Systematic Crimes Against Civilian Population Constitute Crimes Against Humanity, Not Only War Crimes
Paramilitary groups are carrying out a planned extermination of civil population in Colombia
By Gregorio Dionis, Equipo Nizkor Director
1) According to the Nuremberg Statute and judgments, as well as subsequent judgments of the ad-hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), particularly the Tadic verdict dated 15jul99, military commanders and civil servants who control the area where the paramilitaries have acted must be held responsible for not preventing paramilitary crimes, as if they had directly ordered the operations within their command area.
The commanders of the militarized zones who are at the top of the chain of command and who are therefore the superiors to the Battalions and their commanding officers, are responsible for not halting the activities of the criminal organizations that make up the paramilitary groups. Allegations of territorial subordination are not sufficient when the offenses involved are of such a nature. Those responsible must be brought before a tribunal not only on the basis that "they should have known" but that "they are in a duty to know" what takes place within their command area, as it has been established in the TIHOMIR BLASKIC verdict dated 03mar00, issued by the ICTY.
2) Paramilitary forces in Colombia use the "modus operandi" of covert military actions and counterintelligence operations, therefore the military division area commanders and Colombian Army General Staff are both responsible for war crimes, kidnappings, enforced disappearances and other serious crimes against humanity.
These offenses, under the rules used by International Criminal Courts and according to current doctrine on International Humanitarian Law, neither prescribe, nor may they be subject to any sort of amnesty. The same has also been said regarding the Atlacatl Battalion in El Salvador by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission through its recent decision on the Jesuit case.
3) The paramilitaries must understand that according to the Geneva Conventions, mercenaries can never enjoy the legal status of combatant or of prisoner of war and that they will be tried for membership in a criminal organization.
4) There is an obvious pattern of civilian population extermination, utilizing modern "social control" techniques (such us computer simulation techniques). Lists of civil, political, social and cultural activists are made and: a) these persons are targeted; b) they are publicly threatened, to identify them to the paramilitaries, and at the same time, to grant impunity to the command chain; c) security coverage zones in rural and urban areas are cleared in preparation for executions; d) communications and logistical support are arranged and the moment of execution is determined.
These deeds fall under the figure of criminal organization and systematic planning of civilian extermination.
5) Murder is a crime against humanity and therefore punishable under international criminal law. Murder has been recognized as crime against humanity since as early as World war I, in the 1915 Declaration of France, Great Britain, and Russia, and by the 1919 Peace Conference Commission.
Since that time, the crime of murder has been included as a crime against humanity in Article 6(c) of the Nuremberg Charter, ArticleII, paragraph c of Allied Control Council Law No. 10, Article 5 (c) of the Tokyo Charter, Principle VI (c) of the Nuremberg Principles, Article 5 (a) of the ex Yugoslavia Statute and Article 3 (a) of the Rwanda Statute, Article 18 of the Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, and Article 2, paragraph 11, of the 1954 Draft Code.
In the Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, the International Law Commission explains that muder "is a crime that is clearly understood and well defined in the national law of every State". The conceptual differences in the definition of murder between the various national criminal justice systems sometimes confuse the question of inclusion of murder as a crime against humanity.
The definition of murder as a crime against humanity covers extrajudicial killings, which are unlawful and deliberate killings, carried out by order of a government or with its complicity or acquiescence. Extrajudicial killings are deliberate and violative of national and international standards. The crime of murder need not be deliberate, however, and includes the creation of life-endangering conditions likely to result in death [Bassiouni, Cherif, Crimes Against Humanity in International Criminal Law 291 (1992)].
Extermination is a crime against humanity and therefore punishable under international law. Extermination has been recognized as a crime against humanity by article 6(c) of the Nuremberg Statute; article II(1) (c) of Control Council Law No. 10; article 5(c) of the Tokio Statute and Principle IV(c) of the Nuremberg Principles. It has also been included in the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (article 5) and Rwanda (article 3), and also in the Draft Code of Crimes againsy the Peace and Security of Mankind [1954: article 2, 11 and 1996: article 18(b)].
In its 1996 report, the International Law Commission explained that while both murder and extermination consist of the related criminal conduct of taking innocent human lives, "extermination involves an element of mass destruction which is not required for murder." The Commission futher explained, "Extermination is a crime which by its very nature is directed against a group of individuals.... In this regard, extermination is closely related to the crime of genocide in that both crimes are directed against a large number of victims. " However, the crime of extermination differs from genocide in that it "covers situations in which a group of individuals who do not share any common characteristics are killed. It also applies to situations in which some members of a group are killed while others are spared." Finally, the Statute of the International Criminal Court defines extermination to include "intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population." (Article 7.2)
Human rights organizations and its members must enjoy a special protection from the Colombian government, which is responsible for guaranteeing the life and security of all colombians, as well as their rights and freedoms. Up to date, the Colombian government's failure to act in relation to its duty of assistace is well known and obvious; we are convinced that these systematic campaigns respond to a plan of the General Staff in operations; they consider that these organizations are harmful to the social and political control over the civil war that is taking place in Colombia.
It is very important that human rights organizations and activists all around the world send a clear message --by using both, public and confidential resources-- to Mr. Pastrana's government making it clear that they can be brought to justice if they do not guarantee these minimum standards.
EU, March, 2001
Addresses from the Colombian Authorities
for urgent Urgent Solidarity
HR in Colombia
This document has been edited on May01 by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights