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IACHR Takes Case involving Colombia to the Inter-American Court

May 2, 2016

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María Isabel Rivero
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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Cases 12.335, 12.336, 12.757 and 12.711, Gustavo Giraldo Villamizar Durán and others, with regard to Colombia.

The cases concern the extrajudicial executions of Gustavo Giraldo Villamizar Duran, on August 11, 1996; Elio Gelves Carrillo, on May 28, 1997; Carlos Arturo Uva Velandia, on June 21, 1992; and Wilfredo Quiñónez Bárcenas, José Gregorio Romero Reyes and Albeiro Ramírez Jorge, on September 4, 1995.

The Commission established that all these killings were committed by State security agents and took place in a context of “false positives.” These “false positives” consist of extrajudicial executions committed in the context of the armed conflict, with a modus operandi characterized by the killing of civilians during an operation. These civilians are later presented as members of illegal armed groups killed in combat, through several mechanisms that include the alteration of the crime scene and of the manner, time and place of the killings.

In addition to the determination of arbitrary deprivation of life in the cases of Gustavo Giraldo Villamizar Duran and Elio Gelves Carrillo, the Commission also found violations in relation to the right to honor and dignity since they were presented as members of illegal armed groups. Moreover, in the cases of Elio Gelves Carrillo, Carlos Artuvo Uva Velandia, Wilfredo Quiñónez Bárcenas, José Gregorio Romero Reyes and Albeiro Ramírez Jorge, the IACHR determined that their deaths were preceded by the deprivation of liberty in which they could foresee their fate, these persons were also victimized by having their rights of personal integrity and personal liberty violated.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended the State of Colombia to fully repair these human rights violations, both in their material and moral aspects. The Commission also urged the State to conduct a full and effective investigation of these human rights violations, and to establish the criminal, administrative or other responsibilities that may be found. In the context of these investigations, the IACHR indicated that the authorities must take into account the elements that led the Commission to establish the existence of a modus operandi. The IACHR also urged Colombia to adopt all legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure the non-repetition of similar events. In particular, to ensure that the use of lethal force by State agents is compatible with the standards described in this report and to adopt measures aimed at eradicating the problem of the “false positives”, which follow the modus operandi described in this report. The IACHR also recommended that the military criminal justice system does not hear cases of human rights violations.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on April 14, 2016, because it found that Colombia had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report. The Commission submitted the entirety of the facts in that report to the Court.

The case will allow the Court to deepen its jurisprudence on cases of extrajudicial executions and, specifically, in cases presenting particular characteristics regarding the “false positives,” which is unlawful killings of civilians, staged by security forces to look like lawful killings in combat. Along this line, the Inter-American Court will be able to understand the context that frames the referred problematic, and to determine how the actions presented in the case constitute a reflection of the context. Moreover, the case will permit the Court to analyze such violations within the specific content to due diligence, among other aspects, under the incorporation of context to the investigation and the practice of fundamental evidence coming from the understanding of the mentioned modus operandi.

A principal, autonomous body of the OAS, the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 058/16