fuero militar to the police. Moreover, the Constitution sanctifies the defense of "due obedience" to higher orders, allowing subordinates to claim innocence on the grounds that they were acting on orders of a superior officer. We know of few cases in which military courts have sentenced officers or soldiers for human rights abuses, and even fewer for which the punishment is commensurate with the crime.

In 1992, for example, members of the army's "García Rovira" battalion who had murdered eleven peasants in the municipality of Macaravita, Santander, in June 1990 were acquitted by a military court. The Procuraduría supported an appeal, based on its own investigation linking members of the military to the crime. But the acquittal was confirmed in December 1992 by a 2d War Council (court martial). 38

Other well-known cases in which military courts have acquitted members of the armed forces, even though there was ample documentation of their participation in human rights abuses, are the 1987 murder of Sabana de Torres mayor Alvaro Garcés Parra, 39 and the 1991 murders of seventeen civilians in Los Uvos, Cauca, who were pulled off a public bus and executed on the spot. The army originally blamed the guerrillas for the Los Uvos massacre (see below).

Occasionally, criminal proceedings against members of the military have been initiated by the Fiscal General, or Attorney General, in the civilian justice system, on the grounds that human rights abuses are equivalent to acts of terrorism. 40 In general, however, criminal proceedings in these courts have tended to languish and have resulted in few convictions.

The 1992-1993 period saw important setbacks in some of the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Procuraduría. In the past, we have noted that the effectiveness of the institution has been determined in large measure by the people who have occupied important posts. We are pleased to reaffirm our admiration for the work of the Procuraduria's Office of Special Investigations (OIE), whose committed staff have researched and documented the facts in important cases and have vigorously pressed for sanctions of those responsible for abuses. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the Procuraduría's former Delegate for the Armed Forces, César Uribe Botero, who stated in a public communiqué that his term had been successful in that only 1.7 percent of cases resulted in military discipline. 41 According to representatives of the European Community who investigated human rights in Colombia in early 1993, Uribe told them

If military court jurisdiction [fuero] is not respected, the decisions of ordinary judges could become a tool that destroys the bulwark of democracy, which is the military forces ... The enemies of the Colombian democratic system will say that there have to be daily dismissals, in order to weaken the army and our pluralistic democracy. 42

We are troubled that such a key official within the Procuraduría appeared to share the military's view that human rights prosecutions were a guerrilla strategy aimed at undermining the armed forces and sapping morale. We are suspicious, moreover, of the enthusiasm regarding the role of the Procuraduría expressed by commander of the Colombian armed forces General Ramón Emilio Gil Bermúdez. Whereas senior military leaders had complained in the past of a "Procuraduria syndrome" in which the military felt persecuted by civilian overseers, Gil Bermudez declared in March 1993 that "from an institutional standpoint, relations are great now." 43 The following summary of some important cases may reveal the source of Gil Bermúdez's enthusiasm.


In March and April 1988, paramilitary operatives backed by military officers murdered twenty banana workers on the Honduras and La Negra plantations in Antioquia province. Procuraduría Delegate for the Armed Forces César Uribe asked for the dismissal of three members of the Army's 10th Airborne Brigade, Lt. Colonel Luis Felipe Becerra Bohórquez, Capt. Vicente Bermúdez Lozano, and Sgt. Félix Antonio Ochoa Ruiz. 44

According to the Procuraduría, these three officers and their troops had searched the farms the month prior to the massacre, without a judicial warrant and accompanied by heavily-armed civilians. Several people suspected of collaborating with the guerrillas were captured during the sweep and one detainee apparently named other alleged guerrilla sympathizers that were then systematically eliminated.

The Procuraduría found that the three members of the Airborne brigade had actively collaborated in the massacre by supplying the assassins with the names of suspects, by providing the hitmen with classified information, and by permitting the presence of armed civilians in the original search. Moreover, according to the Procuraduría, the three officers had information that the massacre was being planned and did nothing to stop it. 45

On April 20, 1993, however, the Procuraduría Delegate for the Armed Forces acquitted all three officers of responsibility, citing a lack of evidence that would link the officers to the massacre. (The review team did conclude that there was evidence pointing to the participation of members of the army.) 46

Americas Watch has not reviewed the documentation gathered in the Procuraduría's original investigation, and therefore cannot comment on its quality. But we are deeply concerned that the "lack of evidence" rationale has long been used by the military itself to clear soldiers and officers of involvement in horrendous crimes. Moreover, we are dismayed at the attitude of the armed forces, which during the investigation not only promoted all three officers under investigation but also sent one of them, Lt. Col. Becerra, to the United States for training. 47 Meanwhile, a military court acquitted the officers of responsibility for the Urabá killings, a decision which has been appealed before the Superior Military Tribunal.

The Urabá case demonstrates that even those cases which have received wide national and international attention will end in impunity for members of the armed forces. 48

The consequences of that impunity were tragically illustrated in late 1993, when troops of the Palacé Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Becerra massacred thirteen civilians in Riofrío, Valle. According to eyewitnesses, hooded men broke into the home of the Ladino family in the early morning hours of October 6, torturing and murdering seven family members ranging in age from fifteen to seventy-five years. Several of the women victims were raped. Four members of the Molina family and a girlfriend of one of them were also dragged from their home and shot. Another civilian who arrived with the squad was executed. The office of the Procuraduría announced an investigation, while Lt. Col. Becerra insisted that his troops killed armed guerrillas of the ELN, charges that were echoed by the commanders of the III Army Division and III Army Brigade.

On November 10, 1993, presumably in response to the international outcry over the Riofrío killings, Lt. Col. Becerra was removed from active duty.


The outcome of the investigation of the disappearance, torture, and murder of twenty-six people from the town of Trujillo, Valle, in 1990 represents a serious miscarriage of justice. 49 Many of those abducted and killed appear to have been involved in a conflict with local landowners, who went to the army, accusing the squatters of belonging to the ELN guerrillas.

In September 1991, a Public Order court acquitted five civilians, including two members of a paramilitary group, of any involvement in the crime. Over a year later, on December 22, 1992, the Procuraduría acquitted several police and army officers of any responsibility for the murders. Army Major Alirio Antonio Urueña Jaramillo of the "Palacé" Battalion had been linked to the crime by an employee of the landowners, who testified that he saw some of the victims murdered with a chain saw. (The employee "disappeared" after returning to Trujillo without protection, 50 and a second witness received a death threat and refused to continue cooperating with the court.)

Citing a lack of evidence, the Procuraduría acquitted Major Urueña; then-Commander of the Third Police District of Tuluá, Major Alvaro Córdoba Lemus; the head of police intelligence (F-2) of TuIuá, Sgt. Luis Aníbal Alvarez Hoyos; and the police commander of Trujillo, Lt. José Fernando Berrío Velásquez. 51 There appear to be no other criminal or disciplinary proceedings under way in connection with this atrocious massacre.

El Nilo

In mid-December 1991, some fifty heavily armed men, hooded and in military style uniforms, violently attacked a community of Páez Indians on the "El Nilo" farm near Caloto, Cauca. Twenty people were killed, some after being bound and forced to lie on the floor. Speculation at the time as to a motive for the killings focused on a land dispute between the indigenous community and the desire of drug traffickers to use the land for poppy cultivation to produce heroin. 52

Following the appointment of a high-level investigative commission, and a visit to the site by President Gaviria himself, seven perpetrators of the massacre were identified and five arrested. Some of those detained reportedly identified members of the National Police, including a major, as involved in the murders. Two lawyers were murdered and an anthropologist "disappeared" in early 1992; all of them had been investigating the case.

In February 1993, and based on an investigation by the Procuraduría's Office of Special Investigations, the Procuraduria's Delegate for Human Rights issued charges against Major Jorge Enrique Durán Argüelles, police commander of the Second District of Santander de Quilichao, and Captain Fabio Alejandro Castañeda Mateus, commander of the anti-narcotics company of that unit. The Procuraduría said that the two officials, "along with personnel of the National Police under the command of the Captain and of civilians Orlando Villa Zapata, Leonardo Peñafiel, Edgar Antonio Arévalo Peláez, and Nicolás Quintero Zuluaga, went to the [El Nilo] hacienda and proceeded not only to destroy and burn the dwellings of the Indians but also opened fire indiscriminately, causing the deaths of twenty Indians." 53 On July 8, 1993, however, the Procuraduría's Delegate for Human Rights absolved the two officials of any wrongdoing, claiming a lack of proof that the two were material authors of the crime. Incredibly, the new Delegate for Human Rights Hernando Valencia, wrote Americas Watch that "the report of the Office of Special Investigations was not adequately and sufficiently taken into account in the disciplinary decision." 54

In August 1993, the human rights ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) formally requested that the Procuraduría reconsider its July ruling. 55 A panel of three senior Procuraduráa officials, including the head of the Office of Special Investigations, was commissioned to review the record. The panel split, however, and presented two reports on September 14, 1993. The majority opinion was that there was insufficient evidence that the two police officers actually participated in the crime, and that charges should have been brought for cover-up and omission. 56

The penal investigation of the case, meanwhile, has been marred by delays and laxity. The Fiscalía Regional based in Cali failed to order the preventive detention of Major Durán and Captain Castañeda, a decision that was upheld at the appeals level (Tribunal Nacional) after a challenge by the Procuraduría. Investigators of the Procuraduría's Office of Special Investigations have noted other irregularities in the conduct of the criminal court, including the release of a principal civilian suspect and allegations by court officials that denunciations of the massacre were a "show" put on by guerrilla groups to discredit the National Police. 57

Los Uvos

In April 1991, armed gunmen stopped a public bus in the Department of Cauca, pulled seventeen passengers from the vehicle, and executed them on the spot. The commander of the local army battalion in Piedrasentada, Lt. Col. Paulo Alfonso Briceño Lovera, blamed the murders on the guerrillas, and later brought legal action for "defamation" against a Colombian human rights group that accused the army of carrying out the killings. 58

In May 1993, however, the Procuraduría opened disciplinary proceedings against eight members of the "José Hilario López'' army battalion for murder and cover-up of the Los Uvos killings. Corporals José Gustavo Mora Parra, Miguel Antonio Gil Orozco, Pedro López Gamboa and José Agustín Cañón González were named as material authors of the crime. Three senior officers were named for covering up the actions of their subordinates: Battalion Commander Col. Paulo Alfonso Briceño Lovera, second in command Major Manuel Rodríguez Díaz Granados, head of the Third Section Major César Augusto Saavedra Padilla, and 2d Lt. José Edilberto Cortés Valero. 59

The Procuraduría once again signalled deficiencies in the penal investigation carried out by military courts, suggesting that disciplinary proceedings be initiated against three officers: Commander of the Third Army Brigade General Victor Arévalo Pinilla, his judicial assistant, Antonio José Bolívar Cardona, and the judge of the 19th Penal Military Court, Major Alvaro Ochoa Barrera. The military court had ruled that members of the José Hilario López Battalion were not responsible for the massacre. 60


In August 1991, army assailants murdered five members of the Palacios family and two other men, entering the Palacios's house at 2:45 a.m. and executing all seven on the spot. Those murdered included a sixty-five-year-old activist of the Unión Patriótica, two of his children, and his son-in-law. The day of the killings, the army issued a communique claiming that it had killed seven members of the FARC in a confrontation. Commander of the army XIII Brigade, General Jesús María Vergara Aragón, publicly insisted on that version of the events in days subsequent to the killings. 61

Within a month of the killing, Military Court No. 115 ordered the arrest of eight soldiers, including Second Lieutenant Tomás Emilio Cruz Amaya and Second Sergeant William Ramírez Roa, accused of commanding the operation in which the civilians were killed. After being held for 120 days, the two were granted provisional liberty. Military court proceedings have continued at the Logistical Support Brigade.

In March 1993, the Procuraduría ordered the dismissal of Cruz Amaya and Ramírez, and ordered the suspension for thirty days of Lt. Col. Víctor Manuel Bernal Castaño, who participated in the coverup. 62 Six months after it was ordered, the Ministry of Defense carried out the suspension of Lt. Col. Bernal Casta˜o.


In February 1993 the Procuraduría issued indictments against 150 members of the special anti-kidnapping and anti extortion units UNASE, including two colonels, five lieutenants, and one captain of the police as well as four army officers. The officers and more than 100 soldiers based in Medellín were accused of kidnapping, torturing, and "disappearing" civilians.

The indicted members of UNASE engaged in the very practices they were supposed to stop. According to press reports, kidnappers who were apprehended by UNASE were tortured to find out the whereabouts of their victims. Once the information was verified, the kidnappers were made to "disappear." Members of the UNASE unit then transferred the original kidnap victim to another location, and contacted the victim's family to demand ransom to be paid to the members of UNASE. Family members of kidnappers were also abducted by UNASE, in order to exchange them as hostages. 63

The investigation into UNASE was carried out jointly by the Procuraduría and the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS). It was opened when a pilot belonging to a kidnap ring escaped, handcuffed and wounded, from his UNASE captors and told his story to the local Procuraduría office in Medellín. 64 The investigation remains at the initial stages.

In April 1993, a governmental commission composed of the Presidential Counselor for Human Rights, human rights ombudsman, Procurador General, and members of the Red Cross was formed to look into additional charges that members of UNASE investigating the kidnapping of journalist Jaime Ardila of El Espacio were involved in the death of an Arsario Indian and the disappearance of eight others. 65

Senior Military Involvement with Paramilitary Groups

In November 1992, the Procuraduría issued formal charges against seven senior military officers for their illicit involvement with paramilitary groups in the Department of Santander. The highest ranking officer indicted was Brig. Gen. Carlos Gil Colorado, former head of the Fifth Brigade and currently head of intelligence for the army general command. Three captains and three lieutenants were also charged. According to the Procuraduría, the officers permitted the operations of such paramilitary groups as the "San Juaneros" (the Guys from San Juan), the "Tiznados" (the Blackened Faces), the "Mano Negra" (Black Hand), the "Grillos" (the Crickets), the "Pájaros" (Birds), the "Caracuchos," and the "Masetos." Paramilitary agents were allowed to participate in military operations and to use military helicopters to transport arms. The officers also helped set up military bases that were subsequently left in the hands of private individuals belonging to paramilitary groups. 66


Colombia's grim human rights record was challenged in June 1993 by the Procuraduría in its second public report, which minimized abuses committed by the state in 1992.

The Procuraduría reported having opened 2,618 new cases in 1992 representing 3,099 victims, including those killed in seventy-four massacres, 403 homicides, 370 disappearances, 232 cases of torture, 634 cases of personal injury (lesiones personales), 618 arbitrary detentions, 212 illegal searches, 249 threats, and 307 other complaints. Although the occupation of most victims (2,062) was not known, of those who were identified, the most were peasants, followed by businesspeople.

In one of its most incisive critiques, the report admits that the majority of the staggering number of victims apparently had no connection to a political party, union, or other organization. However, they were perceived by state agents as not being independent, but rather, as forming part of a collective enemy."

[The security forces] act under the premise that gained currency in El Salvador, of 'draining the sea,' which means that a direct relationship is established, for example, between trade union or peasant movements and the subversive ranks. When counter guerrilla actions are carried out, these passive subjects are not identified as 'independent' victims, but rather, as part of the enemy. 67

The report distinguishes between military and ideological enemies, saying that "tacit or explicit sympathies do not make an individual or a group a military enemy." 68

Fifty-eight percent of the complaints involved the National Police. 69 Both the DAS and the Judicial Police registered far lower numbers of abuses, although the DAS was the only force implicated in a higher number of cases as compared to 1991. By contrast, the Judicial Police registered a seventy percent drop in complaints. The report offers two hypotheses for why this might be so: either its agents wear civilian dress and therefore are not identified as members of the force when abuses are committed, or its incorporation in 1992 into the Attorney General's office provided more effective civilian oversight. 70

Overall, the Procuraduría concluded that police were responsible for two murders a week in 1992 and one wounding every ten days; all of these cases involved the illegal use of arms. The report scored the command structure of the police for "despotism," "unnecessary hardness and tyranny," and "intimidation," and said that the predominant image of the police was that of "the repressor." 71 Of the 1,000 disciplinary charges issued against the police (representing seventy-three percent of all charges issued by the Procuraduría in 1992), sixty percent resulted in punitive

action, the vast majority against low-ranking officers or agents. Most were related to arbitrary detention and personal injury, defined by the Procuraduría as physical harm that falls short of torture. 72

Slightly less than sixteen percent of the complaints registered by the Procuraduría involved the armed forces, a surprisingly small number given the large portion of abuses attributed by human rights groups to the military. 73 Of the 191 disciplinary charges filed against members of the armed forces, however, only twenty-four resulted in sanctions, most against mid-level officers. Most of the sanctions involved cases of massacre, homicide, disappearance, or torture, grave violations reflecting a

modus operandi of the armed forces, according to which those agents involved in violations of human rights, by virtue of their training for war, have the tendency to attack the right to life and integrity [of the person] more than liberty: [the armed forces] tend not to use intimidatory or dissuasive tactics, but rather opt to eliminate those they consider the enemy. 74

The departments with the highest number of reported human rights violations by state agents were Santafé de Bogotá, the capital; Antioquia, Santander (particularly the Urabá region) and Norte de Santander, which form part of the Middle Magdalena region; and the Cauca Valley. Among municipalities, the case of Barrancabermeja (Santander), considered the capital of the Middle Magdalena, stands out. In 1992 seventy complaints were received by the Procuraduría, more than triple the number of the second-ranking municipality. 75

Despite the report's impressive attempt to document the breadth of human rights violations in Colombia, we find several Major problems with its interpretations. The report begins by arguing that the view that both the state and armed groups violate human rights can now be considered "hegemonic," and that among all armed groups, the state is the only one whose legitimacy "is beyond doubt." Therefore, it is "the one that violates human rights the least." 76

This assertion errs in its interpretation of international law, which holds that only states can violate human rights, while armed insurgents can violate the laws of war and international humanitarian law by committing certain acts, such as the killing of non-combatants or attacks against civilian targets. In this context, the concept of "legitimacy" demands that the state recognize, respect, and protect the human rights of its citizens, a responsibility other armed groups do not share. "Legitimacy" does not allow the government greater latitude in committing abuses, or to attempt to justify, as this report does, abuses that occur out of a supposed overzealousness in the defense of democracy. It, in fact, puts a greater burden on the state, which in the case of Colombia has yet to be fully assumed.

Furthermore, the report tends to absolve the military high command of responsibility for both human rights violations and impunity, arguing that abuses are committed by mid-level officers acting independently. This claim is difficult to defend given the military's structure and mode of operation, and absolves senior officers of responsibility for the actions of their subordinates, itself a grave problem if it leads to human rights violations. 77 Moreover, although the Procuraduría asserts that government authorities made a great effort in recent years to improve Colombia's human rights record - an effort which we acknowledge - the horrifying statistics, reports, and testimonies of victims gathered by independent human rights groups attest to a grimmer reality.

The report mentions that fewer than ten percent of the complaints it receives eventually become full-scale legal cases, but fails to analyze on a deeper level why this is so. 78 One of the reasons appears to be that investigators, particularly from the office of the Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces, often did not carry out serious, in-depth inquiries, shelving complaints after only cursory reviews, or with glaring errors in procedure, or in apparently blatant disregard of available evidence. Of the decisions taken in 1992, seventy percent were to shelve cases with no resolution, in effect an acquittal of those implicated. 79

At issue as well is the fear that prevents many from formalizing complaints to a government office, something which undoubtedly leads to an underrepresentation of abuses. 80 On repeated occasions Americas Watch has received reports that individuals who have made complaints or who transmitted them to the Procuraduría (personeros, 81 for example) have suffered threats and attacks subsequently. These obstacles to reporting get short shrift in the report. In addition, we have received disturbing reports that the paperwork for some investigations linked to complaints by civilians of indiscriminate bombings and aerial strafing by the military have been misplaced, leaving the cases in a kind of bureaucratic limbo. 82

The most serious failure of the report, however, is the lack of any assessment of the efficacy of sanctions - whether state agents found guilty by the Procuraduría of having committed abuses are ever actually punished. This analysis was also missing from the 1991 report, the Procuraduría's first. Reliable sources have indicated that, of the cases in which the Procuraduría recommends disciplinary sanctions, about thirty-five percent of the sanctions are ignored. This appears especially to be true in the case of the armed forces.

To its credit, the Procuraduría report does highlight some of the difficulties it faces when investigating allegations, particularly those that involve the military. For instance, the Procuraduría attributed its failure to produce more sanctions to the

deep-rooted esprit de corps, badly interpreted by some of its members, which results in a notorious lack of solidarity with the investigator, unable to gather information in the quickest and most reliable form because of cover-ups, complicity, or simply the silence of fellow officers or those implicated. 83

High-ranking army officers have frequently criticized the Procuraduría for fomenting a sense of fear among field officers, who they claim are restricted in their operations because of the threat of eventually being investigated and sanctioned (a phenomenon known as the "Procuraduría syndrome"). To these assertions, Procurador General Gustavo Arrieta has responded firmly and with courage, insisting on respect for human rights, and in his view, making progress in changing military attitudes. 84

Although there is much room for improvement in the way cases are investigated and resolved within the Procuraduría, it must be said that more complaints are making their way to the disciplinary phase than three years ago, perhaps due to the Procurador's vocal defense of human rights and his stated commitment to serious, in-depth investigations. In addition, with the opening of special Human Rights Offices in Medellín, Bogotá, Cúcuta and Cali (with another one planned for Barrancabermeja), the Procuraduría is making an effort to make the act of lodging a complaint easier and less risky for civilians.


Since 1989, Americas Watch has reported on the development and practices of special court jurisdictions established to hear cases involving drug-trafficking and terrorism. 85 Currently known as jurisdicción regional at the trial level and Tribunal Nacional at the appellate level, these special court jurisdictions are more commonly referred to as the "public order" courts, their name under legislation passed in 1988. The courts were created because of the high incidence of murderous attacks on judges and judicial officials, particularly by drug traffickers, and the conviction that insurgents and drug traffickers posed such a danger to society that exceptional means were needed to combat them. Between 1979 and 1991, for example, the Andean Commission of Jurists - Colombian Section documented 515 cases of violence against judges and lawyers, including 329 homicides and attempted homicides. 86

But the courts, from their inception, have involved such severe restrictions on defendants' due process rights that the jurisdiction itself is an invitation to serious abuse. The identity of judges is concealed by use of one-way mirrors and special microphones which distort their voice; this measure, while providing some sense of protection, also does away with a sense of personal accountability, itself necessary to ensure impartiality. 87 The public order jurisdiction also permits the use of secret prosecution witnesses and testimony, making it impossible for the defense to crossexamine a witness or challenge an accuser's credibility. At times, the secret witness is him or herself a member of the intelligence services. 88

In practice, defense lawyers have little or no access to the court files until the trial stage; at times, they have no access whatsoever. In addition to making it next to impossible to mount an adequate defense, this limits the challenging of evidence during the investigative stage, something that is possible in Colombia's ordinary justice system. Pre-trial release is severely restricted, as is the possibility for habeas corpus. Petitions to have a case dismissed because of violations of due process can only be presented at the sentencing stage, after the presumption of guilt is well entrenched. 89

Predictably, tilting the balance of power so dramatically in favor of the prosecution led to the temptation to use the public order jurisdiction in an overly zealous fashion. Beginning in mid-1992, Colombian human rights groups demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of cases heard by the public order courts involved cases of non-violent social protest having nothing to do with guerrilla insurgency or narcotrafficking. According to a study by CINEP, only six percent of the 2,648 cases adjudicated in the public order system since its creation involved terrorism. 90 In addition, many of the cases of drug trafficking involved peasant cultivators of coca, individuals at the lowest rungs of the drug trade who only with difficulty could be construed as a threat to judicial officials. During a February 1993 visit to La Uribe, Meta, Americas Watch was also able to confirm a number of cases in which peasants living in areas where the guerrillas were active were also subjected to the public order jurisdiction, thrown into jail on trumped-up charges by the military of being auxiliaries of terrorism. (See Part II of this report.)

Among the most celebrated of the cases reflecting the abuse of the public order jurisdiction was that of the Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (TELECOM) workers. In April 1992, workers in the state telecommunications agency went on strike to protest the privatization of the company. Telephone service was interrupted for approximately one week and the Colombian government declared the strike illegal. Following the strike (during which workers were forcibly evicted from the premises by the National Police and one engineer was murdered in suspicious circumstances), the state company brought charges of sabotage against the union. A criminal court judge, however, determined that the case involved "terrorism" as defined in a state of emergency decree, and passed the case to a public order court. 91

Between February and April 1993, a prosecuting fiscal issued arrest warrants for sixteen workers, thirteen of whom were captured or turned themselves in and were subsequently held, without bail, in Bogotá's Modelo prison. 92 Possibly as a result of sustained national and international pressure, the case was transferred back to the ordinary courts on November 2, 1993 and the charges reduced to "disrupting telecommunications." The 13 workers were provisionally released after some eight months in jail.

The vast majority of cases, however, have less happy endings. In October 1993, the CAJ-SC released the preliminary results of an investigation into due process and other violations in the public order system. They identified numerous cases involving trade unionists, peasant leaders, and opposition politicians charged under anti-terrorist statutes, thereby confirming a pattern of the criminalization of social protest. Some of those charged were being held solely on the basis of testimony by secret witnesses. 93 The liberal application of the public order jurisdiction against social critics of the government stands in stark contrast to the near-total failure of the public order system to prosecute terrorist crimes committed by paramilitary groups or by the security forces themselves.

According the CAJ-SC's study, due process violations incommunicado detention for more than the 36 hours permitted by the Constitution, arrests without judicial warrant, lack of access to defense counsel, the arrest of civilians by the armed forces without court warrant, interrogations by the security agencies, torture - were rampant. Overall, the CAJ SC found that the jurisdiction's most common targets were not the dangerous criminals for which it was designed, but rather, vulnerable segments of the population and people of "humble social standing." 94

While more research is needed to amplify these findings, there is now more than sufficient evidence that the public order courts are not functioning as originally intended. Nor has the system offered complete protection to judges, even though there has been a reduction in attacks. 95 In late October 1993, a non-commissioned officer of SIJIN, a police investigative unit, was charged with preparing attacks against faceless judges at the behest of the Cali cartel, signalling what may be a much wider problem of corruption of judges and others working within the public order system. In September 1992, faceless judge Myriam Rocío Vélez was murdered, allegedly by hitmen associated with drug lord Pablo Escobar. Rocío Vélez was investigating the case linking Escobar to the 1986 murder of journalist Guillermo Cano. In November 1993, Senate Vice President Darío Londoño Cardona was murdered by a group calling itself "Death to Protectors of the Cali Cartel". Londoño had taken a lead role in Congress's passage of a law turning an executive decree dealing with public order issues into permanent legislation. 96 It was widely assumed that the ELN was responsible for the attack.

Misuse of the public order jurisdiction, moreover, has contributed to a choking backlog of cases, undermining one of the system's central rationales - efficiency. 97 In August 1993, Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff indicated that he had 1,431 deputy prosecutors to handle approximately 300,000 cases. 98 Clearly, further steps must be taken to limit the courts' reach only to those who would truly represent a mortal threat to the lives of judicial officials, to remove the armed forces from the gathering of evidence, and to establish more adequate guarantees for the accused.


The urge to resort to extraordinary measures is understandable given the intractability and cruelty of violence in Colombia and the variety of actors involved in it. But severe restrictions on the exercise of democratic freedoms can themselves constitute a kind of time bomb, by leading to arbitrary actions by the state that erode its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Decrees promulgated under the November 1992 state of internal commotion, for example, included the following measures:

* the assigning of judicial police functions to the armed forces, giving the military unprecedented powers to investigate civilians;

* restrictions on broadcast media prohibiting live coverage of guerrilla actions or the airing of guerrilla communiqués or interviews with the insurgents;

* additional powers to the police and other security agencies to carry out searches, detentions (arresto preventivo), and interceptions of communications without judicial order;

* mandatory purchase of "war bonds" for all individuals and corporations whose income in fiscal year 1991 exceeded seven million pesos ($11,000) or whose gross assets were more than thirty million pesos ($47,000);

* the suspension of governors or mayors - without any judicial process - who held talks with guerrilla groups without the authorization of the executive branch.

* a prohibition on granting pre-trial freedom to any person held for a public order crime. 99

All told, the government introduced approximately forty emergency measures between November 1992 and May 1993, many of which have been submitted to the Congress for approval as permanent legislation.

A number of the internal commotion decrees were overturned by the Constitutional Court. In February 1993, for example, the Court ruled that the assignment of judicial police powers to the military was unconstitutional. It did state, however, that investigative units working under the direction of the Fiscal could be created within military units, as long the investigators were civilians. The Court's ambiguous ruling leaves open the danger that the Fiscal's control over the new investigative bodies will be in theory only. In practice, the military is likely to exercise more definitive control, to the detriment of civilian rights.

The Court rejected in April 1993 the mandatory purchase of war bonds and ruled that money collected prior to the Court ruling had to be refunded. The Court upheld, however, the executive's power to suspend local officials who held unauthorized talks with the guerrillas, and the prohibition on live broadcasts of guerrilla actions or interviews with the insurgents. 100

Two additional Court rulings, in May and August 1993, limited judicial powers that the government saw as essential in its war on drug-trafficking and terrorism. In May the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the Fiscal General to hold negotiations with criminal suspects or offer reductions in sentences in exchange for cooperation with the judicial system. The Court found that such powers granted to the Fiscal (an executive branch, not a judicial official) undercut the powers of judges. According to the majority of the Court, granting a partial or total reduction in the penalty for a crime was a form of pardon, which under Colombian law can only be granted by Congress or by the president (in the case of political crimes). Moreover, the Colombian Penal Procedures Code authorizes judges to decide whether or not to accept a reduction in sentence. 101 The effect of the Court's ruling is not to do away with "plea bargaining" altogether, but rather, to limit the Fiscal's ability to detract from the powers of judges in this area.

In a ruling equally troubling to the Gaviria administration, the Court declared on August 3, 1993, that detainees held for public order crimes could not be deprived of conditional liberty. 102 The ruling affected between 1,600-2,000 of the prisoners considered to be most dangerous and held for drug-trafficking and terrorism offenses. 103 Rather than permit a release of prisoners, and in direct contradiction of the Court's ruling, President Gaviria immediately issued an emergency decree giving judges an additional thirty months in which to file formal charges. 104 The emergency decree demonstrated not only the Gaviria administration's undermining of decisions by the Court, but also that the special courts set up to deal with drug-related crimes and terrorism were, in fact, less efficient than claimed by the government. While Americas Watch is sympathetic to the need to keep notorious criminals behind bars, it deplores the lack of expeditious judicial action, itself a grave violation of due process rights.


In the first half of 1993, the Gaviria government also re-submitted to the Congress a bill to regulate states of exception, the so-called Ley Estatutaria Sobre los Estados de Excepción. A number of its repressive provisions were rightly condemned by Colombian human rights groups as well as by Defensor del Pueblo Jaime Córdoba Treviño. The law as introduced by the executive branch would have: 1) given the government, during an external war, powers to establish internal exile and "zones of confinement" similar to the U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II 105; 2) revived the power of military tribunals to judge civilians in times of foreign war (despite a categorical prohibition in the Constitution); 3) given the armed forces the right to occupy any locale and suspend any activity simply on the suspicion that activities underway would disturb public order; 4) required civilians to give military officials prior notice of any voyage or trip (a form of empadronamiento); 5) granted the president power unilaterally to modify penalties for and definitions of what constitutes a crime; and 6) given the security forces the power to carry out detentions, searches, and interception of communications without judicial warrant. 106 Human rights ombudsman Jaime Córdoba Triviño denounced the draft law as a "veiled prolongation of the situation of juridical abnormality" the country was experiencing and sent an eighteen page document detailing his criticisms to the Congress. 107

The Senate removed some of the law's most objectionable provisions, including the creation of military courts to judge civilians, zones of confinement, empadronamiento, and internal exile. But both the House and the Senate allowed several clearly repressive provisions to survive. Most troubling is the Congress's ratification of the security forces' right to carry out searches, detentions, and interceptions of communications without judicial warrant. 108 This aspect of the law not only devolves extraordinary powers to the military and police and removes a source of protection against arbitrary action, it also invites torture and disappearance during unacknowledged detention.

In addition, the Congress upheld restrictions on the media similar to those decreed under the state of internal commotion, and granted the President the power to modify penalties as well as the definitions of crimes. This latter provision concentrated extraordinary judicial powers in executive hands. It also meant that the President could unilaterally extend the definition of crimes such as "rebellion" to cover not only the taking up of arms but also a broad range of activities considered "subversive" by the government. Americas Watch laments that the Congress has bowed to pressures to limit fundamental freedoms in order to step up the war against terrorism. 109 Eroding rights sets up a vicious cycle in which a freer rein given to government forces leads to excesses, which themselves create new sources of grievance.

A similar kind of contradiction can be seen in the anti-kidnapping law approved by Congress in December 1992 and signed by President Gaviria in January 1993. The law prohibits the payment of ransom, and envisions the appointment of an administrator to oversee the assets of a kidnap victim to make sure that no ransom is paid. The law embodies sanctions for Colombian nationals or foreigners that pay ransom, and offers reductions in sentences to those within kidnapping rings that cooperate with government authorities. 110

While understandable given the rash of kidnappings carried out by drug traffickers, guerrillas, common criminals, and members of the security forces themselves (see above), Americas Watch shares the criticism of the Procurador General, who argued that the state cannot obligate kidnap victims to sacrifice themselves in order to prevent future kidnappings. 111 In effect, the law penalizes kidnap victims and their families twice, adding to the anguish of kidnapping a prohibition on efforts to free a loved one and the labeling of those efforts as criminal. The Andean Commission of Jurists has also noted that the law attacks the notion of family, violates the right to equal protection under the law, and contradicts the primacy of individual over state interests. 112 Since overall kidnapping rates had fallen even before the adoption of the anti-kidnapping law, Americas Watch urges that the law be repealed. 113 Several of its provisions, including the criminalization of ransom payments, were, in fact, declared unconstitutional on November 26, 1993.


A innovative way for citizens to gain relief when they believe their rights have been violated came under some fire in late 1992. Known as the acción de tutela, this measure, included in the 1991 constitution, allows citizens to file for an immediate judicial injunction against actions or omissions of any public authority that they claim limit their constitutional rights. Courts must then hand down a ruling within ten days.

In the first year after taking effect, close to 7,000 acciones were submitted to the courts. Colombia's Constitutional Court, which reviews appeals of lower court decisions on acciones, alone receives between fifty to one hundred appeals a day, indicating that the acción de tutela has become one of the new constitution's most popular and visible reforms. Among the acciones granted was one that prevented a private high school from banning a student who wore make-up, violating her right to an education; one that gave police protection to a member of the UP in Norte de Santander, after he successfully argued that his right to personal liberty had been violated by death threats made by the army; and one that ordered medical care for an AIDS patient who had been denied care at a state hospital, thus violating his right to not be discriminated against because of his disease. 114

Among the acciones most important to human rights was the acción granted to Justicia y Paz and several individuals who helped the government gather information on paramilitaries and their links to the army's Fifth Brigade in El Carmen, Santander. After a botched effort in March 1992 to arrest twenty-six men implicated in paramilitary activity, priest Bernardo Marín and tailor Orlando Rueda were identified and described in the national press as ELN guerrillas who had supposedly "infiltrated" the Procuraduría, Attorney General's office, and judge's chambers. Justicia y Paz was termed "a guerrilla sympathizer." After energetic protests and a successful use of the acción de tutela, Colombia's largest daily, El Tiempo, printed a retraction clarifying that Father Javier Giraldo, director of Justicia y Paz, and the two others were not guerrillas or sympathizers. Refusing to honor the court order, La Prensa editor Juan Carlos Pastrana spent ten days in jail. 115

In August, the television station QAP received a list of 150 people and institutions considered by military intelligence to be collaborators or supporters of guerrilla organizations, including human rights workers, trade unionists, and grassroots activists, thereby putting their lives at serious risk. Efforts to prevent its publication included an acción de tutela before a Bogotá judge, who ordered QAP and all other media organizations to refrain from publication. The judge also ordered the Defense Ministry to abstain from making public intelligence information on individuals. However, the Defense Ministry appealed and the initial ruling blocking the publication of the list was overturned by the Bogotá Appeals Court in November. In the ruling, the Appeals Court reasoned that given the impossibility of locating the list or establishing the accuracy of the intelligence on which it is based, it would be legally impossible to protect the constitutional rights of the individuals concerned. As this report went to press, the CAJ-SC was appealing the decision before the Constitutional Court. 116

Some public officials, including the Procurador General, have criticized an overuse of the acción as a potential usurpation of the duties of public officials, in particular judges hearing cases that are suddenly resolved by parallel acciones. 117 Some Colombians attempted to use the acción de tutela to appeal judicial sentences handed down after trials, which the Constitutional Court determined in October 1992 was not permissible, as it undermined the autonomy of judges. After an intense debate among the Court's seven justices, the majority delineated three exceptions: excessive delay in court decisions, acts by a judicial employee that threaten constitutional rights, and to prevent permanent damage caused by a judicial decision. 118 It remains to be seen whether the Court's October 1992 decision, by limiting the acción de tutela, constitutes what one justice called "the first step of the counter-reform" of the new Constitution, 119 or whether the exceptions will prove sufficient to protect citizens' rights.


Americas Watch reports with great sadness that attacks on our colleagues in the human rights movement accelerated in 1993, product of an attitude within the military equating human rights advocacy with subversion and the complete lack of accountability for previous murders and disappearances of human rights activists. Since our last report, another member of the Comité Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CREDHOS) in Barrancabermeja, Santander has been murdered: Julio César Berrío was shot in an ice-cream parlor on June 28, 1992, and later finished off in the street as he tried to flee his assailants. We are aware of no ongoing investigation into Berróo's death. Earlier that month, unidentified gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying CREDHOS director Jorge Gómez Lizarazo and two other CREDHOS workers when they were returning, along with three community leaders, from investigating a massacre. Gómez has since left Colombia for fear of his life. 120

Those who have courageously tried to continue the work of CREDHOS have also suffered threats and harassment at the hands of the armed forces. In May, June, and July 1993, senior army officers of the Nueva Granada Battalion based in Barrancabermeja verbally attacked CREDHOS workers when they inquired about or tried to visit detainees on the army base. On several occasions, officers, including Battalion Commander Luis Fabio García, accused CREDHOS members of being spokespersons for the guerrillas. 121

The most serious attack on a human rights monitor in 1993 involved the disappearance of Delio Vargas, president Of ASCODAS, an organization assisting the internally displaced population. Vargas was abducted on April 19, 1993 in Villavicencio, Meta, by five armed men in civilian dress. He was forced into a vehicle and has not been heard from since. Vargas, a founder of the Comité Cívico Por los Derechos Humanos (Civic Committee for Human Rights) in Meta, was an organizer of a seminar to discuss peace alternatives in the region. The seminar was scheduled to take place four days after his abduction, and human rights workers in the area reported hearing rumors that the armed forces or paramilitary groups would try to sabotage the event. A retired army sergeant and informer for army intelligence was detained in connection with the disappearance but there has been no further action on the case. 122

Throughout 1993 prominent human rights figures were subjected to threats and harassment connected with their work. In April, attorney Eduardo Umaña Mendoza, lead counsel on the TELECOM case described above, received four anonymous phone calls threatening him with death if he did not cease his activities. 123 In May, a shadowy paramilitary group calling itself the Association for the Defense of Military Honor threatened unspecified measures against human rights groups that published "distorted information" about the armed forces. 124 In August, Rafael Barrios Mendivil, attorney in the Los Uvos and El Nilo cases discussed earlier, received telephone death threats and was followed by agents of the security forces. 125 Barrios subsequently left the country. 126

Also in August, a Bogotá television station received a list of 150 individuals and groups, including those who work in human rights, who were considered by the military to be guerrilla agents or sympathizers. A Bogotá judge ordered the station not to air the names of those identified, a decision overturned following an appeal by the Ministry of Defense. The case was still pending before the Constitutional Court in late November 1993. 127

These kinds of attacks and threats occur in the context of continued verbal assaults against human rights monitors by the highest echelons of the armed forces. In a September 1993 interview with the Colombian press, Military Forces Commander Ramón Emilio Gil Bermúdez described the work of a human rights monitor based abroad as part of a guerrilla propaganda effort. That same month, Commander of the 11 Division Major General Harold Bedoya Pizarro lodged a criminal complaint with the Fiscalía against the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and dozens of other human rights and political figures; he said their publication of an advertisement calling for the release of imprisoned trade unionists amounted to defamation. 128 Americas Watch views these statements not only as unwarranted attempts to restrict freedom of expression in Colombia, but also as dangerous distortions of the work undertaken by human rights groups. As in the past, we call on the Colombian government to affirm its support for the legitimate and important efforts of human rights groups, to protect those engaged in such activities, and to punish with the full weight of the law those who attack the defenders of human rights.


Sixteen months after his escape from prison humiliated government officials, Pablo Escobar was hunted down in Medellín by troops of the elite 3,000-man Bloque de Búsqueda (Search Bloc) and killed on a rooftop as he tried to evade his captors. 129 Escobar's death ended one of the most intense manhunts in Colombian history, and closed one of the bloodiest, albeit far from final chapters in the drug war. Even if Escobar's death likely spelled the end of the Medellín drug trafficking cartel, it is unlikely to put a dent in the cocaine trade overall, or eliminate the murderous violence associated with the drug trade.

If Escobar's July 1992 escape from prison represented a major set-back for the government's policy of negotiating the surrender of drug traffickers, it also resulted in merciless waves of renewed violence, much of it aimed at civilians. Escobar declared open war on Colombian society to retaliate for government blows against his organization and to force a renewed agreement over his surrender. Police and army troops executed numerous key Escobar associates, while others surrendered. And two new paramilitary organizations emerged dedicated to Escobar's capture or elimination. One of them, known as the PEPES (for People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar) murdered Escobar's associates and destroyed property belonging to him and his relatives. The lull in drug-related violence that accompanied the passage of the 1991 Constitution which barred extradition was thus abruptly shattered in 1993, injecting more fear and uncertainty into the lives of ordinary Colombians.

Violence following Escobar's prison break escalated notably in September 1992, when cartel hitmen began systematically picking off policemen in Medellín and murdered "faceless" judge Myriam Rocío Vélez, thirty-eight, responsible for linking Escobar to the 1986 murder of El Espectador publisher Guillermo Cano. Attacks on the police grew more fierce in October and November, following police operations that resulted in the deaths of key cartel leaders Brance Muñoz Mosquera (alias "Tyson") and security chief Jhonny Edison Rivera Acosta (alias "El Palomo"). Rivera Acosta was one of the nine who had escaped with Escobar. 130 Cartel hitmen assassinated over thirty police in the first two weeks after Muñoz's death alone. 131

By the end of 1992, some sixty policemen from Medellín had been killed. One year after Escobar's escape, the Bloque de Búsqueda, a combined army and police force dedicated to Escobar's apprehension, admitted to 120 deaths during offensive operations against Escobar and other members of the Medellín cartel. 132 All of the nine inmates who had escaped with Escobar had either surrendered to Colombian authorities or been killed by October 1993.

Police tactics themselves contributed to the spiral of violence, as troops showed little interest in taking prisoners alive. Asked whether he preferred taking Escobar dead or alive, the head of the search bloc, DIJIN Col. Hugo Martínez, stated publicly that he preferred to kill Escobar." 133 U.S. officials expressed sentiments akin to relief that the Colombian troops who killed Escobar had returned fire rather than open it. 134 Meanwhile, Tahí Barrios, former delegate for human rights in the office of the Procuraduría, stated to a reporter that I can't tell you how many serious rights violations are being carried out [in the search for Escobar]: illegal raids, arrests, and killings." 135

Cornered and reeling from the deaths of key cartel operatives, Escobar unleashed a wave of terrorist bombing attacks in early 1993 against civilian targets in major cities. The purpose, as in the past, was to force Colombian society to pay the price for governmental efforts to hunt him down. Between January 21 and 31, 1993, four different car bombs exploded in Bogotá and Medellín, killing twenty-one civilians, including at least five children, injuring scores of others, and resulting in millions of dollars of property damage. Two additional car bombs detonated in a busy downtown area of Bogotá on February 15, 1993, killing four more people and wounding 120. Scores of offices, hotels, and businesses were also damaged. 136 Another bomb that ripped through a car shop in Barrancabermeja in mid-February killed nineteen and wounded twenty, apparently going off prematurely and intended for the cities of either Bucaramanga or Bogotá.

Escobar's deadly escalation of force spawned yet another round of vigilantism, this time by the so-called PEPES. The PEPES launched their organization on January 31, 1993, torching a country chalet belonging to Escobar's mother and vowing to "make Pablo Escobar feel the effects in his own flesh of his brand of terrorism." 137 Over the next month they engaged in numerous acts of terrorism of their own: setting off bombs and fires aimed at other Escobar relatives or their property, murdering a top soccer player from a team allegedly financed by Escobar, destroying, South of Medellín, a five million dollar prize collection of Escobar's antique automobiles, including a Pontiac Escobar believed to have been owned by Al Capone, torturing and murdering Luis Guillermo Londoño White, a businessman linked to Escobar, and murdering defense attorney Raúl Zapata and dumping his bullet-riddled body on a road north of Medellín. 138 After scarcely three weeks in existence, the PEPES had murdered more than forty people. 139

Following a short six-week truce, the PEPES reemerged in mid-April 1993, when an April 15 car bombing in a posh district of Bogotá allegedly by Escobar's forces killed eleven people and wounded over a hundred. The PEPES abducted and murdered Escobar attorney Guido Parra Montoya and his teenage son Guido Andrés, stuffing the lifeless bodies into the trunk of a stolen taxi. Only after that act did the Colombian government announce a crackdown on the PEPES, offering a reward of one billion pesos (about $1.3 million) for information leading to the identification and arrest of the group's members. 140

The impunity with which the PEPES operated no doubt contributed to Pablo Escobar's belief that they were a front for the Colombian security forces. Other speculation focused on members of the rival Cali cartel; 141 on friends and relatives of the Medellín cartel's Galeano and Moncada brothers, who were reportedly murdered on Escobar's orders; 142 and finally, on paramilitary leader and former Escobar associate Fidel Castaño, himself linked to several brutal massacres and sentenced in absentia to twenty years in prison for the 1988 Urabá murders of over twenty banana workers (see above). 143 Castaño had reportedly fallen out with Escobar over the murders of two Castaño friends, paramilitary leader Henry de Jesús Pérez in 1991, and Fernando Galeano in 1992. 144

A second group dedicated to Escobar's capture or demise announced its formation in February 1993, claiming to have connections with "people who have been affiliated with security organizations at one time. 145 The group, calling itself Colombia Libre (Free Colombia) said that the "sole objective" of its 150 members was to "combat the terrorism, murders, and tortures perpetrated by Pablo Escobar." 146 The group's leaders said that some of them had worked for the Medellín cartel's Moncada and Galeano brothers, and that current funding came from Colombian industrialists and businessmen. Colombia Libre said that it rejected the PEPES' terrorist methods, seeking instead to penetrate Escobar's organization. In exchange for the cooperation provided to Colombian authorities, the group said it asked the government to target its fight directly at Escobar and not negotiate with him. Leaders of the group said that it would "immediately dissolve" once Escobar surrendered or was killed or captured. 147

The Colombian government's apparent tolerance of the twin paramilitary efforts aimed at Escobar - some government officials claimed that Colombia Libre and the PEPES were in fact the same group 148 raised to a new and dangerous level the impunity paramilitary groups have long enjoyed in Colombia. Although the government as well as Colombian citizens may have secretly applauded actions which gave Escobar a taste of his own medicine, an "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" 149 approach to justice only added to the multiplicity of actors responsible for violence in Colombia and invited new cycles of killing. As hideous as Escobar's bombings of civilian targets are, they did not justify the torture and murder of his lawyers and associates, and at times the children of his associates, by paramilitary gangs. As one Colombian official told the Miami Herald, "you can't fight terrorism with terrorism. These groups may start with one objective and then turn into something much more dangerous." 150 With Escobar dead, it is imperative that the government make every effort to identify and prosecute those who participated in paramilitary activity against him.

While Escobar was at large, the Fiscalía intensified efforts to develop evidence against Escobar that would stand up in court, issuing indictments for over a dozen murders including the 1984 assassination of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, the 1989 murder of leading presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, and the 1986 murder of anti-cartel newspaper publisher Guillermo Cano. 151 These prosecutorial efforts are commendable, and against any other Escobar associates identified should continue.

The policy of allowing drug traffickers to turn themselves in in exchange for reduced sentences did not disintegrate completely with Escobar's prison break. Two other notorious kingpins were sentenced in 1992-1993, even if the sentences were grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of their crimes. In December 1992, for example, Cali cartel capo Iván Urdinola Grajales, allegedly responsible for hundreds of brutal murders in the Cauca valley, 152 was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison after confessing to drug trafficking, illegal enrichment, and conspiracy.

Originally sentenced to seventeen years in jail, the sentence was reduced because of Urdinola's confession and the information he provided on other individuals. He was also fined over 750 million pesos, about $1 million." 153 As in the case of Escobar, however, a prison term did not signify the end of Urdinola's activities. In July 1993, Colombian officials discovered that Urdinola was continuing to direct drug trafficking operations from Bogotá's, Modelo prison via walkie-talkie communications with members of the Cali cartel living nearby. According to Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff, "nothing" could be done to stop the smuggling of communications equipment into the prisons, given the low salaries of prison employees and the fantastic sums with which drug lords could buy them off. 154

Medellín cartel kingpin Jorge Luis Ochoa, who had turned himself in in January 1991, also received a reduced sentence after admitting to drug trafficking, illegal enrichment, and conspiracy. Ochoa was sentenced in mid-June 1993 to eight years in prison, of which nearly two and a half had already been served. 155 Ochoa is considered by U.S. officials to be part of the dangerous group of "Extraditables," drug lords who waged a terrorist war of bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings to prevent their extradition to the United States.156 Extradition was ultimately banned in Colombia's 1991 Constitution. Ochoa also reportedly helped found paramilitary gangs in the 1980s. 157

Seemingly impressed by the intensity of the violence associated with the pursuit of Pablo Escobar, lawyers for the Cali cartel approached governmental officials in early May to discuss a mass surrender of cartel leaders and an exit from drug trafficking. 158 According to reports in El Tiempo, however, the traffickers offered to surrender but not to confess their crimes or testify against others in the drug trade. Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff rejected the offer in late October. 159

The meager results in Colombia's drug war also reflect the pervasive power of money to corrupt those officials ostensibly fighting on its front lines. In late September 1993, the Procuraduría's Delegate for the Judicial Police, Guillermo Villa Alzate, was fired after evidence surfaced that he was in direct contact with Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, one of the principal leaders of the Cali cartel. 160 According to press accounts, members of the police Unit DIJIN based in Cali doctored a police report on the Cali cartel's money-laundering operations, removing the names of the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers. The police report was also leaked to cartel leaders.

Another corruption case compromising officials based in Cali involved the escape from prison of cartel chief and retired army captain Jorge Eduardo Rojas Cruz, about to be charged with murder. Rojas Cruz escaped in June 1993 when he switched places with another man smuggled into the jail with the help of prison guards. Even though Rojas Cruz is white and his replacement was black, it took the Cali police five days to notify authorities in Bogotá. 161

Corruption also stymied the fight against Pablo Escobar. Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff stated publicly in March 1993 that pursuit of Escobar had been cut short by "corruption, inefficiency, and cowardice" among members of the Bloque de Búsqueda. 162 Six months later, officials of the Procuraduría confirmed that Bloque policemen had alerted Escobar about upcoming operations and had provided him with the license plate numbers, color, and make of vehicles belonging to police intelligence agents conducting surveillance. Official files with the declarations of various informants were also stolen. 163

With Escobar and his principal associates dead or in custody, the Medellín drug-trafficking cartel has been dismantled. Unfortunately, this has not translated into a reduction in the amount of cocaine reaching international markets. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), "the Cali cartel and other trafficking organizations are filling the void left by the Medellín cartel." And the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration places Cali's share at some eighty percent of the U.S. market. 164

Indications are that the Cali cartel, once known as less violent and more businesslike than its Medellín counterpart, is stepping up its own violent reprisals against those it considers a threat. U.S. journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue, former editor of the Spanish-language El Diario-La Prensa, was murdered in New York in March 1992, allegedly on orders of Cali boss José Santacruz Londoño. The alleged hitman, eighteen-year old Alejandro Wilson Mejía Vélez, was arrested in Miami in May 1993. Since Unanue's murder, at least a dozen other people are believed to have been killed in Queens on orders from the drug cartels. 165 The export of violence, coupled with the epidemic of drug-and gang-related murders in U.S. inner cities, establish a macabre bond between the U.S. and Colombian populations, one that shows few signs of being broken in any time to come.


1 Comisión Andina de Juristas - Seccional Colombiana (hereafter CAJ-SC), "Evolución de Situación de Derechos Humanos en Colombia, Violencia en Colombia 1970-1992," Table 1, undated.

2 Interview, CAJ-SC, October 5, 1993; and CAJ-SC, "Autores de Atentados Contra la Vida Por Razones Políticas, Enero-Septiembre l993," p. 1.

3 Interview with El Pais, Cali, in "Human Rights Adviser Notes Gravity of Situation," FBIS, September 14, 1993, p. 34.

4 Interview with Carlos Vicente de Roux, El País, and Gustavo Gallón Giraldo, Elena S. Manitzas, Rodrigo Uprimny Yepes, CAJ-SC "Los Retos de los 90: Derechos Humanos en Colombia," January 6, 1993, pp. 1-2.

Violence is the leading cause of death in Colombia. According to National Police statistics, a record 25,101 people died violent deaths in Colombia in 1992, almost half of them in the cities of Medellín, Bogotá, and Cali. Colombia's murder rate is approximately nine times that of the United States, according to Presidential Counsellor de Roux. Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, "Medellín, La Más Violenta," El Mundo, March 23, 1993.

5 CAJ-SC, "Autores de Atentados," pp. I and 4.

The 1993 figures reflected an increase in killings by both official forces and the guerrillas. The comparable statistics for the first nine months of 1992 were: 50 percent by state agents, 33.5 percent by paramilitary groups, 13.2 percent by the guerrillas, and less than one percent by drug-traffickers. CAJ-SC, "Human Rights in Colombia, 1992," January 1993, p. I (document submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights). The CAJ-SC noted that the overall percentages could change if drug traffickers were deemed to be responsible for some of the killings that took place in undetermined circumstances.

The PEPES (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar) carried out acts of private vengeance against escaped drug lord Pablo Escobar and his associates and relatives. (See below, The Drug War)

6 "Asesinados 1,089 Policías en 29 Meses," Nuevo Siglo, June 2, 1993.

7 Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform in Colombia: The Violence Continues (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992), pp. 1-7.

8 Interview with El País, Cali, in FBIS, September 14, 1993, p. 34.

9 Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (CINEP), "Violencia Política Enero-Diciembre de 1992: Perfiles de las Víctimas, Sector Social," mimeo, January 1993.

10 Gustavo Gallón Giraldo, Elena S. Manitzas, Rodrigo Uprimny Yepes, "Los Retos de los '90," p. 10.

11 A peace process carried out in the 1980s by the government and the guerrillas secured the demobilization in 1990 of the M-19 guerrilla group. Other negotiations were successfully concluded in 1991 with the dominant faction of the Ejército Popular de Liberacion (Popular Liberation Army or EPL), the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (Revolutionary Workers Party or PRT), and the Indian-based Quintín Lame.

Several groups, however, refused to lay down their weapons. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, is the oldest and largest guerrilla group still waging war against the government. Others are the Unión Camilista-Ejército de Liberación Nacional (Camilist Union-National Liberation Army or ELN) and a small breakaway faction of the EPL. In 1990, these three groups came together to form the Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar (CGSB). See Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform in Colombia: The Violence Continues, pp. 49-58.

12 Interviews, Bogotá, February 28, March I and 2, 1993.

13 Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Two Years Into the New Constitution," Andean Newsletter, No. 80, Lima, July 26, 1993, p. 2.

14 In August 1993 thirty-five government officials investigated for irregularities and cost over-runs at the Guavio hydroelectric plant were acquitted following an investigation by the Procuraduría. Actualidad Colombiana (a publication of CINEP, Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos [ILSA], and ColombiaHoy Informa), No. 137, August 18-31, 1993, p. 1.

15 Marc Chernick, "Escobar's escape plagues Colombian p resident," Latinamerica Press, November 5, 1992, p. 4; CAJ-SC, "La Situación de Derechos Humanos en Colombia: Compleja Pero No Confusa," September 17, 1992, p. 2.

16 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Prosecutor General Reports on Envigado 'Resort,'" FBI, August 4, 1992, pp. 23-24; Mary Speck, "Bar, Jacuzzi: Welcome to Pablo Escobar's Cell," Miami Herald, August 11, 1992.

17 Within weeks of Escobar's escape, the Ministry of Defense forced into retirement three senior military officers overseeing prison security: Lt. Col. Hernando Navas, director of the prison system, Lt. Col. Manuel José Espitia Sotelo, commander of the military police battalion guarding the prison, and Gen. Gustavo Pardo Ariza, head of the Fourth Brigade based in Medellín. Acting Air Force Commander Gen. Hernando Monsalve resigned following criticism that he delayed authorizing planes to ferry in additional troops following Escobar's escape.

An investigation by the Attorney General's office released in late November 1992 called for charges to be brought against at least 100 army officers, Justice Ministry personnel, and prison officials. The report criticized ex-Justice Ministers Jaime Giraldo and Fernando Carrillo, both of whom had directed the surrender policy and authorized security arrangements at the Envigado prison. Mary Speck, "3 more ousted for bungling Escobar security," Miami Herald, July 28, 1992; Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Pablo Escobar's Escape," Drug Trafficking Update, No. 32, December 7, 1992, p. 6.

18 Cited in Douglas Farah, "Escape of Escobar Dims Bright, Shining Colombian Presidency," Washington Post, February 24, 1993.

19 Text, letter to the Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar, November 20, 1992.

20 Don Podesta, "Colombians Lash Out at Violence," Washington Post, December 6, 1992.

21 Bogotá radio and television networks, "Gaviria Address to the Nation," FBIS, November 9, 1992, pp. 34-36.

22 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Defense Minister Rules Out Talks with Rebels," FBIS, August 31, 1993, p. 24.

23 Bogotá Radio and Television Networks, "Gaviria Addresses Nation, Calls for Unity," FBIS, November 9, 1992, p. 33.

24 Notimex, "Military to Increase Budget by $210 Million," FBIS, March 16, 1992.

25 El Nuevo Siglo, "Defense Minister Rafael Pardo Interview," FBIS, December 14, 1992, p. 51. The Colombian press reported in November 1993 that only two of the four army divisions had their own anti-guerrilla brigade. The goal was, within two years, to have an anti-guerrilla brigade in each army division, to augment the work of the Mobile Brigades and the twenty-five anti-guerrilla companies. El Tiempo, "Armed Forces Modernization Plan Outlined," FBIS, November 8, 1993, pp. 61-62.

26 During the 1990-1993 period, Gaviria said that social spending had quadrupled and spending on the judiciary had tripled. Bogotá Television and Radio Networks, "Gaviria Address to the Nation," FBIS, November 9, 1992, p. 36; Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Gaviria Gives Speech on Antiterrorist Measures," FBIS, February 24, 1992, p. 24; "$160 Mil Millones Para la Seguridad Nacional," El Tiempo, February 23, 1993; Edgar Téllez and María T. Ronderos, "Seguridad y Defensa: Una Década Perdida," El Tiempo, February 14, 1993.

Conversions between pesos and dollars are based on the average yearly official exchange rate as reported in International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics (Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, November 1993).

27 El Tiempo, "Funding Approved to Cover 'War Bond' Gap," FBIS, September 14, 1993, p. 38.

28 Notimex, "Military to Increase Budget by $210 Million," in FBIS, March 16, 1992, p. 34.

Similarly, Gaviria said that "the dialogue the national government has been holding with the CGSB does not exhaust its peace policy; the dialogue is only one of the policy's components." El Nuevo Siglo, "Gaviria Letter on Prospects of Peace Talks," in FBIS, April 29, 1992, p. 28.

29 FBIS, November 9, 1992, p. 35.

30 Interview, Colombian political analyst who requested anonymity, Bogotá, March 1, 1993.

31 In mid-December 1993 the Procuraduría instituted charges against seven officers and enlisted men of the army's VoItígeros Battalion for abuse of authority, negligence, and cover-up in the murders of the two CRS spokesmen. The Procuraduría also recommended an investigation of Presidential Counselor for Peace Ricardo Santamaría and one of his assistants for failing to adopt measures that would minimize the risk to the CRS spokesman. Procuraduría General de la Naciín Press Release, December 13, 1993, pp. 1-3; Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "A New Opportunity for Peace," Andean Newsletter, No. 79, June 1993, pp. 2-4; Actualidad Colombiana, "Torpedeado Proceso de Paz con la CRS," No. 139, September 14-28, 1993, pp. 3-5.

32 Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Head of Peace Commission Resigns," Andean Newsletter, No. 71, October 1992, p. 4.

33 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Armed Forces, Army Commanders Voice Opposition to Dialogue with Guerrillas," FBIS, July 12, 1993, p. 42.

34 The office of the Fiscal was created by the 1991 Constitution. The current Attorney General, Gustavo de Greiff, is a widely - respected figure who has been personally touched by drug-related violence. De Greiff s daughter resigned her position as Minister of Justice when drug traffickers threatened to kill her children. Douglas Farah, "Colombia's Official Crime Buster," Washington Post, February 15, 1993.

35 Defensor del Pueblo, "Estudio de Caso de Homicidio de Miembros de La Unión Patriótica y Esperanza, Paz y Libertad," Informe para el Congreso, el Gobierno, y el Procurador General de la Nación, Santafé de Bogotá, October 1992, pp. 1-172.

The Unión Patriótica (UP) was founded in May 1985 as a result of a process of dialogue between the government of President Belisario Betancur and the FARC. In the first elections in which it participated, the UP gained five Senate seats and nine seats in the House of Deputies. Also elected were fourteen departmental deputies, 351 town council members, and twenty-three municipal mayors.

The UP itself places the number of victims of political murder from within its ranks at over 2200.

36 The report also documented the murder of 113 demobilized rebels belonging to the EPL guerrilla group between January 1991 and September 1992. Most of those responsible for the murders were listed as unknown (sixty-eight cases) while a dissident wing of the EPL which refused to lay down its arms was deemed responsible for twenty-one deaths. Defensor del Pueblo, "Estudio de Caso de Homicidio," pp. 70, 69, and 124.

37 Ibid., p. 36.

38 Asociación SETA, Misión de Identificación de Derechos Humanos en Colombia, Informe de Misión, May 1993, Brussels, Belgium (report prepared at the request of the Commission of the European Community, External Relations Directorate), p. 59.

The killings took place in the context of a military offensive against the ELN. Following the killings, the army closed off the site and later presented the bodies dressed in military-style uniforms. The day after the murders, Col. Alfredo Rodriguez Velandia of the V Brigade in Bucaramanga reported that nine guerrillas had been killed in combat. See Americas Watch, The "Drug War" in Colombia: The Neglected Tragedy of Political Violence (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1990), p. 62; and Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, p. 38.

39 Two army officers, Major Oscar Echandía Sánchez and Captain Luis Orlando Ardila Orjuela of the Ricaurte Battalion, provided a gun permit and official identification card to a gunman who attacked and killed Garcés. The gunmen, one of three attackers, was killed in a shootout with the mayor's bodyguards. Three of Garcés's bodyguards also perished. The Procuraduría found the two military officers responsible for preparatory acts to murder and requested their dismissal. In October 1989, however, the military court of the 5th army brigade acquitted them of all charges. A military appeals court (Tribunal Superior Militar) upheld the lower court decision. One of the officers eventually retired from the armed forces and another was, in fact, dismissed. See Defensor del Pueblo, "Estudio de Caso de Homicidio," pp. 145-149; and Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, p. 21.

40 In 1984 and 1987, Colombia established so-called public order courts to try cases of drug-trafficking and terrorism. The courts, now called jueces regionales or regional judges, are presided over by "faceless judges" whose identities are concealed to protect them from reprisal. The courts allow for secret witnesses and secret testimony, and involve serious restrictions on due process rights for defendants. See below, and Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, pp. 98-105.

41 Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Worrying Impunity," Andean Newsletter, No. 77, April 1993, pp. 3-4.

42 Asociación SETA, Misión de Identificación de Derechos Humanos en Colombia, p. 59.

43 El Tiempo, "Armed Forces Commander on Guerrillas," FBIS, March 4, 1993, p. 39.

44 At the time of the massacre, Becerra was a major, Bermúdez was a 2nd lieutenant, and Ochoa was a corporal.

45 Major Becerra had also allegedly used his credit card to pay for the hotel stay of civilians who executed the massacre. Procurador General Carlos Gustavo Arrieta told Americas Watch in December 1993 that this proved to be false.

Military courts that claimed jurisdiction over the case deemed that the role of the officers was only "dereliction of duty" because they had failed to prevent the murders, despite other evidence of their more direct participation in acts preparatory to murder. Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform in Colombia, pp. 19-21.

46 Hernando Valencia, Procuraduría Delegada para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, letter to Americas Watch, November 11, 1993, p. 1; Actualidad Colombiana, No. 128, April 14-27, 1993, p. 4.

47 Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, p. 20.

48 By contrast, two paramilitary leaders, Henry de Jesús Pérez and Fidel Castaño, were convicted in absentia 1991 in for their role in planning the Urabá massacre. Pérez was killed later that year in an apparent feud between paramilitary leaders. Fidel Castaño remains at large. (See below, section on the drug war, for Castaño's alleged participation in ongoing paramilitary violence.)

49 For background on the case see Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, pp. 34-36.

50 He had been declared insane by the Institute of Legal Medicine in Bogotá after being examined in the presence of army doctors.

51 "'Locura' en Fallo Sobre Massacre," El Espectador, January 8, 1993; Hernando Valencia, letter to Americas Watch, November 11, 1993, p. 1. For a critique of the decision, see Justicia y Paz, letter to Carlos Gustavo Arrieta Padilla, August 25, 1993, pp. 1-7.

52 Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, pp. 31-34.

53 "Dos Oficiales Implicados en Masacre de Indígenas," La Prensa, February 12, 1993; Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo," "Resúmen de Casos," undated, p. 5.

54 Hernando Valencia Villa, Procurador Delegado para los Derechos Humanos, letter to Americas Watch, November 11, 1993, p. 2.

55 Procuraduría General de la Nación, Procuraduría Delegada para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Resolución No. 008 de 1993, July 8, 1993, pp. 1-44; Amnesty International, Urgent Action, AMR 23/51/93, August 31, 1993, p. 1.

56 Hernando Valencia, letter to Americas Watch, p. 2.

57 Procuraduría General de la Nación, Oficina de Investigaciones Especiales, Expediente No. 134918, undated, pp. 282-284; Colectivo de Abogados, "Resúmen de Casos," p. 6.

58 The National Coordinating Body for Human Rights, Victims and Refugees of Colombia (CONADHEGS) sent investigators to the scene and interviewed a witness who implicated the army. 7.62 min bullet casings, the kind used by the Colombian army, were also reportedly found at the scene. The case brought by Briceño was later dropped. See Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, p. 27; and Amnesty International, "Killings in Cauca Department - Army Officially Accused," May 1993, p. 2.

59 "Cargos a 8 Militates," El Espectador, May 19, 1993.

60 Actualidad Colombiana, No. 128, April 14-27, 1993, pp. 4-5; Amnesty International, "Killings in Cauca Department," p. 2.

61 The events were characterized as "a confrontation in which seven subversives belonging to the XXV Front of the FARC were killed." A statement from the XIII Brigade confirmed "the deaths of seditious ones in Fusagasugá. The victims, fully identified, had arms, munitions, and dynamite." Defensor del Pueblo, "Estudio de Caso de Homicidio," pp. 133-135; Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, pp. 25-27.

62 "Piden Destituir a Tres Militares," Nuevo Siglo, March 26, 1993.

63 Leslie Wirpsa, "Colombian Vigilantes Join Hunt for Pablo Escobar," Latinamerica Press, March 18, 1993, p. 1; "Cargos a Miembros de UNASE," El Espectador, February 19, 1993.

64 Ibid., and Emisoras Caracol, "Attorney General Indicts UNASE Personnel," FBIS, February 22, 1993, p. 25.

65 Radio Cadena Nacional, "Commission to Investigate Complaint Against UNASE," FBIS, April 28, 1993, p. 40.

66 "Pliego de Cargos Contra Siete Oficiales Del Ejército," Nuevo Siglo, November 18, 1992.

67 Procuraduría General de la Nación, Informe Sobre Derechos Humanos, June 1993, p. 28.

68 Ibid., p. 29.

69 Ibid., p. 43. The police were also themselves a major target of political violence.

70 Ibid., pp. 31-34.

71 Ibid., pp. 53 and 47.

72 Ibid., pp. 47-51.

The prevalence of police abuses led the Colombian government to form a Commission for the Reform of the National Police, composed of representatives from the Procuraduría, Fiscalía, Defensor del Pueblo, and Comptroller's office.

73 See above, A Panorama of Violence.

74 Ibid., pp. 40 and 42.

75 Ibid., pp. 10-16.

76 Ibid., p. 4.

77 CAJ-SC, "El Informe sobre Derechos Humanos de la Procuraduría General de la Nación," August 1993, pp. 5-6.

78 Procuraduría General de la Nación, Informe Sobre los Derechos Humanos, p. 5.

79 Ibid., p. 55.

80 Based on the data it gathered, the report concluded that the majority of abuses take place in urban rather than rural areas, a finding consistent with the naming of the National Police as the principal abuser of human rights. The rural/urban split may have more to do, however, with the relative difficulty of lodging a complaint in the countryside and the risks associated with doing so.

81 A personero is a local ombudsman appointed by municipal authorities, to insure that authorities, including the police and military, heed the Constitution and obey the law. They receive complaints from the citizenry about official abuses and transmit them to the Procuraduría for investigation. However, they have no authority to emit sanctions.

82 Justicia y Paz, letter to Americas Watch, July 1993.

83 Procuraduría General, Informe Sobre Derechos Humanos, p. 39.

84 Interview, Procurador General Carlos Gustavo Arrieta, December 1, 1993.

85 For the evolution of these courts, see Americas Watch, The Killings in Colombia (New York: Americas Watch, 1989), pp. 93-98; The "Drug War" in Colombia: The Neglected Tragedy of Political Violence (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1990), pp. 92-97; and Political Murder and Reform in Colombia: The Violence Continues (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992), pp. 98-105.

86 International Commission of Jurists and Andean Commission of Jurists Colombian Section, Justice for Justice: Violence Against Judges and Lawyers in Colombia, 1979-1991, (Bogotá: CAJ-SC, July 1992), p. 1.

87 Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, p. 103.

We do not wish to imply, however, that no "faceless" judges are impartial. Americas Watch has met fiscales within the public order system and was impressed by their integrity and dedication.

88 CAJ-SC, letter to Americas Watch, October 27, 1993, pp. 2-3.

89 An executive decree, converted into permanent legislation in 1992, provided that habeas corpus for public order offenses could only be presented before the fiscal hearing the case. Previously, the petition could be presented before any judge. Interview, CAJ-SC, October 5, 1993; CAJ-SC, letter to Americas Watch, October 27, 1993, pp. 1-2; CAJ SC letter to Robert K. Goldman, October 27, 1993, p. 1.

For a summary of the criticisms of the public order courts, including additional cases identified by the Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo," see Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, "Lawyers Committee's Concerns With the Public Order Courts in Colombia," preliminary report, October 1993, pp. 10-20; and Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz, "Las Injusticias de la Justicia Colombiana," Justicia y Paz, Vol. 6, No. 2, April-June 1993, pp. 5-19.

90 Diego Pérez, "Des-Orden Público," Cien Días, Vol. 5, No. 19, JulySeptember 1992, pp. 28-29.

91 The decree stipulated sentences of ten to twenty years in prison for those who .provoke or keep the population or part of it in a state of turmoil or terror, through acts that pose a danger to life, the physical integrity or freedom of persons, buildings, or means of communication, transport, processing or flow of fluids or energy, by application of means capable of causing extensive damage."

92 Interviews, Lourdes Castro and Eduardo Umaña (attorneys for the TELECOM workers), March 2, 1993.

93 CAJ-SC, "Violaciones a los Derechos Fundamentales de los Procesados por Delitos Adelantados ante la Jurisdicción de Orden Público, Hoy Justicia Regional," Informe Preliminar, October 1993, pp. 5-6 and 9-10.

94 Ibid., abstract, p. 2.

95 This reduction might have less to do with the anonymity afforded judicial officials than with the government's policy of negotiating the surrender of drug traffickers in exchange for reduced sentences. CAJ-SC letter to Americas Watch, October 27, 1993, p. 2.

96 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Prosecutor General on Military-Cartel Ties, Senator's Death," FBIS, November 8, 1993, p. 58; Notimex, "ELN Claims Responsibility," FBIS, November 8, 1993, p. 56.

97 Interview, official of the public order courts, March 2, 1993.

98 He called for the immediate hiring of another 477 deputy prosecutors. El Tiempo, "De Greiff Faults Criminal Justice System," FBIS, September 14, 1993.

99 CAJ-SC, "Guerra Total en Colombia," December 1, 1992, pp. 1-6; Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz, Justicia y Paz, Vol. 6, No. 2, April-June 1993, p. 18; interviews, Bogotá, March I and 2, 1993.

100 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Court Upholds Internal Disturbance Decrees," FBIS, February 19, 1993, p. 25; Emisoras Caracol, "Constitutional Court Rules War Bonds Unconstitutional," FBIS, April 27, 1993, pp. 30-31.

101 Interview with Constitutional Court President Hernando Herrera Vergara, Bogotá Emisoras Caracol, "Constitutional Court President Interviewed," FBIS, May 5, 1993, p. 19.

102 Section 415 of Colombia's Code of Penal Procedures, which took effect in July 1992, stipulates that prisoners can request pre-trial release if formal charges have not been filed after 180 days. Separate provisions, however, covering the public order crimes of terrorism and drug-trafficking, impose much more stringent conditions for pre-trial release. Those provisions state that a prisoner is eligible for pre-trial release only if seventy years old or more, or if the time in jail has exceeded the maximum possible sentence for the crime with which he or she is charged. In issuing its August 1993 decision, the Court avoided taking sides as to which provisions - the Penal Code or decree laws - governed prisoners held for public order crimes. The Court stated, in essence, that prolonged detention without charge was a violation of constitutional rights. Semana, August 10, 1993, "Emergency Decree Antecedents Discussed," FBIS, September 16, 1993, pp. 35-36; interview, Gustavo Gallón G., Andean Commission of Jurists - Colombian Section, October 5, 1993.

103 In a September 1993 ceremony marking national human rights day, President Gaviria stated that approximately 2,000 persons were being held in jail charged with belonging to guerrilla groups. Gaviria announced that the government was developing "close modes of cooperation between the armed forces and the Attorney General's office to bring offenders before judges and defeat them in court."

The total number of prisoners held for public order crimes, however, is much higher, approximately 5,000. The Bogotá newsweekly magazine Semana reported in September that there were 5,400 prisoners. El Tiempo, "State Strengthening Respect for Human Rights," FBIS, September 17, 1993, p. 27; Miami Herald, August 4 and 5, 1993.

104 The government had acted in similar fashion in July 1992, invoking, for the first time since the passage of the new Constitution, a state of internal commotion in order to prevent the release of prisoners. The July 1992 action was not widely criticized because the newly-created office of the Fiscal, which itself came into being in July 1992, had not had sufficient time to develop evidence that would result in a formal indictment.

A law passed by the Colombian Congress late in 1993 mandated a six-month investigative period for public order cases.

105 The U.S. government formally apologized and has paid reparations to the victims of this war-time policy.

106 Gustavo Gallón Giraldo and José Manuel Barreto, "La Ley de Los Estados de Excepción y la Vigencia de los Derechos Humanos," CAJ-SC, February 1993, pp. 1-5; Humberto de la Calle Lombana, Ministro de Gobierno, Exposición de Motivos, "Del Proyecto de Ley Estatutaria Sobre los Estados de Excepción," pp. 1-32.

107 Edison Parra Garzón, "El Gobierno No Juega Limpio," El Tiempo, March 22, 1993; Jaime Córdoba Triviño, "Defensoría del Pueblo y Estados de Excepción, Reflexiones en Torno al Proyecto de Ley," Derechos Humanos, No. 19, JanuaryMarch 1993, pp. 7-8.

108 In cases of extreme urgency, judicial permission can be granted verbally, and in the cases of greatest urgency, no written or verbal order is necessary. These supposed limitations are in reality a farce, as the security forces are left with ultimate discretion over when to request judicial permission.

109 As of this writing, the Constitutional Court had still not ruled on the legality of the statute to regulate states of exception. It therefore had not been signed by the President or become the law of the land.

110 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Anti-Kidnapping Law Approved; Signatures Pending," FBIS, December 14, 1992, p. 52; and Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Gaviria Approves New Law Against Kidnapping," FBIS, January 21, 1993, p. 32.

111 Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Anti-Kidnapping Law Questioned," Andean Newsletter, No. 80, July 26, 1993, p. 4.

112 Ibid.

113 According to National Police statistics, kidnappings fell by thirty-three percent between 1991 and 1992, from 1,717 cases in 1992 to 1, 136 cases in 199 1. According to DIJIN, kidnappings fell another 34.5 percent in the first five months of 1993. El Tiempo, "National Police Report on Crime Statistics," FBIS, January 14, 1993, pp. 22-23; and "34.5% ha Disminuido el Secuestro en 1993: Dijin," El Tiempo, June 9, 1993.

114 La tutela pasó el año," Semana, November 24, 1992.

115 "La increíble y triste historia de El Carmen," El Tiempo, June 14; Letter to Carlos Gustavo Arrieta, Procurador General, from human rights groups, July 6; Rectifications in El Tiempo on July 25, August 4, and October 18; Rectification in La Prensa on October 2; "Delfín en la cárcel," Semana, May 25, 1993, pp. 58-59.

116 Letter to Americas Watch from CAJ-SC, October, 1993; and Amnesty International Urgent Action 263/93, August 6; and follow-up on November 11, 1993.

117 "Tutela desplaza a ]ajusticia," El Espectador, June 22, 1993.

118 CAJ-SC, "Admisibilidad de la Tutela Contra Decisiones Judiciales," October, 1993, p. 1.

119 Quoted in Andean Commission of Jurists - Colombian Section, "Human Rights in 1992," undated, p. 3.

120 Gómez's assistant, CREDHOS secretary Blanca Cecilia Valero de Durán, was murdered in January 1992, the day after Gómez published an op-ed in the New York Times denouncing human rights abuses by the Colombian armed forces.

121 CREDHOS letter to Americas Watch, July 1993, pp. 1-8; Amnesty International, Urgent Action, July 19, 1993, AMR 23/42/93.

122 CINEP, "Acción Urgente," April 20, 1993; Justicia y Paz, letter to Americas Watch, May 7, 1993; Mariana Escobar, Consejería Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos, letter to Americas Watch, June 2, 1993.

123 Amnesty International, "Urgent Action," April 22, 1993, UA 126/93; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, "Lawyer to Lawyer Network," May 1993.

124 The group was formed apparently in response to the publication in Europe of El Terrorismo de Estado en Colombia, a detailed examination - by anonymous authors - of the human rights record of military officers. On the basis of information in the book, the German government prevented four senior Colombian army officers from entering Germany in early May. El Espectador, "Autodefensa del honor militar," May 10, 1993.

125 Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo," letter to Americas Watch, August 1993.

126 The office of the Presidential Counselor for Human Rights filed complaints with the Fiscalía, Procuraduría, and DAS so that they would investigate the threats. Carlos Vicente de Roux, Consejero Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos, letter to Americas Watch, November 9, 1993.

127 See above, section on the acción de tutela.

128 The ad, said Bedoya, implied that the army carried out arbitrary detentions. Edgar Torres and Clara Elvira Ospina, "Por Qué el Optimismo de los Militares?" El Tiempo, September 19, 1993; and "Denuncian a Comité de los D.H.," El Espectador, September 7, 1993.

129 Escobar, in hiding in Medellín, apparently made a telephone call on a cellular phone to his wife and children in Bogotá. Monitoring equipment provided by the United States reportedly picked up Escobar's voice and led police to him. James Brooke, "Drug Lord Is Buried as Crowd Wails," New York Times, December 4, 1993.

130 Muñoz Mosquera had been charged with murder in connection with the 1989 bombing of an Avianca airliner in which over 100 civilians died. Muñoz was killed in a shootout with dozens of police officers who surrounded his hideout in Medellín. Associated Press, "Airline bomber is killed," Washington Times, October 29, 1993.

131 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Measures Reduce Murder of Police Agents," FBIS, November 24, 1992, p. 40.

132 Mary Speck, "Escobar vows to form guerrilla army," Miami Herald, January 19, 1993; "Medellin Cartel Report," Washington Post, July 19, 1993; El Nuevo Siglo, "Search Bloc Operations, Results Detailed," FBIS, October 28, 1993, pp. 45-46.

133 Alma Guillermoprieto, "Exit El Patrón," New Yorker, October 25, 1993, p. 78.

Those who turned themselves in included Escobar's brother Roberto and John Jairo Velásquez (alias "Popeye"), a top cartel enforcer. Alfonso León Puerta (alias "Angelito"), believed to have managed personal security for Escobar, was killed by police on October 6, 1993, in Medellín. He was the last of those who escaped to be killed or to surrender. Puerta reportedly supervised squads of assassins directed by the cartel. "Top Drug Lord Aide Is Slain in Colombia In a Police Shootout," New York Times, October 8, 1993; Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "The solitude of the Mafioso," Drug Trafficking Update, March 1993, pp. 4-5.

134 Telephone interview, December 3, 1993.

135 Quoted in Marc Cooper, "Reality Check," Spin, November 1993, p. 113.

136 Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Return of drug terrorism," Drug Trafficking Update, No. 34, February 8, 1993, p. 1; "3 Bombs Explode in Colombia Cities," New York Times, February 1, 1993; Twig Mowatt, Associated Press, "Bogota bombings kill 4, wound 120," Washington Times, February 16, 1993; Douglas Farah, "Bombs Rip Bogota; Cartel Chief Blamed," Washington Post, February 16, 1993.

137 "Colombia Hardens Line In Hunt for Drug Lord," New York Times, February 14, 1993; Alma Guillermoprieto, "Exit El Patrón," pp. 72-85.

138 Ibid., Reuters, "Escobar foes destroy drug baron's cars," Miami Herald, February 18, 1993; Inravisión Cadena 1, "PEPES Group Kills Pablo Escobar Associate," FBIS, March 2, 1993, p. 23.

139 "Semana de 'pepazos,'" Semana, February 23, 1993, pp. 30-33.

140 Emisoras Caracol, "Kidnaps, Kills Escobar Lawyer," and Radio Cadena Nacional, "Government Offers Reward for Information on PEPES, FBIS, April 19, 1993, p. 32.

Before then, the government seemed almost pleased with the PEPES' audacity. "The PEPES can do what the security forces can't do - blow up someone's house, kidnap people and kill them," said Defense Minister Rafael Pardo. "They are waging a dirty war." James Brooke, "Old Drug Allies Terrorizing Escobar," New York Times, March 4, 1993.

141 Pablo Escobar's brother Roberto, confined in Itagüí prison, sent Americas Watch seven Federal Express packages denouncing the PEPES, complaining about violations of his rights in prison, and denouncing efforts to murder his brother.

142 Gerardo and William Moncada and Fernando and Mario Galeano reportedly had cheated Escobar out of a cut of profits from cocaine shipments. Escobar called Geraldo Moncada and Fernando Galeano to account in the Envigado prison, and then ordered their murder. They were kidnapped as they left the prison and their tortured bodies found several days later. The decision to move Escobar from Envigado came after the Moncada/Galeano murders. Ronald J. Ostrow, "Get Escobar Back, Angry U.S. Officials Tell Colombia," Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1992; Mary Speck, "Escobar's audacity may be his undoing," Miami Herald, February 4, 1993; Mary Speck, "Drug baron faces toughest opponents in ex-associates," Miami Herald, March 6, 1993; Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Escobar Seeks Guarantees, Says PEPES Still Operating," FBIS, May 4, 1993, p. 38.

143 "Quiénes son los Pepes?" Semana, March 2, 1993, pp. 22-25.

144 Ibid.

Henry de Jesús Pérez, leader of the notorious paramilitary group ACDEGAM (Association of Cattlemen and Agricultural Producers of the Middle Magdalena) based in Boyacá, had broken with Escobar in 1991 and had cooperated with the authorities in their efforts to capture him. Pérez had also been convicted, in absentia, for the 1988 Urabá murders. Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Former Escobar Associate Castaño Issues Communique," FBIS, April 21, 1993, p. 45; Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform in Colombia, p. 9.

145 Semana, Interview with members of Colombia Libre, "Free Colombia Members Describe Group's Mission," FBIS, March 2, 1993, p. 27.

146 Ibid.

147 Ibid., pp. 28 and 30.

148 Mary Speck, "Second group says it's out to nail Escobar," Miami Herald, February 17, 1993.

149 Literally, "three eyes for an eye, three teeth for a tooth," as the PEPES pledged to strike three blows for every bomb set off by Escobar or his associates. "Semana de 'pepazos,'" Semana, February 23, 1993, p. 32.

150 Mary Speck, "Second group says it's out to nail Escobar".

151 Douglas Farah, "Colombia's Official Crime Buster," Washington Post, February 15, 1993; Alma Guillermoprieto, "Exit El Patrón," p. 75.

152 Following Urdinola's arrest, U.S. DEA agent Thomas Cash called him "one of the most violent people to be on the face of the Earth ... the Cauca River is floating with bodies, including some Colombian national policemen whose extremities were cut off so they cannot be identified." Colombian authorities have also developed evidence linking Urdinola to the 1990 Trujillo massacre (see above). David Lyons, "10 arrested in bust tied to drug lords," Miami Herald, April 29, 1992; Ken Dermota, "Colombian police arrest suspected heroin kingpin," Washington Times, May 12, 1992.

153 Inravisión Televisión Cadena 1, "Confessed Drug Trafficker Receives Reduced Sentence," FBIS, December 23, 1992, pp. 30-31.

154 Douglas Farah, "To Colombian Drug Lords, There's No Place Like Prison," Washington Post, September 26, 1993.

155 "Ocho años, de prisión a Jorge Luis Ochoa," El Tiempo, June 16, 1993.

156 The United States waged a long battle for Ochoa's extradition to the U.S., for his alleged involvement in the murder of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Barry Seal.

157 Mary Speck, "Drug lord awaiting sentence," Miami Herald, May 30, 1993.

158 According to a senior Colombian official, in May the government sent a combined army and police unit to Cali to search for cartel leaders. "There were a lot of people who said, 'Come on, do you really want another Medellín?' But ... truly speaking, I don't think we have a choice. Cali has to be dismantled, and even if it wants a surrender, that can't be done without pressure." Michael Stott, Reuters, "Colombia hints Cali cartel may give up," Washington Times, June 28, 1993.

159 "Conditional surrender by traffickers rejected," Miami Herald, October 24, 1993.

160 In late September, a Colombian prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela for his alleged role in a shipment of a ton of cocaine to the United States in 1991. Reuters, "Colombia fires top drug aide," Miami Herald, October 1, 1993; Reuters, "Colombian Orders Arrest of Head of a Cocaine Cartel," New York Times, September 26, 1993.

161 Douglas Farah, "To Colombian Drug Lords, There's No Place Like Prison," Washington Post, September 26, 1993.

162 "Se acaba la búsqueda?" Semana, September 14, 1993, pp. 38-41.

163 Ibid.

164 U.S. General Accounting Office, The Drug War., Colombia Is Undertaking Antidrug Programs but Impact is Uncertain, GAO/NSIAD-93-158, August 1993, p. 22; Douglas Farah and Steve Coll, "Cocaine Dollars Flow Via Unique Network," Washington Post, September 19, 1993.

165 Joseph B. Treaster with Steven Lee Myers, "A Dozen Killings Tied to Colombia," New York Times, May 16, 1993; Jeff Leen, "Cartel sent teen to silence writer, agents say," Miami Herald, May 11, 1993.

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