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Letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 11 U.S. NGOs regard

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The Honorable Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
The State Department
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

We the undersigned non-governmental organizations of the United States wish to express our support for the donor conference in Cartagena. We consider the process initiated in London to be an extraordinary opportunity for the international community to support the Colombian people and institutions in their efforts to develop solutions to the country's severe problems, exacerbated by more that 40 years of armed conflict. In particular feel it is important to recognize the critical role of Colombian civil society in shaping the process, and the support that they have received from the G-24 group of international governments.

We welcome the possibility of new economic and social aid for Colombia to address the impact of the internal armed conflict. However we believe strongly that U.S. support to Colombia should be more than just financial aid; rather it should improve the security of all Colombians, strengthen the rule of law, increase respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and assist in the search for a negotiated settlement to the conflict. We feel that support for the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as set out in the London declaration is the most appropriate and effective way to achieve these goals.

While we look favorably on any advance in the peace process, we are seriously concerned that without a legal framework in place the present demobilization plans are effectively granting impunity to AUC members responsible for gross human rights violations and failing to dismantle paramilitary structures. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a recent report confirmed that the "demobilisation mechanisms have not been accompanied by comprehensive measures to provide relief to the victims of the violence or to clarify the many criminal acts that remain in impunity…therefore the factors generating the conflict in large measure persist"

In particular, we urge that the final declaration

1) recognize the process established in London in July 2003;

2) recognize the critical role of civil society in shaping the future of Colombia, and provide mechanisms by which the G-24 group can continue to support dialogue between the Colombian authorities and civil society;

3) recognize the fundamental contribution of the United Nations in developing solutions to the conflict, particularly through the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Secretary General's Special Representative;

4) urge the Colombian Government to make demonstrable and timely progress in complying with the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;

5) establish as a fundamental prerequisite to any international funding for the paramilitary demobilization process the inclusion of a legal framework finalized by the Colombian Congress, that satisfies requirements for truth, justice and reparation in compliance with standards and principles of international law, accompanied by an appropriate mechanism for effective implementation and verification;

6) explicitly recognize the existence of an armed conflict in Colombia, requiring full observance of international humanitarian law.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Neil Jeffery
Executive Director
U.S. Office on Colombia

Joy Olson
Executive Director
Washington Office on Latin America

Adam Isacson
Director of Programs
Center for International Policy

Lisa Haugaard
Executive Director
Latin America Working Group *

Stephen Coats
Executive Director
U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project

Krisanne Vaillancourt
Executive Director
Witness for Peace

British Robinson
National Director of Social and International Ministries
Jesuit Conference USA

Cristina Espinel and Kelleen Corrigan
Co-Chairs
Colombia Human Rights Committee

Barbara Gerlach
Colombia Liaison
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

Jacqueline Baker
Legislative Coordinator
School of the Americas Watch

Sr. Marta Inés Toro, OP
Justice and Peace Coordinator
Dominican Sisters of the Presentation

* Organization designated for identification purposes only

Cc
Andrew Natsios, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development
Michael Kozak, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, United States Department of State
Danika Walters, Program Officer, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, United States Department of State
Heather Merritt, Colombia Desk Officer, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, United States Department of State

Senator Christopher Dodd
Senator Russell Feingold
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Mitch McConnell

Representative Jim Kolbe
Representative Nita M. Lowey
Representative James P. McGovern