Colombia: The military police and military police anti-riot operations, including their involvement in serious human rights violations between December 1995 and June 1997 during demonstrations in Caquetá; the National Police Intelligence Directorate (Dirección de Inteligencia Policial de la Policía Nacional, DIPOL) and their involvement in serious human rights violations, including murder and disappearances, between May 1996 and June 2008; whether DIPOL was previously known as SIPOL (December 1995–June 2008) [COL200909.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Information on the military police and military police anti-riot operations, including their involvement in serious human rights violations between December 1995 and June 1997 during demonstrations in Caquetá, and information on DIPOL and their involvement in serious human rights violations, including murder and disappearances between May 1996 and June 2008, was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

1. Overview

According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996, the government's "overall human rights record remained poor" and armed forces and police "continued to be responsible for serious abuses" (US 30 Jan. 1997, 1).

The information in the following paragraph was provided to the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 1997:

According to a representative of Franciscans International, the government of Colombia "had carried out a systematic pattern of human-rights violations for years," including forced disappearances, which "in the majority of cases [were] accompanied by torture and summary executions." The same representative reported that "[a]rbitrary dete[n]tions were increasing in areas under military control" and the situation had "deteriorated considerably" in 1996 as a result of a paramilitary group "offensive." Several NGO representatives stated that, on average, 10 Colombians were killed every day over politics or ideology. An International Federation for Human Rights (Fédération international des ligues des droits de l'homme, FIDH) representative added that "one person disappeared every two days." According to a representative of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, guerrilla forces were responsible for 30 percent of the killings, while the remainder were committed by government forces, "who enjoyed 100 percent impunity" (UN 10 Apr. 1997, 12, 13, 15).

Amnesty International provides the following information in a 1997 report:

More than 1,000 civilians were extrajudicially executed by the security forces and paramilitary groups operating with their support or acquiescence [in 1996]. Many victims had been tortured. Human rights activists were repeatedly threatened and attacked. More than 120 people "disappeared" after detention by the armed forces or paramilitary groups. "Death squad"-style killings of people regarded as "disposable" continued in urban areas. Several army officers were charged in connection with human rights violations, but many others continued to evade accountability for thousands of extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" in recent years. (Amnesty International 1 Jan. 1997)

According to the same source,

the Procurator Delegate for Human Rights [Procurador Delegado para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos] announced that during the previous 15 months his office had imposed disciplinary sanctions, including 50 dismissals, against 126 military and police personnel for violations of human rights. In the same period, the Procurator Delegate had opened more than 600 cases against members of the security forces involving 1,338 victims of massacres, torture and "disappearance." (Amnesty International 1 Jan. 1997)

2. Military Police and Anti-Riot Operations

US Country Reports 1996 indicates that

[w]ith notable exceptions, the security forces generally exercised restraint in dealing with protesters. However, soldiers reportedly killed several militant coca farmers and field workers ("cocaleros") and injured hundreds who—supported in part by guerrillas and narcotics traffickers—were seeking to impede antinarcotics programs in the south in August …. Security forces were responsible for dozens of disappearances. (US 30 Jan. 1997, 1–2)

2.1 Human Rights Violations Between December 1995 and June 1997 in Caquetá

Sources report that to protest the destruction of coca crops in Caquetá and two other departments, farmers staged protests in July 1996 (USCRI 1 Jan. 1997) or organized "strikes and mass demonstrations" between July and September 1996 (Amnesty International 1 Jan. 1997). Sources indicate that government forces "frequently" responded with "excessive use of force" (Amnesty International 1 Jan. 1997) or that "military authorities in charge of special public order zones" in Caquetá and the other departments used violence to disperse protesters, "reportedly burn[ing] homes and belongings and threaten[ing] local authorities, forcing some to flee the area" (USCRI 1 Jan. 1997). Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that soldiers were filmed shooting at coca farmers in Caquetá (HRW 1 Jan. 1997).

Amnesty International notes that "at least 12 unarmed civilians died" in those protests, and "scores of protesters and journalists were seriously injured" (Amnesty International 1 Jan. 1997). According to US Country Reports 1996, army soldiers "severely beat" a cameraman in Caquetá because he had recorded them "beating an unarmed civilian" (US 1 Jan. 1997). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-profit organization that "promotes press freedom" (CPJ n.d.), notes that a cameraman "was beaten repeatedly by three soldiers with the butts of their G-3 rifles" for photographing "the soldiers firing upon farm workers" (CPJ Feb. 1997).

3. DIPOL

In an article in the journal Strategic Insights [1], Steven C. Boraz, a lieutenant commander and intelligence officer for the US Navy (U.S. Naval Institute n.d.), states that DIPOL is the intelligence unit of the National Police, which "fall[s] under control of the Defense Ministry" and works "primarily in urban areas, attempting to curtail organized crime, break up insurgent cells and stop kidnapping, drug trafficking and other illicit activities" (Boraz May 2007, 2). International Crisis Group similarly notes that DIPOL refers to "police intelligence" (International Crisis Group 14 Mar. 2008, 4).

3.1 Whether DIPOL Was Previously Known as SIPOL

According to a 2004 report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Observatory), a joint program of the FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (Organisation mondiale contre la torture, OMCT), SIPOL is the metropolitan police of Santafé de Bogotá (Observatory 14 Apr. 2004). However, sources published in 2006 and 2007 state that SIPOL is the Intelligence Service of the National Police (Servicio de Inteligencia de la Policía Nacional) (UN 5 Apr. 2007, para. 105; Amnesty International 11 Oct. 2006) or the police "intelligence agenc[y]" (International Crisis Group 10 May 2007, 23). Insight Crime, an organization that researches and analyzes "organized crime in the Americas" (InSight Crime n.d.), similarly indicates in 2016 that SIPOL is an acronym used to refer to the "intelligence unit" of the Colombian police (InSight Crime 18 Mar. 2016).

3.2 Human Rights Violations Between May 1996 and June 2008

Information on human rights violations committed by DIPOL between May 1996 and June 2008 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] Strategic Insights was an online journal, published by the Center on Contemporary Conflict (CCC), that covered national security topics with both peer-reviewed content and "viewpoints" (US n.d.). The CCC is an institute of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), a US Navy educational institution (US n.d.).

References

Amnesty International. 11 October 2006. "José Humberto Torres Díaz (m), Lawyer and Human Rights Defender. Other Members of the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, FCSPP)." (AMR 23/043/2006) [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

Amnesty International. 1 January 1997. "Colombia." Amnesty International Report 1997. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2021]

Boraz, Steven C. May 2007. "Intelligence Reform in Colombia: Transparency and Effectiveness Against Internal Threats." Strategic Insights. Vol. IV, No. 3. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2021]

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). February 1997. "Attacks on the Press in 1996 – Colombia." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). N.d. "What We Do." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 1 January 1997. "Colombia." World Report 1997: Events of 1996. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2021]

InSight Crime. 18 March 2016. Elyssa Pachico. "Where Drug Deals Are Most Likely to Happen in Colombia." [Accessed 17 Dec. 2021]

InSight Crime. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 17 Dec. 2021]

International Crisis Group. 14 March 2008. Latin American Drugs I: Losing the Fight. Latin America Report No. 25. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

International Crisis Group. 10 May 2007. Colombia's New Armed Groups. Latin America Report No. 20. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Observatory). 14 April 2004. "Colombia." Annual Report 2003. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

United Nations (UN). 5 April 2007. Human Rights Council. "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Leandro Despouy: Addendum. Situations in Specific Countries or Territories." (A/HRC/4/25/Add.1) [Accessed 15 Dec. 2021]

United Nations (UN). 10 April 1997. UN Information Service. "Non-Governmental Organizations Claim Numerous Violations of Human Rights Around World." (HR/CN/796) [Accessed 14 Dec. 2021]

United States (US). 30 January 1997. Department of State. "Colombia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2021]

United States (US). N.d. US Navy, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). "Strategic Insights (Journal), 2002-2010." [Accessed 24 Jan. 2022]

U.S. Naval Institute. N.d. "Steven C. Boraz." [Accessed 14 Jan. 2022]

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). 1 January 1997. "Country Report: Colombia." World Refugee Survey 1997. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: assistant professor at an American university who researches law enforcement agencies and police-civilian interactions; assistant professor at an American university who researches policing and state violence in Latin America; associate professor at a Canadian university whose research topics include Colombia, human rights, social movements, violence and authoritarianism; associate professor at a Colombian university who researches law and social movements, and law and violence; Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular; Council on Foreign Relations; Fundación País Libre; Human Rights Watch; InSight Crime; Latin America Working Group; professor at a Colombian university who studies international relations, military, politics, and human rights in Colombia; professor at a Colombian university who studies police and security in Colombia; professor at an American university who researches security and politics in Latin America and the Caribbean; professor at an American university who specializes in human rights, criminal law, and national security law in Colombia; professor of international politics at a Colombian university; professor of political science at a Colombian university who researches security and defence in Colombia; Washington Office on Latin America; Wilson Center.

Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; Associated Press; Australia – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; BBC; Belgium – Cedoca, Commissariat general aux réfugiés et aux apatrides; Bertelsmann Stiftung; Brookings Institution; Center for Strategic and International Studies; Centro de Investigación y Educacion Popular; Colombia – Dirección de Inteligencia Policial de la Policía Nacional, Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Policia Nacional; Council of Europe – European Court of Human Rights; Council on Foreign Relations; ecoi.net; El Espectador; El Tiempo; EU – European Asylum Support Office; Factiva; Freedom House; Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance; The Guardian; Institute For War and Peace Reporting; INTERPOL; Netherlands – Ministry of Foreign Affairs; The New Humanitarian; Norway – Landinfo; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; Organization of American States – Inter-American Court of Human Rights; Reporters sans frontières; Reuters; Semana; Transnational Institute; Transparency International; UK – Home Office; UN – Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; University of Miami Inter-American Law Review; US – Library of Congress, National Defense Intelligence College; Washington Office on Latin America; Wilson Center; WRITENET.