Fact Sheet: Human Rights and U.S. Assistance for Plan Colombia
FACT SHEET: Human Rights and U.S. Assistance for Plan Colombia
A central goal of U.S. assistance to Colombia is to promote and protect human rights. The Government of Colombia is committed to improving human rights conditions in Colombia, and President Pastrana has taken important steps to address his country’s legacy of human rights abuses. The United States is working with the Pastrana administration to bring an end to impunity for those who violate human rights and to eliminate collaboration between members of the government security forces and paramilitary groups.
Programs to enhance respect for human rights and promote the rule of law are an essential component of President Pastrana’s Plan Colombia. Through its assistance package, the United States is supporting the efforts of the Pastrana administration to strengthen the justice system, hold human rights abusers accountable, and address the conditions that breed human rights violations, whether by paramilitaries, insurgents, drug traffickers, or elements of the security forces.
U.S. human rights initiatives in Colombia include:
Human rights screening. In accordance with U.S. law and policy, assistance to the Colombian security forces is contingent upon screening on a unit basis for credible evidence of gross violations of human rights. Although unit-level screening is sufficient to meet U.S. legal requirements, in the case of the three counter-drug battalions being equipped and trained with U.S. support in Colombia, the United States has gone further to screen all officers and noncommissioned officers on an individual basis.
$48.5 million for support for human rights programs and security for human rights workers. This funding will provide training and support for human rights non-governmental organizations as well as government investigators and prosecutors, including a specialized human rights task force. With this assistance, the Colombian National Police and the Prosecutor General’s Office will establish additional human rights units dedicated to investigating and prosecuting human rights abuses. The United States also is working with the Colombian Vice President's office to promote the implementation of its national human rights policy. The United States is providing human rights-related training for security force members and judges, increased assistance to the human rights ombudsman, support for witness protection and judicial security in human rights cases, and support for enhanced protection for human rights defenders in Colombia.
$65.5 million for administration of justice programs. This will include training for police, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges; expansion of USAID’s Casas de Justicia program that creates community-based centers to facilitate citizen access to justice; security protection for witnesses, judges and prosecutors; help in prison design and security; support for the development of a Colombian Armed Forces Judge Advocate General corps; and support for procedural and legislative reforms to ensure that the justice system functions fairly, transparently and effectively.
Supporting President Pastrana’s efforts to stamp out collaboration between security force members and paramilitaries. The United States will continue to press the Colombian Government to eliminate any remaining links between members of the security forces and the paramilitaries. The United States has also repeatedly called on the paramilitaries, the FARC guerrilla group, and the ELN guerrilla group to respect international human rights norms and international humanitarian law and to cease the practice of kidnapping and the recruitment of child soldiers.
Promoting peace. U.S. support for the Colombian peace process is in part premised on the principle that a negotiated peace settlement will be a key step in eliminating human rights violations.