The United States should cease providing military aid to the Colombian government, owing to Bogota's failure to protect human rights as required by the US Congress, rights advocates said.
In a joint press conference here, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Washington Office on Latin America said the government of Andres Pastrana had failed to suspend or punish security officials amid strong evidence they were guilty of rights abuses.
The government has also failed to cut off support for paramilitary groups that commit extra-judicial killings, another condition placed by Congress on the furnishing of military aid to the South American nation, the groups said.
The armed forces are not cooperating with civilian and legal authorities in investigating members accused of rights violations, and have furthermore failed to cut links with paramiliatary groups, the groups charged.
"The government of Colombia is not complying with the conditions set by the US Congress to receive military assistance," said HRW's Jose Miguel Vivanco. "An honest and accurate evaluation of human rights conditions in Colombia implies that Colombia should not be eligible for military aid because of lack of compliance with the law."
The administration of President George W. Bush is by the end of February to decide, based on rights recommendations by Congress, whether to release an estimated 400 million to 500 million dollars in military assistance that was allocated to Colombia in fiscal 2002.
"Continuing to send assistance despite Colombia's failure to meet minimal human rights standards has sent a dangerous message to the Colombian government: that its failure to confront impunity, dismantle paramilitary groups and guarantee the safety of human rights defenders is not an impediment to continued aid, and therefore not a priority concern," said Alex Arriaga of Amnesty International.
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