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Colombia rights violations 'systematic and widespread': UN rights chief

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Saturday warned [UN News Centre report; press conference transcript] that Colombia faces continued human rights struggles, as she concluded a fact-finding mission [UNHRC report] to the country. Pointing to continued hostage takings, arbitrary arrests, and especially extrajudicial executions by the military as major struggles, Pillay told [IPS report] reporters:

An offense becomes a crime against humanity if it is widespread and systematic against the civilian population. We are observing and keeping a record of the number of extrajudicial killings, and it does appear systematic and widespread in my view.
Pillay met with civilian and military authorities, including President Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], and commended the Colombian government for its efforts to ensure the rights of internally displaced persons. During the course of her mission to Colombia, Uribe fired over twenty army officers for failing to prevent or investigate the executions. Pillay called the dismissals "a hopeful indication that such atrocities will not be tolerated." On Tuesday, amidst the controversy surrounding the findings, Colombia's army chief Gen. Mario Montoya resigned [BBC News report] from his position. Financial Times has more. Semana has local coverage.

Colombia's armed conflict [BBC backgrounder] has long been a focus of many human rights groups [HRW backgrounder] due to the violence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups, among others, which has resulted in Colombia having the second largest population of internally displaced persons in the world. Despite recent government attempts to quell the human rights violations, rights groups have not been convinced by the efforts and have claimed [Amnesty International report] that the situation is actually getting worse [JURIST report]. Last month, Human Rights Watch accused [JURIST report] Uribe of obstruction and interference in the investigation and prosecution of far-right militias in the country.

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