Call your senators today! Senators Dodd and Feingold are currently circulating a “dear colleague” letter to Secretary of State Rice expressing concern over the alarming increase in killings by the Colombian army. Click here to read the letter.
Human rights groups in Colombia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Bogotá have documented an increase in the number of civilians killed by the army over the past few years. In many cases, someone witnessed the victim being detained by soldiers. Later on, the body was found dressed in guerrilla clothing and claimed by the army as killed in combat. As paramilitary forces are being demobilized, the army, under pressure to “get results,” appears to be directly involved in more human rights abuses.
Recently, a group of human rights experts participated in an international mission to investigate these civilian killings. See the mission's preliminary report and a statement by U.S. NGOs. Staff from the Latin America Working Group participated in the mission and listened to dozens of family members bravely give heart-wrenching testimony about how their loved one was killed. During one testimony, a young man, trembling, said the soldiers came into his house and took his father. They tied his hands and feet and sat him down in a chair. Then they killed him in front of the whole family.
The letter urges Secretary Rice to refrain from certifying military aid to Colombia until these human rights abuses are investigated, tried in civilian courts, and those responsible are brought to justice. Contact your senators through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask them to send the message that human rights matter by signing onto this letter by February 26th.
Last year—up against the high-priced lobbyists of the Colombian government—we showed how committed citizens who raise their voices for human rights and justice can indeed have a positive impact on U.S. policy towards Colombia. Let’s make sure our representatives continue to hear our message loud and clear!