The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

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Colombia: Stop False Accusations Against Human Rights Groups

Government Should Address Reported Abuses


President Alvaro 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
Jose 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, Jose 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 Jose 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."

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.