In a hearing transmitted over the Internet, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced this Monday (30) the sentence that condemns the Colombian State for “premeditated action to exterminate” the left-wing Patriotic Union party, in actions that took place between the 1980s and 2000.

The autonomous judicial body of the Organization of American States (OAS) held the hearing in San José, Costa Rica, where its headquarters are located.

The decision handed down by the magistrates took into account an investigation of more than 13 years, which investigated the causes and circumstances of about six thousand murders committed against Patriotic Union militants between 1987 and 2003.

The court held Colombia responsible for violations of the rights to life, integrity, freedom, judicial guarantees and honor of the victims, for homicides, arbitrary detentions, forced displacements and disappearances, among other crimes.

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“The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared that the State of Colombia is responsible for human rights violations, as a result of an extermination plan directed against the party, its members, militants and sympathizers,” says an excerpt from the judgment read by Judge Ricardo C. Pérez, President of the Inter-American Court.

Senator Ivan Cepeda, current leader of the Senate peace committee, is the son of politicians who were victims of repression by the Colombian state. / Juan Barreto /AFP

Judgment details

Among the reparation orders, the Court ordered the Colombian State to set up a commission to verify the identity and parentage of the victims.

It also requested measures to promote new investigations, reopen cases and carry out “wider and more systematic investigations, in order to establish the truth of the facts related to serious human rights violations in the present case and to determine the criminal responsibilities that may exist”.

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“The State must carry out a national campaign in the public media to sensitize Colombian society on the violence, persecution and stigmatization to which the leaders, militants, members and families of the members of the Patriotic Union were subjected”, adds the sentence.

With regard to economic compensation for the victims, the Court ordered that the State must deliver, for a single time, compensation ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 US dollars to the 1,596 surviving victims and relatives of the deceased identified in the investigations that have already concluded.

The Patriotic Union joined the Democratic Alternative Pole and forms part of the political base of the current Colombian government / Guillermo Legaria /AFP

About the Patriotic Union

Despite the massacre suffered for decades, the Patriotic Union still exists. The party was founded in 1985 and quickly became a reference for the Colombian left.

His first presidential candidacy ended up being an indication of what the party would have to suffer for decades to come. In 1986, the candidate of the Patriotic Union in the presidential elections, Jaime Leal Pardo, obtained 10.93% of the votes. The following year, he became the first member of the party to be shot dead.

The second electoral dispute of the Patriotic Union was in 1988, when it participated in the regional elections and imposed itself as the third political force in the country by electing 16 mayors of its own, plus 79 in coalition with other parties, in addition to 18 provincial deputies and 368 councillors.

It was also in that year that the party’s militants became targets of constant armed attacks. The party’s second presidential candidacy did not even make it to the polls: Bernardo Jaramillo was assassinated in March 1990, two months before the election. The party decided not to participate in the dispute.

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The actions of right-wing political parties and even figures linked to the Colombian State have always been suspected, especially during the terms of presidents Virgilio Barco (1986-1990), Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994), Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) and Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010).

However, it was only after more than eight years of investigation by the Inter-American Court that this first judgment was reached.

Events organized by the party were also the target of attacks, which resulted in massacres known in Colombia as the massacres of La Chinita (1993), Mondoñedo (1996), Mapiripán (1997), Tocaima (1997), among others.

Currently, the Patriotic Union is chaired by Senator Still Avella, a survivor of one of the attacks carried out against the party in 1996. In the 2021 presidential elections, the party formed the Historic Pact coalition, which elected President Gustavo Petro and Vice President France Marquez.


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