Sunday, September 20, 2009

Columbia Persecutes Human Rights Workers

A trade agreement with Columbia has been stalled in the House, largely over human rights concerns in that country.  Here’s the latest.

columbia_map Human rights activists in Colombia are being persecuted and subjected to arbitrary arrest by state security agents, Margaret Sekaggya, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders, said on Friday.

Victims also blame leftist guerrillas and other armed groups for abuses, she said.

Colombia's conservative president, Alvaro Uribe, Washington's top ally in South America, has long faced criticism for the country's poor record on rights.

"A prime reason for the insecurity of human rights defenders lies in the systematic stigmatization and branding of defenders by government officials," Sekaggya told reporters at the end of a two-week fact-finding mission in the country.

"Human rights defenders have been repeatedly accused by high-level government officials of being, or colluding with terrorists or guerrillas," Sekaggya said.

The persecution, often involving illegal intelligence gathering, has led to "unfounded criminal proceedings," she added.

Colombia is in a 45-year-old war involving Marxist rebels and other armed groups funded by the country's cocaine trade. Uribe is highly popular for his crackdown on the guerrillas, but human rights violations remain a serious problem.

Asked whether Colombia's armed forces and agents from the national intelligence agency, known as DAS, were involved in rights violations, Sekaggya said, "Violations are also being committed by security agencies."

A former judge from Uganda, Sekaggya expressed concern over a scandal involving DAS, which has been accused of eavesdropping on human rights campaigners, politicians, journalists and Supreme Court judges...

Inserted from <Reuters>

Although human rights issues in Columbia are nothing new, the situation there deteriorated to new lows during the recent Republican regime due to pressure on Columbia from John Walters’ (Bush’s Drug Czar) continuation of the war on drugs.  I hope the Obama administration will take a more enlightened approach, both by refusing to support governments that abuse their citizens’ rights, and by changing the focus on reducing drug use here from the interdiction/criminalization paradigm of the present one that treats drug use as a medical and psychological problem, not a criminal one.

4 comments:

Randal Graves said...

I do think we're moving away from treating drugs as a criminal problem - albeit at a glacial pace - but there are so many layers of propaganda, I wonder if we'll ever treat this issue in the adult manner it deserves. Maybe by the year 3000. Jeez, get people help, don't lock 'em up. It's such a 'duh' issue.

TomCat said...

Isn't it, Randal? Treatment is both more effective and less expensive.

Brother Tim said...

You think they've got Human Rights Issues now, wait til we get our Military Bases set up.

TomCat said...

Perish the thought, Brother. Ugh!