Published 01/30/2023 19:09 | Edited 1/31/2023 4:42 PM
After almost thirty years of international litigation, the highest court of the Inter-American System of Human Rights released, this Monday (30), the judgment in the case “Members and militants of the Patriotic Union v. Colombia”, issued on July 27, 2022. According to the court, the Colombian State is responsible for “human rights violations committed to the detriment of more than six thousand victims, members and militants of the Patriotic Union (UP) political party in Colombia since 1984 and for over twenty years”.
understand the case
On March 28, 1984, during the term of President Belisario Betancur, representatives of the Colombian State and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed the “Acuerdos de La Uribe”. The peace agreements stipulated a ceasefire and the government’s commitment to promoting political, social and economic reforms, condemned kidnapping and terrorism with both parties expressing their willingness to put an end to this type of practice. The negotiations also defined that, one year after the start of the peace talks, it would be necessary to provide the conditions that would allow the guerrilla group to “organize itself politically, economically and socially”. It was there that, in May 1985, a political party was born: the Patriotic Union (UP).
The Patriotic Union represented a novelty in the Colombian political scene that captured a large part of the electorate. The UP, with a strong communist presence, was a broad opposition front. Its program defended more real and profound forms of democracy, including social changes aimed at overcoming the immense inequality, characteristic of Colombian society, and also proposed a constitutional reform. However, sectors of the State, through military forces, security forces and paramilitary groups, initiated a policy of systematic extermination against UP militants and leaders.
On November 11, 1988, for example, forty militants were publicly executed in the central square of Segovia, department of Antioquia. Taking place simultaneously, these collective homicides extend over time. Against the elected representatives and leaders of the UP, the method of selective assassination is employed. Two presidential election candidates, Jaime Pardo Leal and Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, were thus eliminated, respectively, in 1987 and 1990. In 1994, the UP lost its last member of Parliament, with the assassination of Senator Manuel Cepeda Vargas. Hundreds of mayors and representatives of local authorities were killed. In the same locality, four mayors who were part of the movement were successively murdered.
According to the highest court of the Inter-American Human Rights System, “the State of Colombia is responsible for human rights violations committed against more than six thousand victims, members and militants of the Patriotic Union political party since 1984 and for over twenty years”.
Although the State has already recognized its international responsibility in this case, the Inter-American Court considered that there are still numerous controversies regarding the determination of the context of the crimes, the universe of victims and the violations of human rights.
The Inter-American Court recalled that “As a consequence of its (the UP’s) rapid rise in national politics, and especially in some regions with a traditional guerrilla presence, an alliance emerged between paramilitary groups, with sectors of traditional politics, the public force and business groups, to bar the rise PU policy. From then on, acts of violence against members, sympathizers and militants of the Patriotic Union began. The Court was able to verify the systematic violence against the members and militants of the Patriotic Union”.
For the Inter-American Court, these acts constituted a systematic extermination plan against the UP political party, its members and militants, “which had the participation of State agents, and with the tolerance and acquiescence of the authorities, constituting a crime against humanity”. P
In turn, investigations into these acts of violence were not effective and were characterized by high rates of impunity.
As for the international responsibility of the State, the superior court characterized forms of direct responsibility “by the direct participation of State agents and non-State actors, at different moments of the acts of violence against the members and militants of the Patriotic Union, based on various mechanisms of tolerance, acquiescence and collaboration for this to happen”.
Finally, the Inter-American Court ordered the direct reparation measures:
“a) initiate, promote, reopen and continue, within a period not exceeding two years, and conclude, within a reasonable period and with the utmost diligence, investigations, in order to establish the veracity of the facts related to serious violations of human rights and determine the criminal responsibilities that may exist, and remove all obstacles in fact and in law that keep the crimes related to this case in impunity;
b) carry out searches to determine the whereabouts of missing victims whose fate is still unknown;
c) provide medical, psychological, psychiatric or psychosocial treatment to victims who request it;
d) publish and distribute this Judgment and its official summary;
e) Practice a public act of acknowledgment of international responsibility;
f) establish a national day in commemoration of the victims of the Patriotic Union and carry out activities for its dissemination, including in public schools and colleges;
g) build a monument in memory of the victims and the acts committed against the members, militants and sympathizers of the Patriotic Union;
h) place plaques in at least five locations or public spaces in honor of the victims;
i) prepare and disseminate an audiovisual documentary about the violence and stigmatization against the Patriotic Union;
j) carry out a national campaign in the public media with the aim of raising awareness in Colombian society about the violence, persecution and stigmatization to which the leaders, militants, members and relatives of the members of the Patriotic Union were subjected;
k) hold academic forums in at least five public universities in different parts of the country on topics related to this case;
l) Submit to the Court a report in which it agrees with the authorities of the Patriotic Union the aspects to be improved or strengthened in the existing protection mechanisms and how they will be implemented, in order to adequately guarantee the safety and protection of leaders, members and militants of the Patriotic Union, and
m) pay the amounts established in the Judgment as compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages”.
Colombian Communist Party: “Historic Sentence”
For the General Secretary of the Colombian Communist Party (PCC), Jayme Caycedo: A” Judgment of the Inter-American Court of San José, which condemned the Colombian State, is a triumph of justice, resistance, solidarity and a defeat of the anti-communist security doctrine promoted by imperialism”. The Party, which continues to play an important role in the UP, issued an official statement from its Central Executive Committee. See the full:
a historic sentence
The sentence of the Inter-American Court of San José that condemns the Colombian State is not against Colombia, it is against a political and social system of government, colluding with the continued and generalized genocide of a recognized national group, under anti-communist ideological pretexts.
The PCC honors the Patriotic Union and the thousands of communist militants, supporters of unity, activists of social and agrarian struggles, teachers, women, youth, intellectuals, defenders of Human Rights and defenders of the Peace Accords, murdered, disappeared, threatened, arrested and politically persecuted.
The Colombian people have already said enough. This historic decision is a step towards the future and towards hope. It is also a reason that supports the end of impunity, the non-repetition and the democratic break with the past of anti-democracy and counter-insurgency as a State policy.
Colombian Communist Party – Central Executive Committee
January 30, 2023
Below is the full sentence and a summary.
Sentencia UP (in Spanish)