Center for the
Prevention of Genocide
Crimes Against Humanity and
Possible Ideological Cleansing
July 2001, revised January 2004
conflict in which leftist guerrillas are battling both the government and
right-wing paramilitaries for control of the country. The Colombian government is estimated to have
firm control over roughly 50% of the country, while the rest is in the hands of
either the leftist guerrilla movements or right-wing paramilitary groups. The two largest left-wing guerrilla organizations
are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (
de Colombia, or FARC)
and the National Liberation Army (Ejércitode
Nacional, or ELN),
both of which espouse a Marxist ideology and seek to overthrow the Colombian
government. On the right are numerous
bands of paramilitary organizations, most of which are organized under an
umbrella organization, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (
de Colombia, or AUC). Their
mobilization has been attributed to landlords and other upper-income civilians,
many of whom regard all trade unionists and peasant leaders as “pro-guerrilla”
and consequently target them for elimination.
Both the left-wing and
right-wing fighters are heavily linked to the drug trade, and both
target civilians thought to be
collaborating with the other side. The
AUC is estimated to be responsible for roughly 75% of the civilian casualties in
recent years. According to the Colombian
Defense Ministry, there were 1,777 deaths in combat during 2000. The Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), a
human rights organization, asserts that 6,067 people were killed as a result of
“socio-political” violence from September 1999 to September 2000. The nature of this violence is often
extremely brutal, frequently involving mutilation and torture. (Economist,
Involved in the Conflict
Unidas de Colombia, or United Self-Defense Forces of
Rural vigilante groups have
organized and trained in part by government forces to combat the leftist movements. The modern paramilitary organizations in
when vigilante groups were formed by the wealthy, including drug cartels, to
defend against kidnapping and extortion by the leftist guerrillas.
In 1993 brothers Fidel and
Carlos Castaño organized the Autodefensas Campesinas de
(Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Uraba), or ACCU, in response to increasing activity by the
FARC and ELN. Since the disappearance of
Fidel in 1994, Carlos has consolidated control of the region surrounding the
Uraba gulf on the Atlantic coast and has made the ACCU the largest and most
powerful paramilitary force in
In 1997, the various
paramilitary groups announced the formation of a central paramilitary command
structure, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), or the AUC. Today, the majority of right-wing self-defense
paramilitary groups are loosely organized under the AUC, and Carlos Castaño has
emerged as the primary paramilitary leader at the national level.
Currently, the right-wing
paramilitaries are the fastest growing military group in
1998 and 1,200 in 1993. The AUC has
close links to the drug trade and also enjoys the support and financial backing
of many cattle farmers, some politicians, and military officers. The AUC’s presence
the ACCU stronghold, to the principle drug-producing region of
have been targeted by FARC and ELN actions and from portions of
from the economic disruptions caused by the war. A
approximately 15% of the population approves of the AUC and its taking control
from the FARC and ELN. (Economist,
The structure and make-up of
the AUC is far from transparent. Some
units are nothing more than private armies under the command of drug lords
fighting against the FARC and ELN for control of the drug trade. Colombian sources estimate that right-wing drug warlords and their allies in the drug
industry control 40% of the country’s total cocaine exports, the remaining 60%
falling under the control of leftist forces.
recently announced his resignation from the AUC’s military
command and is now officially heading only its political wing. A nine-person “central military command” is
supposedly taking over military control.
There is a great deal of speculation as to why Carlos has taken this
step. One theory is that Castaño wishes
to bring political legitimacy to the AUC by creating a non-violent political
wing that can be distanced from massacres carried out by the individual
military fronts. Another theory is that
internal division and an increasingly federal AUC have forced Castaño to resign
and separate himself from the actions of the individual fronts.
As part of a recent amnesty deal
with the government, various fronts of the AUC are to lay down their weapons
and return to civilian life. Many international
observers doubt their sincerity, as the public displays of weapons surrendered
appear to be rusty shotguns and older models of revolvers. There were no new semi-automatic weapons or
high-powered rifles, which are standard issue for a group as well-armed and
–funded as the AUC.
FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces
The largest and most
powerful of the Colombian guerrilla groups is known as the FARC, or
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The founder of
the FARC is Manuel “Tirofijo”
(“Sureshot”) Marulanda, who
some argue has become mostly a figurehead.
The man many believe to be the real brain of the organization was Marulanda’s colleague Jácobo
Arenas, a communist theorist who inspired Marulanda and became his
second-in-command. The group formed a
coalition between the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) and the
(common liberals) in the 1960s that led to the origin of FARC as it is called
today. The common liberals originally
emerged as a self-defense group in the coffee-growing regions of
small peasant farms and medium-sized industry.
But when the Colombian government established ties with
original raison d’être was lost.
In the 1970s, the coca boom
led to a mass migration of laborers to FARC-controlled territories in the south
and southwest, which came to be known as Farclandia. The FARC was able to profit from “war taxes”
imposed on the people, ostensibly in return for social order and social
programs in health and education. The FARC
also supplemented its income by kidnapping drug lords and their relatives. Since the 1980s, it has continued these
activities, gained increasing control of the drug trade, and still seeks power.
ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, or National Liberation Army)
The ELN was formed in the
mid-1960s by students who were inspired by the Cuban Revolution but disenchanted
with the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Colombia. The ELN adhered strictly to Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s principles of rural guerrilla warfare. The
organization was almost destroyed by the Colombian military in 1974. It has since rebuilt and currently exists as
a roughly 5,000-member guerrilla movement, organized with a central political
and military command structure, yet with a great deal of regional autonomy for
commanders. It remains the second most powerful guerrilla group in
The ELN has come under heavy
attack from the AUC in recent years, especially in the areas where the ELN has
traditionally held control, such as the
negotiate a settlement with the Colombian government, partially due to the
threat posed by AUC attacks. The AUC has
been intent on preventing negotiations between the government and the ELN. The Colombian government promised the ELN a
demilitarized zone in Southern Bolivar in which the ELN would have free rein
during the peace negotiations. However, the AUC has worked to drive the ELN
out of this region in a successful effort to prevent the realization of the
It is difficult to determine
the objectives of the AUC. It claims to
be a mass peasant-based movement fighting to protect the country from the FARC
and ELN. However, due to its ties to the
drug trade, it is unclear as to whether the organization would continue to
operate as a private army controlling large parts of the country if the leftist
guerrillas were defeated. It is evident
that Castaño has political aspirations of legitimacy for the AUC that reach
beyond a vigilante struggle against the leftist forces. An additional complicating factor is the
federal structure of the AUC. Whether or not the entire organization is
operating with the same overall agenda and objectives is unclear.
Since the 1980s, the FARC
and the AUC have been fighting each other for control of coca-growing areas of
southeastern parts of the country. The
FARC has infiltrated a vast number of rural communities and currently controls
about 40% of the Colombian countryside.
The guerrillas have very effective control of many of these areas and
have implemented their own social and economic programs, which the government
has failed to provide. The FARC wants to
gain control of all present and possible future coca-growing regions in
which poses a serious threat.
According to the ELN, they
strive for a democracy based on neighborhood and family assemblies, on union
groups, and on the militias. They claim that it will be a ‘participatory and
rebellious culture coming from the bottom, rejecting commercialism and breaking
up schemes.’ Their notion of socialism
implies ‘self-determination of the people, respect for minorities and
grassroots democracy.’ They claim not to
be a militaristic organization and that they are fighting for a society without
violence. The group did participate in
peace talks with the government, which ended in 1992.
The conflict continues to be a low-grade war, with
civilians bearing the majority of the casualties. The ability of human rights
and media organizations to report massacres and other human rights abuses has
become increasingly limited due to a recent change in tactics by the AUC,
traditionally responsible for the majority of human rights abuses in
homicides to escape the watchful eye of international monitoring groups. Bodies
are often dumped in discreet locations, and frightened villagers are hesitant
to disclose information for fear of retribution. Therefore, while massacres may
be on the decline officially, the overall number of killings may actually be
The use of local “informants” by right-wing fighters
opens the door for retribution killings by corrupt informants eager to settle a
private grudge. Locals are often accused of sympathizing with either the FARC
or the ELN. The paramilitaries often undertake tomals, or indiscriminate attacks, frequently including the temporary control of
entire towns, and singling out black-listed individuals for executions or
torture. In addition to killings of civilians in mostly rural areas, urban
bombings have increased, targeting government officials like President
and other figures in retaliation for recent crackdowns by the government.
Kidnappings have reached endemic proportions, giving
the dubious title of “kidnap capital of the world.” (ABC News Article – Jack
January 12, 2004
Antioquia province; 175 miles northwest of Bogotá
former paramilitary fighters killed; several others wounded
Suspected rebels attacked former members of the BCN (Bloque
Cacique Nutibara), a paramilitary group, in a bar Monday evening.
The rebels used grenade launchers & guns to assault the victims. (AP,
January 8, 2004
Three patrons of a bar in
were shot to death Thursday night. The
perpetrators could not be identified. (AFP)
January 8, 2004
Antioquia; 110 miles northwest of Bogotá
Members of the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas
Colombianas) shot eight men, all between
the ages of 20 and 25, for refusing to pay a tax on coca leaves. (Reuters)
January 7, 2004
FARC rebels shot eight people, including a child, in
victims reportedly had refused to sell coca leaves to the rebels. (AFP)
January 5 or
Tuesday, January 6, 2004
Salado, Norte de
people killed; 52 families displaced
Members of the AUC (Autodefensas
de Colombia) shot seven villagers near the Venezuelan border. Family
members of the victims have also been harassed by paramilitaries since the
killings. The victims were fleeing
violence in the area, much of it caused by conflict over the area’s large
production of coca. Currently
families are evacuating the area and moving to other parts of the Norte de
December 23, 2003
province; 350 km (220 miles) northwest of Bogotá
people killed; more than 30 others injured
FARC rebels attacked a crowded bus on Tuesday. The
rebels detonated an
explosive on the bus or as it was
traveling by; four were killed, and about 30 others were injured. (BBC)
week of Thursday, December 4, 2003
people from the
Members of the AUC dismembered thirteen people in the
in early December, apparently using chainsaws as weapons. There
had been recent conflicts among paramilitary groups in the area. (Weekly News
A mother and her seven children were tortured and
province. Evidence points to the
ELN as perpetrators. (El
dead; 48 injured
12 people died and 48 were injured when the FARC
exploded a bomb on a motorcycle in the downtown area of
killed; 15 injured
The FARC are reportedly responsible for the bombing
which killed eight and injured fifteen in
dead; more than 60 injured
The ELN are reportedly responsible for a bombing of a
shopping center in
Thirty-three people were killed in a Bogotá
Sixteen people murdered in
Front killed eight men in Valle del
FARC guerrillas are presumed to have murdered several
evangelical pastors, including Abel Ruiz, in
An explosion shook an apartment building and
mini-mart in northwestern
perpetrated by guerrillas in the area.
The FARC bombed a church while battling
province, killing 119, almost half of them children. This represents the worst
massacre of civilians in the 38-year conflict. A United Nations report on the
incident laid most of the blame on the FARC, though the government was
criticized for its slowness in deploying troops to the area, even after it
received reports of paramilitary activity in the area from the UN and the
Colombian People’s Defender’s Office. Paramilitary collaboration with the armed
forces was also cited by the report. Evidence was discovered that a 250-strong
contingent of paramilitary militia arrived by boat and passed through three
army checkpoints unmolested before reaching the town. (BBC May 2002)
Rebels were accused of raiding a banana plantation in
region that had been flushed of guerrillas since the paramilitaries drove them
out five years ago. The plant was blown up and nine workers were led into a
field, where they were executed. (AP
The BBC’s Jeremy McDermott reported from Colombia
that two bombs believed to have been set by the FARC killed at least 12 people
and injured over 70 in
Villavicencio. The AP reported that several
buildings and cars were heavily damaged. Just hours earlier Catholic Priest
and a fellow parishioner were shot and killed as the priest said Mass in the
was assassinated outside the
archbishop was critical of drug barons and accused several candidates in the
March Congressional Elections of being financed by drug money. (BBC
Maria Catalina Daniels, a prominent senator, was
found dead in her car along with two companions near
Zipacón, 60 kilometers north of Bogotá. The
killings took place a week before legislative elections were slated to take
place. Violence has marred the nationwide elections, with one presidential
candidate kidnapped and a host of threats being made by guerrillas. Government
officials decried the act and blamed the FARC. Daniels was the sixth senator to
be assassinated since the beginning of the current terms of the Colombian
parliament began in 1998.
Six people were killed and a seventh wounded when
paramilitary gunmen indiscriminately opened fire at El
beach southeast of Bogotá.
At least 6 coca harvesters in northeastern
were killed by FARC guerrillas in an area known for clashes between the United
Self-Defense Forces and the FARC.
Twelve people were killed in northern
by suspected right-wing paramilitary gunmen. Eight of the victims were dragged
from their homes in the town of
while four more were found outside the town of
killings are the mark of the paramilitaries, who often target whom they believe
to be guerrilla sympathizers.
FARC guerrillas allegedly massacred at least 18
people in northwest
near the site of a large paramilitary camp and base of paramilitary leader
Castaño. The victims were peasants whom the FARC
accused of being paramilitary collaborators.
Right-wing death squads killed 10 peasants in the
traveling on a bus and were stopped at a fake checkpoint set up by the
paramilitaries. The town of
has been designated a “red zone” due to the presence of both FARC and ELN
activity in the area.
At least 12 peasants were massacred by paramilitary
fighters in the
province. A spokesman for the army indicated that the peasants were killed by
members of the AUC after being dragged out of their homes. The ELN maintains a
considerable presence in the area, and the peasants were purportedly shot after
being accused of sympathizing with the guerrillas.
12 people were killed in two separate attacks by
suspected paramilitaries. Armed men shot and killed five people in
state. The gunmen called each victim by name before executing them;
paramilitaries have often carried out killings of this nature to rid the area
of people it suspects to be sympathizers to the FARC or ELN. In
five men were taken from their homes and killed. Local police sources point to
paramilitary involvement in the case since the five men were reported to have
ties with the guerrillas.
At least 36 peasants were massacred in southwestern
and northern areas of
stopped and killed at a paramilitary roadblock in the town of
abducted the previous night. All six were killed and found in a rural area in
Araujo, wife of
Araujo, along with 20 other people, were kidnapped
a week earlier near
being shot twice in the face after she became exhausted from a forced trek
after Colombian troops discovered her FARC captors in a nearby Indian village
and they were forced to flee into the jungle. (BBC October 2001)
September 16, 2001
Victims: 11 villagers
At least 11 people were massacred after paramilitary
gunmen raided the town of
The villagers were killed after being accused of collaborating with guerrillas
in the area.
September 8, 2001
Victims: 20 peasants
20 peasants were killed by suspected guerrillas
while nearly 50 others were kidnapped in the northeastern region of
La Gabarra, the scene of a similar incident a few
days earlier in which ELN guerrillas killed 10 coca-leaf pickers.
Place: Town of
killed at least 10 people and forced as many as 6,000 to flee their homes
around the town of
the area threatening to kill local residents unless they left. (BBC,
More recently, 10 villagers were killed in
Tierralta, located in
FARC was responsible for the killings. The
victims’ bodies, most of them headless, were found in the
on May 31, 24 more farmers were killed by the FARC in the same town. The
farmers were killed after having been kidnapped from their homes the previous
weekend. As in the previous
incident, most of the bodies had been decapitated and were found floating in a
river, this time in the River
Illegal Self Defense Groups in
Place: Alto Naya
Victims: Up to 100
Witnesses state that
paramilitary units came into towns in Alto Naya and dragged those suspected of
being guerrilla sympathizers into the streets and killed them. In the town of
7, including a shopkeeper accused of selling food and supplies to the
guerrillas. On April 12, peasants fleeing the region stated that the
paramilitary forces had killed at least 23 people and had given all others 5
hours to leave.
The Spanish based Nizkor
International Human Rights Team believes that up to 170 people had been killed
in this attack. Human rights
investigators say that the bodies of victims were mutilated and spread out in
order to conceal the numbers killed. (Information Network of the
The New York Times reported on the same story, stating that it is believed up to 100 were
killed and up to 3,000 had been displaced. (New York Times,
village in northern
Members of the ACCU northern
block allegedly killed 26 townspeople with rocks and hammers in an effort to
empty the region of guerrilla supporters.
Castaño states that the ACCU did kill villagers in Chengue, but with
gunshots and not with rocks and hammers.
Castaño claims that all those killed were FARC sympathizers, identified
by FARC deserters who worked with the AUC. (
Date: First 5 months of 2001
Victims: 200 plus
The AUC moved into
hit list of 400 people in the city, including union leaders, leftist guerrillas
and suspected sympathizers, and common thugs.
During a 5-month period, the AUC fought the ELN for control over the
city and went from house to house searching for intended victims. More than 200 people from the list were killed. (Christian Science Monitor,
According to The
Washington Post, the troops
performed what they called a “cleaning” of suspected members of the FARC and
ELN. Directed by guerrilla deserters,
the paramilitaries produced up to 7 bodies a day at the height of the
operation. After 3 months the killings
slowed and gave way to a political strategy and attempt to create legitimacy
for the AUC in the city. The AUC has
taken control of the city and works to run it and maintain order. The AUC has started to spend thousands of
dollars in the poorest neighborhoods for development. (
The Chicago Tribune reports that the AUC claims they are working to improve society in the
Those who are not found to be in compliance with AUC rule have been
killed. The Tribune reports that in
addition to guerrilla sympathizers, the AUC has killed homosexuals,
prostitutes, drug users, and the mentally ill.
Local newspapers describe the actions of the AUC as being a “social
cleansing campaign.” Unionists, human
rights officials, and journalists have been threatened. (
paramilitaries and placed in a church for holding. They were taken out one by one and executed
by a shot to the back of the head. The
paramilitaries fired on everyone coming into the village while this was taking
place, and after the executions were finished they traveled to other villages
and opened fire on people. The BBC
reports that a Spanish newspaper stated over 60 people were killed in this
manner. The reason cited for the
massacres was suspected collaboration with left-wing guerrillas. (BBC,
An earlier BBC article on
the same incident reported that right-wing paramilitaries arrived in the
of the names of supposed left-wing collaborators. 17 were killed. (BBC,
The Colombian Ministry of
Defense also reported on this incident.
According to this source, on November 21 at approximately ,
a group of fishermen were captured by paramilitaries and locked in the town
church. A guide was taken to lead them
through the village to the house of a trader.
The trader was dragged from his house, and both he and the guide were
killed. At around on
November 22, some of the fishermen were called out one by one from the church,
forced to lie face down on the ground for an hour, and then shot.
39 bodies were found.
It is unclear whether or not
the group responsible was a paramilitary organization under the umbrella of the
AUC. The force behind the massacre may
have been the Magdalena Self-Defense Group, according to ACCU leader Carlos
Castaño. This group is considered to be
an enemy of the AUC. (
Place: El Cedral
and its surroundings, Ituango
Paramilitaries killed 8 and
looted and burned over 25 homes. Over
400 people were displaced. Two days
later paramilitaries murdered 27 more people in three other villages in Antioquia.
(Information Network of the
Place: Ortega Llano, town of
On the night of October 7, 13 peasants were killed
after being beaten and hit with machetes.
In a collaborative effort with the “Jácobo
Arenas” column of the FARC, the ELN attacked the settlement of Ortega Llano in
the town of
houses and several people were seriously injured. In September of 2000, the guerrilla groups
had tried to persuade the peasants from this town to hand their children over
to the guerrillas. Since the townspeople
refused to give up their children, the groups returned one month later in an
act of retaliation for not collaborating with the guerrillas.
Chorrera, near Medellín
Date: October 2000
Eight men and three women
were found with multiple gunshot wounds to the head, their hands and feet
lashed together. The victims were among
14 people kidnapped from the
identified them as collaborators with left-wing groups. Witnesses stated that the AUC threatened to
return and attack anyone found to be helping the guerrillas. (BBC,
Place: River Sinu
Date: September 16 & 17, 2000
The River Sinu and Green River Councils in the
Embera Katio Reserve have filed complaints about the AUC attacking them.
On September 16, three
canoes containing 20 people were kidnapped by alleged paramilitaries in the
area. The same day Jose Miguel Bailarin, the ‘Mayor’ of the River Esmeralda, was kidnapped
On Sunday, September 17,
another group of armed men kidnapped the native Aquilino Jarupia Bailarin and
his young son Antonio Domico. Their
bodies were found later that day.
The community stated that
approximately 100 natives were forced to leave the area as a result of armed
The Embera Katio community
has said that it has no wish to be a part of the conflict. The community has been accused by
paramilitaries of collaboration with the guerrillas. Embera Katio has also been attacked by guerrilla groups in
Antioquia and Choco.
The Ministry of Defense
States that the native population has been repeatedly victimized in terms of
kidnappings, murders, and forced displacement.
The motive behind the action is to intimidate the community and attempt
to force the native community to take a stance in the conflict. (
Place: Puerto Asis
Victims: Multiple victims over an extended
A BBC news article from
August of 2000 reports on the town of
left-wing guerrillas that previously had control over the town. The reporter writing the story states that
when the paramilitaries first arrived in Puerto Asis, up to eight bodies were
found each night, shot through the back of the head. (BBC,
Place: La Unión, Town of San José de Apartado
on July 8, an unspecified number of men belonging to a self-defense group entered
the hamlet of La Unión, which comes under the town of
San José de Apartado in Antioquia province. The armed men rounded up the local
population, divided the men, women, children, and elderly into different
groups. Various people were called out
from a list, and six were murdered. (
On July 12, the FARC attacked the town of
three children. (
José de Apartado, Antioquia
Victims: Approximately 5
On February 19,
approximately 20 members of the ACCU entered the town of San José de Apartado and killed five civilians. Between and ,
the ACCU entered a billiard hall and killed the first of the five. They then entered the
killed him. Two traders were taken from
their homes and killed. Finally a man
was killed on the main square. (
Place: El Salado, Carmen De Bolivar-Ovejas Bolivar and
Date: 16-18 February 2000
On February 18, a group representing
the ACCU set up a court in the
and decapitated civilians. Witnesses
told investigators that they tied a six-year-old girl to a pole and suffocated
her with a plastic bag. A woman was
reportedly gang-raped. Authorities
confirmed that 36 were killed. (Human Rights Watch World Report, 2001)
The Colombia Ministry of
Defense reports that on February 16, the AUC set up a roadblock between the
towns of Zambrano and Córdoba,
Magdalena. They stopped a vehicle and
killed its two occupants.
Later on the 16th
and 17th, the AUC raided the hamlets of Flor del
Monte, Canutal and Canutalito, and tortured and murdered approximately 9
peasants, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
On February 18, a large
paramilitary unit entered the hamlet, took people from their homes, and took
them to a basketball court. Those
accused of being guerrilla sympathizers were tortured and killed.
On February 19, troops from
the Marine Infantry brigade reportedly recaptured the hamlet of El Salado and
found the bodies of 12 people on the basketball court and seven bodies located
nearby, as well as another 15 in the rural areas around El Salado. (
Place: El Tigre, village in
Date: January 1999
Paramilitaries were blamed
for killing at least 36 people and kidnapping 10. (CNN.com, 2000)
In July 1997, paramilitaries
belonging to the AUC went on a rampage in Mapiripán,
a small coca-growing town in southeastern
machetes and chainsaws to kill and decapitate their victims. Bodies of those killed and injured were
dumped into a nearby river. Castaño took
credit for the attack. At least 30 were
killed. (Information Network of the
In deciding whether the
necessary to consider the four key standards of genocide used by the Center for
the Prevention of Genocide. The
standards are: the abuses must fit the
UN definition of genocide; they must be shown to be habitual in nature; they
must be intentional; and finally, killing must be the primary characteristic of
the abuse. In the following we shall
analyze the situation in
The United Nations
recognizes genocide as defined in Article III of the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (1948), according to which genocide is
defined as “actions committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
territorial control and dominance. In
the preceding report, we identified that the civilians being targeted and
killed are those who reputedly
support, collaborate, or are affiliated with the opposing ideological
group. Since these people do not belong
to a singular racial, ethnic, national, or religious group, we cannot classify
this as ethnic cleansing. Notably, most
of those massacred are of indigenous or Afro-Colombian heritage, but this does
not appear to be the reason they are targeted.
Instead, we suggest a new term for these particular circumstances,
“ideological cleansing,” defined as the intentional removal of a people not
part of a specific national, ethnic, racial or religious group, but who are or
thought to be part of a particular ideological group to which the perpetrators
are opposed. Though the killings and
violence against civilians, especially by the AUC, appear genocidal in nature,
ideological groups are not protected under the Convention Against
Genocide. This means that some genocide
scholars would recognize the massacres in
loyal to the traditional definition would not.
The violence does not fit the UN recognized definition; therefore it
technically does not match the first standard.
However, due to the ideological nature of the Cambodian Genocide of
1975-1979 and the subsequent crimes against humanity tribunals, ideological
genocide is emerging as an acceptable classification. The Center for the Prevention of Genocide
will weigh ideological genocide as a classification only under dire
circumstances. The violence must satisfy
the “significant portion” section of the
Convention, which is a higher standard than the other UN-accepted groups and
must clearly meet all of the other standards.
In order for the violence in
classification, the intention must be to eliminate a particular group based on
their identity or affiliation. For the
genocide, those being killed must be shown to be a part of a specific
ideological group. In the case of
however that those being killed are simply caught in the middle of a struggle
between the paramilitaries and the guerrillas.
Again, looking at the AUC, it often seems that their strategy involves
targeting a group of people in a region governed by the FARC or ELN in order to
terrorize denizens and thus to establish control over the area. The massacres may be based on this strategy,
and have nothing to do with ideology.
The government is estimated to control only half of the country.
the control of the illegal armed groups are forced to live according to the decrees
of those currently in power in their respective regions. The power shifts that take place as one armed
group displaces another results in violent conflict
and the killing of civilians, regardless of their political and ideological
For example, in the city of
under complete control of the guerrillas.
Residents attempt to stay away from the militants for fear of being
identified with them. If militias appear
on the streets, people lock themselves inside of their houses. If guerrillas slide pro-leftist pamphlets
under their doors, residents burn them for fear of being identified as spies by
the paramilitaries and having their names placed on death squad lists. People in the area also avoid the armed
forces, because those who cooperate with the police or army could be taken for
a pro-government or paramilitary spy, and assassinated by the guerrillas. Rev. Ernesto Estrada, a Catholic priest in
the guerrilla-controlled Puerto Caicedo states, “They
live in fear… Because if you rely on the guerrillas… you
become marked by the paramilitaries.
To rely on the army to solve any problem is to be marked by the
guerrillas as an assistant to the paramilitaries… It is the law of the jungle that operates
here.” (CNN.com, 2000)
According to the second
standard, the violence must be habitual in order for it to constitute
genocide. It is clear that the events in
standard. This report cites numerous
examples of recurring violence and massacres.
The armed groups, in particular the AUC, repeatedly commit atrocities on
a regular basis as indicated by the preceding listing of massacres.
The third standard is the
intent behind the violence. The center
distinguishes between massive human rights abuses that have an aspect of
manslaughter versus murder. In a case of
murder, the action is considered to be intentional. In the case of
clearly show that the killings are intentional. Again looking at several examples of armed
violence, it is clear that the murders are intentional and that therefore the
standard. In the Alto Naya massacre of
April 2001, military units deliberately dragged civilians into the streets and
shot them. In the Nueva Venecia massacre
fishermen by shooting them in the back of the head. In the El Salado Hamlet massacre of February
2000, paramilitaries set up a court in the village and tortured, shot, stabbed,
and decapitated civilians. These
examples and the others listed earlier in the report show that the killings are
clearly intentional and are not cases of manslaughter.
The fourth and final
standard looks at the primary characteristic of the abuse, which must be
killing. When looking at the AUC, the
primary characteristic of the abuse has been killing civilians, despite the
fact that they do engage in kidnappings as well. The FARC has been mostly responsible for
kidnappings, though they do carry out violent campaigns against suspected
anti-leftists. The ELN has not been
involved in killings nearly as often as the other two groups. Their focus has been on destroying oil
pipelines and targeting domestic infrastructure.
In conclusion, we feel that
the actions perpetrated by the AUC, the FARC, and the ELN would indeed fit
three of the four standards for genocide.
The atrocities in
and arguably killing is the primary nature of the abuse. The standard that
definition of the group being victimized.
In order to make a case for “ideological cleansing,” those being killed
and the motivation behind their murder must be shown to be consistent with
ideological classification. Without the
presence of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group being targeted
with the intent to destroy such group in whole or in part, it would appear
there is no genocide. Broadening the
definition to include political and ideological identification may create a
case for genocide; however, it is not clear whether or not those being targeted
actually belong to a particular classification.
Determining the identification of those being targeted and the
motivation behind the attacks is extremely difficult.
The case of
challenges in terms of classification.
In asking whether what is taking place is genocide, a number of factors
must be analyzed. We have already
examined how well the abuses in
genocide. Of key concern is the
definition of genocide and its interpretation by the international
To reiterate the definition
of genocide, Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as being acts committed with “intent to
destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”
The United States signed the Genocide Convention on the condition that it would
interpret this clause to mean to “destroy in whole or in substantial part”. (Heidenrich, 4) The definition of “substantial”
according to the
such numerical significance that the destruction of loss of that part would
cause the destruction of the group as a viable entity within the nation of
which such group is a part.” (Heidenrich, 4)
We have stated that there is
no clear intent to destroy a national, ethnic, or religious group. In this instance, Colombians are killing civilians
in a struggle for territorial control and dominance. Only if the definition is broadened to
include political ideology can a case for genocide possibly be made. Even assuming so raises another problem, in
that it is very difficult to determine whether or not political and ideological
factors are the motivation behind what is taking place.
It is clear that the first
stage of dealing with the question of genocide is to determine whether or not
what is taking place is based on ideology.
For the sake of analysis, we can assume that this is the case. The next stage is to explore the
interpretation of “substantial part.”
There is difficulty in determining precisely how many people are killed
for their supposed ideological beliefs and how many are killed in unrelated
violence. It is also arguable that
casualty numbers are not high enough to qualify as a “substantial part”. The definition does include the words “with
intent to destroy, in whole or in part.” The word “intent” does make it possible to
argue that regardless of how many people are killed, the motivation behind the
actions can qualify them as actions of genocide.
Our conclusion is that the
genocide. The abuses clearly do not
match the UN Definition according to the Genocide Convention (1948), and there
is only a tenuous argument from an ideological angle. However, the violence in
crimes against humanity, and a severe humanitarian crisis.
In its 1998 report on
Colombia and International Law, Human Rights Watch states that the laws of war
applicable to Colombia are: Common
Article 3 of the Geneva Convention of 1949 which applies to confrontations
between relatively armed groups within a state; Protocol II Additional to the
Geneva Conventions which is meant to protect civilians in cases of
non-international conflict being conducted by highly organized insurgents; and
Customary International Law which sets out acceptable practices for states.
(Human Rights Watch, War Without Quarter:
The following war crimes are
being committed in
non-combatants outside of combat; torture; mutilation of corpses; death
threats; forced displacement; hostage taking; and arbitrary detention. (Human
Rights Watch, War Without Quarter:
crimes against humanity are being committed in
murder; extermination; deportation
and forcible transfer of population; torture; forced disappearance of persons;
and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great
suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health (i.e.
mutilation of victims, death threats).
, John G.
How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policy Makers, Scholars, and the Concerned
Terrible Than Death:
Massacres, Drugs, and America’s War in Colombia.
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