For Immediate Release
Colombia: Stop False Accusations Against Human Rights Groups
Government Should Address Reported Abuses
WASHINGTON - President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia should
stop making false and dangerous accusations against human rights groups
that criticize his government, Amnesty International and Human Rights
Watch said today in a joint statement. Colombia should instead address
the human rights concerns they raise.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued reports in
October 2008 about the human rights situation in Colombia. After its
report was released, President Uribe accused Amnesty International of
"blindness," "fanaticism," and "dogmatism." He also publicly accused
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, of being
a "supporter" and an "accomplice" of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.
"We would welcome a chance to debate the real issues with the
president," said Susan Lee, Americas director for Amnesty
International. "But these statements belittle his office and give a
green light to those who wish to harm human rights activists in
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are still waiting for
the Colombian government to provide measured and detailed responses to
the serious human rights concerns raised in their two reports.
Earlier this year, after a presidential advisor, José Obdulio
Gaviria, publicly suggested that organizers of a protest against
paramilitary death squads had links to guerrillas, there was a wave of
threats and violence against participants in and organizers of the
march, including killings.
The organizations noted that President Uribe and other senior
officials have often made similar accusations against those who
criticize or stand in the way of his policies, including not only
international and Colombian human rights groups, but also the Colombian
Supreme Court, trade unionists, and prominent journalists.
"These ridiculous accusations are symptomatic of an administration
that refuses to be held accountable for what it does," said José Miguel
Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. "Instead of taking the country's human
rights problems seriously, the Uribe government has sought to deflect
criticism by simply accusing the critics - no matter who they are - of
links to guerrillas."