Dear Secretary of State Clinton,
The FY 2011 budget will contain the twelfth year of a major aid package to Colombia—an aid package originally slated to phase out after six years. We believe there remains strong bipartisan support for generous levels of continued assistance to Colombia. We also believe that this is the right moment to take stock and reconfigure both aid and diplomacy to that nation.
As you determine the future of U.S. policy towards Colombia and the assistance package to support that policy, some troubling trends on human rights, democracy and the humanitarian situation in Colombia should be of concern. The 2002-2006 demobilization of paramilitary groups has produced important gains, such as a reduction of massacres. But remaining and newly formed groups terrorize civilian populations, and threats, intimidation, and assassinations continue. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, "Regardless of the way they characterize themselves, the violence generated by the illegal armed groups that have emerged since the paramilitary demobilization cannot be considered mere criminal behavior. Their offences . . . produce an alarming level of violence against the civilian population."
Killings of civilians by the Colombian Army escalated from 2005-2008, as soldiers killed civilians and then dressed them in guerrilla clothing in order to inflate body counts. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions noted that while not a matter of official government policy, "the sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military." We are disturbed that many of these units were recipients of U.S. military and defense assistance. The Colombian government has taken some steps to address this, but justice for these abuses lags as only 16 out of 1,056 cases assigned to the Attorney General's special unit have so far resulted in convictions.
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