Thursday, May 15, 2008

Columbia Extradites High Level Drug Traffickers

Amnesty International has reported that high level dealers are being sent to the United States.

The Colombian government's decision to extradite 14 paramilitary leaders wanted in the USA on drugs-trafficking charges should not be used as an excuse to end investigations into the role played by paramilitaries in committing human rights violations against thousands of people, often in collusion with or the acquiescence of the Colombian security forces, Amnesty International said today.

`On taking the decision to extradite them, the government is arguing that these paramilitary leaders have failed to tell the whole truth about the human rights violations they committed, have continued to reoffend while in prison, and have failed to fulfil commitments they had made as part of the demobilization process in terms of reparation to their victims.

"The paramilitary demobilization process -- by which over 31,000 members of paramilitary groups supposedly demobilized -- and the legal framework that has accompanied it, has been a complete sham which has abjectly failed both to dismantle paramilitarism in Colombia and to respect the right of victims to truth, justice and reparation. The Colombian government now appears to share this view, which it had denied for so long," said Amnesty International.

`The organization stated that in extraditing these men on drugs-trafficking charges without reference to human rights violations, there is a real danger that tentative investigations being carried out in Colombia, especially by the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Attorney General and by the Supreme Court of Justice, will be severely weakened.

"There is now a real danger that the full scale of human rights violations committed over the years by paramilitaries, as well as the key role played by the security forces, state officials and leading political and business figures in these crimes, will remain hidden and, as such, in complete impunity," said Amnesty International.
Amnesty International is also concerned that allegations about the involvement of US agencies in supporting paramilitary groups may not now be fully investigated. Not only has the US provided military assistance to Colombian military units operating closely with paramilitaries, but in the 1990s evidence emerged that the PEPES paramilitary structure - created to hunt down drug-trafficker Pablo Escobar - was possibly operating with the support of US security agencies. "Don Berna" allegedly had close links with the PEPES. The PEPES evolved into the paramilitary Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá.

"Despite the extraditions, criminal investigations in Colombia into human rights atrocities committed by these paramilitaries, and their links with the security forces and others, must continue, if their countless victims are ever to receive any semblance of justice," said Amnesty International.

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