February 13, 2006

CORRECTED: Colombian forces killed civilians, lied about it: UN

Please read in 2nd para ... which covers 2005 ... instead
of ... which covers 1995

A corrected version follows

By Hugh Bronstein

BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombian security forces have
killed civilians and covered it up by dressing the bodies as
Marxist guerrillas, according to testimony presented in an
annual United Nations human rights report released on Monday.

U.N. investigators last year saw an increase in allegations
of extrajudicial executions attributed to soldiers and police
who often presented such incidents as deaths of guerrillas in
combat, said a report from the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, which covers 2005.

"Cases were recorded in which commanders themselves had
allegedly supported the act of dressing the victims in
guerrilla garments to cover up facts and simulate combat," the
report says.

The government, which had no immediate response to the
report, says any member of its security forces found
cooperating with the paramilitaries will be jailed.

Colombia is in a four-decade-long guerrilla war involving
Marxist insurgents and far-right paramilitary militias that
fund themselves through cocaine trafficking, kidnapping,
contraband gasoline and extortion of Colombia's mostly poor

While President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch Washington ally
whose father was killed by the insurgents, has negotiated a
peace deal with the "paras" and reduced crime rates through his
tough security policies, the U.N. report says Colombia remains
home to grave human rights violations.

"Both the lack of full acknowledgment of the problem by the
government, as well as the absence of sufficient relevant
actions by authorities, impeded correction of this difficult
situation," the report says.


More than 22,000 paramilitaries have surrendered their guns
in a deal promising reduced jail terms of up to eight years for
crimes such as torture and massacre.

But politicians, academics and human rights groups say the
paramilitaries are not dismantling their criminal networks.
They say the militias are using violence to influence the
outcome of March congressional elections in an effort to gain
political power and avoid being extradited to the United States
on drug charges.

"The Colombian state has to take more congruent measures
with regard to civil and political rights and there are very
important challenges with regard to demobilizing the
paramilitary groups, so that the rule of law is upheld,"
Michael Fruhling, top U.N. human rights official in Colombia

The "Justice and Peace Law" governing the demobilizations
gives prosecutors six months to prepare cases, a short period
considering the complexity of many of the crimes, Fruhling

If the truth is not revealed it will be more difficult for
the government to provide reparations to victims of
paramilitary violence, he said.

"As the law is written there are really no strong
consequences if a perpetrator does not come forward and is
later discovered to not have told the whole truth," Fruhling
said. "It would be good to put in place adequate mechanisms to
fully honor the right to truth. For that you need full

The paramilitaries were formed in the 1980s as private
armies by property owners trying to protect their land from the
rebels, who say they are fighting a socialist revolution
despite opinion polls showing they have almost no support in
the cities where most Colombians live.