Committee against Torture
List of issues prior to the submission of the fifth periodic report of Colombia (CAT/C/COL/5), adopted by the Committee at its forty-eighth session, held from 7 May to 1 June 2012 *
Specific information on the implementation of articles 1 to 16 of the Convention, including with regard to the Committee’s previous recommendations
Articles 1 and 4
1.In its previous concluding observations (para. 10), the Committee noted with concern the judicial practices used when classifying offences, whereby the crime of torture is frequently assimilated to other less serious criminal offences such as that of personal injury, or is subsumed under other related offences. Please indicate the measures adopted by the State party to ensure that such crimes are punished with appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention. Please also clarify whether, on the basis of article 83 of the Criminal Code (Act No. 599 of 2000, paragraph amended by article 1 of Act No. 1426 of 2010), the statute of limitations is applicable to crimes of torture or enforced disappearance.
2.Please provide updated information on the existing procedures to ensure that:
(a)All persons deprived of their liberty receive assistance from a lawyer without delay and are able to contact their relatives or any person that they choose. Please indicate how soon detained persons are permitted to meet with their lawyers, and who makes this decision;
(b)All detainees are informed of their rights at the time of arrest and of the charges against them and are promptly brought before a judge;
(c)All persons deprived of their liberty undergo a medical examination, and all medical certificates that indicate injuries compatible with torture and ill-treatment are systematically brought to the attention of the relevant prosecutor. How are detainees provided with information on their right to request an independent medical examination by a doctor of their choosing and to ensure the accuracy of medical reports, including the right to see the reports?
3.In its previous concluding observations (para. 18), the Committee acknowledged the State party’s efforts to prevent gross human rights violations, including acts of torture, through the introduction of the Early Warning System (SAT) and the community defenders programme run by the Ombudsman’s Office. What steps have been taken to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to enable those programmes to operate effectively? Please evaluate the responses provided by national, regional and local authorities to the early warnings issued by SAT during the reporting period.
4.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 20), please provide information on the steps taken to eradicate the practice of mass arrests by the military in rural areas and administrative pretrial detention by the National Police.
5.Please provide information on the content and implementation of the Act to Respect, Locate and Identify Victims of Enforced Disappearance (Act No. 1408 of 2010). Please respond to the criticism regarding the lack of clarity about which organizations and entities are responsible for implementing the Act, the absence of monitoring mechanisms to verify its enforcement, and the inadequate provision in the Act for psychosocial assistance for victims. Please clarify whether Act No. 1408 of 2010 provides for civil society’s participation in its implementation. Please also indicate the steps taken to implement the recommendations adopted by the National Economic and Social Policy Council (CONPES) in June 2009 on strengthening the mechanisms to search for and identify disappeared persons. Does the State party intend to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance?
6.In the light of the previous concluding observations (para. 17), please evaluate the effectiveness of the different actions taken under the National Plan for the Search for Disappeared Persons adopted in 2007. How many requests for activation of the urgent search mechanism have been submitted during the reporting period, and what were the results? Please list the steps taken to ensure that the family members of disappeared persons have access to the Public Defender Service and to the victim and witness protection programmes. Has the Prosecutor-General’s Office drafted clear guidelines on searches for disappeared persons conducted by prosecutors from the Forced Displacement and Disappearance Unit?
7.According to information before the Committee, the illegal armed groups that have emerged following the demobilization of paramilitary organizations continue to expand, maintain extensive links with members of the public security forces, and are responsible for widespread attacks against the civilian population, including massacres, murders, acts of sexual violence, threats and extortion. Please provide information on the steps taken to deal with the threat that such groups pose to the civilian population, and in particular to human rights defenders, trade unionists, displaced persons, victims of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) and members of local communities who refuse to follow orders from that group. Please respond to the complaints indicating that the emergence of these groups coincided with a significant increase in homicide and internal displacement rates. Please provide information on the rules and controls applicable to the activities of private security agencies in Colombia that are authorized to use force in military operations or in the employ of large corporations; and also on the measures taken to prevent the recruitment of Colombian citizens working as mercenaries for third parties abroad.
8.In its previous concluding observations (para. 15), the Committee expressed concern about the threats against Supreme Court judges. Please respond to the reports indicating that judges and magistrates continue to suffer coercion, threats and attacks. In this regard, please inform the Committee of the results of the investigation into the murder of Judge Gloria Constanza Gaona Rangel on 22 March 2011 in Saravena (Arauca).
9.In the light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 28), in which it expressed its concern about the high incidence of sexual violence against women and about its use as a weapon of war, please provide updated information on the measures the State party has taken to prevent, combat and punish such violence. Please provide statistical data for the period 2010–2013 on the number of complaints lodged concerning the different forms of violence against women and on the number of court decisions issued in related cases, including the number of sentences handed down and the corresponding penalties. Please comment on the information indicating a decrease in the number of complaints of sexual violence reported, and on the many cases that go unpunished. Please provide information on the implementation in practice of the May 2008 Constitutional Court ruling requiring the Colombian State to tackle the wider problem of gender violence.
10.Please provide updated information, disaggregated by sex, age and ethnic origin or nationality of the victims, on the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentences imposed in cases of human trafficking since the consideration of the State party’s fourth periodic report. Please also provide additional information on:
(a)Any new legislation or measure that has been adopted to prevent and combat trafficking in persons;
(b)The measures adopted to ensure that victims of human trafficking have access to protection measures, as well as to effective remedies and reparation;
(c)The signature of bilateral and subregional agreements with countries concerned to prevent and combat human trafficking.
11.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 30), please provide information on the measures taken to ensure that, in revising its legislation on asylum and refugees, the State includes provisions that fully meet the obligations set out in article 3 of the Convention and in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951. If such measures have not yet been taken, please explain why not.
12.Please indicate the number of refugees, asylum seekers and other non-citizens, such as immigrants or expatriates, present in the State party’s territory. Please also indicate the number of persons, disaggregated by country of origin, who have been granted asylum or humanitarian protection, and the number of those who have been returned, extradited or expelled since the consideration of the State party’s fourth periodic report. Please provide details of the grounds on which they were sent back, including a list of countries to which individuals were returned. Please provide detailed information on the type of appeal mechanisms that may exist and on whether any appeals have been made and, if so, their outcome.
13.Please indicate the number of cases of refoulement, extradition and expulsion carried out by the State party during the reporting period through the acceptance of diplomatic assurances or the equivalent thereof, as well as any instances in which the State party has offered such diplomatic assurances or guarantees. What are the minimum contents of any such assurances or guarantees, whether given or received, and what measures with regard to subsequent monitoring have been taken in such cases?
14.In the light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 19), please provide information on the measures taken and the existing procedures to ensure that extraditions to other States do not hinder the investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations that have taken place in Colombia, and that the persons extradited do not escape criminal accountability.
15.Please indicate any legislative or other measures taken to implement article 5 of the Convention. Are acts of torture considered universal crimes under national law, wherever they occur and whatever the nationality of the perpetrator or victim? Please provide relevant examples of any such prosecutions.
16.Please inform the Committee of any extradition treaties concluded with other States parties and whether the offences referred to in article 4 of the Convention are included as extraditable offences in such treaties.
17.Please clarify what mutual judicial assistance treaties or agreements Colombia has entered into with other entities, such as countries, international tribunals or international institutions, and whether this has included in practice the transfer of any evidence in connection with offences of torture or ill-treatment. Please provide examples.
18.Please provide information on compulsory and optional training programmes developed by the State party to ensure that all law enforcement officials and members of the Armed Forces are fully aware of the provisions of the Convention and of the fact that breaches will not be tolerated and will be investigated and that offenders will be prosecuted. Please also indicate whether the State party has developed a methodology to assess the effectiveness and impact of training programmes in terms of reducing the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment and, if so, please provide information on the content and implementation of that methodology.
19.Please provide detailed information on training programmes for judges, prosecutors, forensic doctors and medical personnel dealing with detained persons on how to detect and document the physical and psychological effects of torture. Please include information on the follow-up and assessment of those programmes, and on their effectiveness and impact in terms of reducing the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment. Please evaluate the impact of the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol) as a support tool in the training courses provided by the School of Studies and Investigations and Criminological Sciences of the Prosecutor-General’s Office.
20.Please describe the procedures in place for ensuring compliance with article 11 of the Convention and provide information on any new rules, instructions, methods and practices or arrangements for custody that may have been introduced since the consideration of the previous report in 2009. Please also indicate the frequency with which these are reviewed.
21.Please provide details of action taken by the State party to ensure effective and independent supervision of prisons and other detention facilities. Are representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the International Committee of the Red Cross, allowed to make regular and unannounced visits to all detention facilities?
22.Please provide updated information, including statistics disaggregated by sex, age, ethnic origin or nationality, on the number of pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners and the occupancy rate of all places of detention.
23.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 21), please indicate the measures taken to:
(a)Reduce the occupancy rates in prisons in Colombia. Please evaluate the many legislative changes relating to criminal and penitentiary issues brought about by Act No. 890 of 2004, Act No. 1121 of 2006, and Act No. 1142 of 2007, and their impact on the prison system. Have any reforms been adopted to strengthen the system of alternatives to detention before and after trial?
(b)Improve the material and sanitary conditions in prisons. Please describe the measures taken by the State party to ensure an uninterrupted water supply to the medium- and high-security prison of Valledupar (Cesar);
(c)Review and limit the use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure. According to information before the Committee, the Special Treatment Units or punishment cells are used as permanent accommodation for detainees who request special protection measures. Please comment on that information;
(d)Strengthen the medical care services available in detention centres. Please comment on the information indicating a shortage of medical staff, a lack of proper equipment and medicine, and delays in providing medical care.
24.Please provide information on the investigations and disciplinary or criminal action taken, if any, in relation to the following cases in which detainees died owing to a lack of medical care, as reported by non-governmental sources: (a) the death of José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre on 8 January 2011 in the prison of Girón (Santander); and (b) the death of Arsecio Lemus, who suffered from hydrocephalus caused by a brain tumour, on 30 June 2010 in the prison of La Dorada (Caldas).
25.Please provide statistical data on deaths in custody during the reporting period, disaggregated by the place of detention, sex, age and ethnic origin or nationality of the deceased. Please give detailed information on the results of the investigations into those deaths. Please also indicate the protocols established for the treatment of detainees who go on hunger strike.
26.Please provide information about the frequency of violence among prisoners, including any cases involving possible negligence on the part of the law enforcement personnel, and the number of complaints made in this regard. What preventive measures have been taken?
27.Please provide information on the number of persons deprived of their liberty in psychiatric hospitals and in other institutions for persons with psychosocial disabilities. What is the situation with respect to alternative forms of treatment, such as community-based rehabilitation services and other outpatient treatment programmes?
Articles 12 and 13
28.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 12), please provide information on the State party’s efforts to establish a centralized register of cases of torture and ill-treatment. Please evaluate the results of the work of the inter-institutional subcommittee responsible for designing and developing the corresponding database.
29.According to the latest reports from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia, cases of torture inflicted by security forces are still being reported, particularly in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Meta, Valle del Cauca and Vichada. Please elaborate on steps taken by the State party to ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment committed by law enforcement officials. Please provide statistical data, disaggregated by sex, age, ethnic origin, nationality and place of detention, on complaints of acts of torture and ill-treatment recorded during the reporting period. Please include information on investigations, disciplinary and criminal proceedings, convictions and the criminal or disciplinary sanctions applied. In this regard, please provide statistical data on the application of the human rights certification criterion for promotion in the security forces, along with an evaluation of its impact since its adoption in 2008.
30.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 12), please indicate the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment investigated by the different units of the Prosecutor-General’s Office since 2009, the current stage of the proceedings, and the number of cases that have gone to trial, as well as the number of convictions and the sentences imposed. Please indicate how many cases were assigned to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Unit of the Prosecutor-General’s Office. Please comment on the reports indicating that the resources allocated to that unit are insufficient. Please also provide updated information on the degree of implementation of the “policy to counter impunity in cases of human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law by strengthening the Colombian State’s capacity to investigate, adjudicate and punish”, adopted in 2006 by the National Economic and Social Policy Council.
31.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 16), please provide information on the number of complaints of extrajudicial executions recorded during the reporting period. Please provide updated information on the results of the criminal investigations and prosecutions, including the sentences imposed, in cases of summary executions and “false positives”, or complaints alleging that military personnel murdered civilians who are then claimed to be guerrillas who died in combat.
32.In the light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 16), please provide information on the proposed legislative measures involving judicial reform, particularly the changes relating to military jurisdiction, as well as the most relevant changes introduced by the new Military Criminal Code. Please also respond to the concerns expressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights warning of diminished collaboration between the military criminal justice system and the ordinary justice system in terms of transferring cases of “deaths in combat” when there are signs of human rights violations. In addition, please comment on the complaints alleging that several military criminal judges were dismissed or transferred because they had collaborated with the ordinary justice system. Please evaluate the results of the Plan to Promote Special Cases initiated by the Executive Directorate of the Military Criminal Justice System.
33.In its previous concluding observations (para. 13), the Committee pointed out the need to remove the units of the Office of the Public Prosecutor from within military facilities. Please indicate the measures taken by the State party in this regard. How many prosecutors still carry out their duties within such facilities? What measures have been taken to ensure the independence of those prosecutors?
34.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 22), please indicate whether the internal complaint procedure available to persons deprived of their liberty has been reformed. If so, please provide information on the measures taken to ensure that an independent body conducts prompt and impartial investigations into all complaints of torture and ill-treatment.
35.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 24), please provide information on the measures taken to address the serious deficiencies in the witness protection system. Please indicate the number of persons who currently benefit from the victim and witness protection programme established under the Justice and Peace Act, the protection programme run by the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, and the victim and witness protection programme run by the Prosecutor-General’s Office. How many persons have been murdered, attacked or threatened after joining one of these victim and witness protection programmes?
36.Please evaluate the degree of implementation of Act No. 975 of 2005 (Justice and Peace Act) and the results of the proceedings seeking truth, justice and reparation for victims of torture and ill-treatment. Please indicate in particular the number of individuals who have effectively confirmed their willingness to participate in the proceedings, the number of members of demobilized armed groups who have been charged, and the number of judgements pronounced. Please indicate the number of confessions of acts of torture or ill-treatment recorded since the courts began hearing testimony and the number of accusations of acts of torture or ill-treatment submitted by the prosecution service to the judges of the Division of Justice and Peace. Please respond to the reports claiming that neither the investigation methodology used by the prosecution service nor the first judgements issued in application of Act No. 975 of 2005 serve to highlight the acts of torture committed. Please comment on the recommendation made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the need for a profound reform of Act No. 975 of 2005.
37.Please clarify the content and scope of application of Act No. 1424 of 2010, “establishing transitional justice provisions to guarantee truth, justice and reparation for victims of demobilized members of illegal organized groups, granting legal benefits and laying down other provisions” following the pronouncement of Constitutional Court Judgement C-771/11 of 13 October 2011.
38.In the light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (paras. 25–27), please provide information on redress and compensation measures, including the means of rehabilitation, ordered by the courts and actually provided to victims of torture or their families since the examination of the fourth periodic report in 2009. Please indicate the number of requests made, the number granted, and the amounts ordered and those actually provided in each case. Please also include information on the content and scope of the new Victims and Land Restitution Act (Act No. 1448 of 2011). According to information before the Committee, 28 land claimants were murdered in 2011. Please comment on reports indicating a rise in the number of cases of harassment and threats against representatives of victims following the adoption of Act No. 1148 of 2001.
39.Please clarify whether the right to compensation is dependent on the issuing of a judgement in criminal proceedings ordering compensation. Please indicate the number of persons who have thus far received individual reparation through administrative channels as regulated by Decree No. 1290 of 2008. What other possibilities for reparation through administrative channels are available to victims of torture? Please indicate how many victims have been compensated despite the perpetrator not being identified. Do investigations into such cases continue until the perpetrator(s) is/are identified and brought to justice? Can compensation be obtained by a victim of torture or ill-treatment if the perpetrator has been subjected to a disciplinary, but not a criminal, sanction?
40.Please give information on reparation programmes, including those providing for the treatment of trauma and other forms of rehabilitation, made available to victims of torture and ill-treatment, as well as on the allocation of adequate resources to ensure the effective operation of such programmes. Please give information on the level of collaboration with specialized NGOs in this area and indicate whether the Government provides financial and/or other support for their effective implementation.
41.Please give examples of any cases that have been dismissed by the courts due to the introduction of evidence or testimony obtained through torture or ill-treatment.
42.According to information before the Committee, human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders, teachers, trade unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, LGBT activists, representatives of displaced persons, and victims of paramilitary violence who seek justice or the restitution of their lands continue to suffer threats and attacks. With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 23), please evaluate the effectiveness of the measures adopted to prevent attacks on and protect the life and physical integrity of human rights defenders and other members of civil society. Please provide information on any investigations conducted into the following cases:
(a)The threats allegedly made by the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Communist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) against the 20 women’s organizations that make up the Committee to Monitor Order No. 092 on 4 April 2011;
(b)The kidnapping, torture and sexual assault of journalist Jineth Bedoya on 25 May 2000 by alleged paramilitaries while she was investigating cases of corruption in La Modelo prison.
43.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 15), please provide information on the measures adopted to end the abuses perpetrated by the Colombian intelligence service. Please include details of the results of the judicial investigations into the illegal surveillance and harassment of Supreme Court judges, trade unionists, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition politicians by agents of the Department of National Security (DAS). Please indicate in particular how many cases have been investigated, how many persons have been prosecuted, what positions they hold, and what sentences, if any, have been handed down to those responsible.
44.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 29), please provide updated information on the measures taken by the State party to prevent the recruitment and use of children in the internal armed conflict by guerrilla groups and illegal armed groups that have emerged following the demobilization of paramilitary organizations. Please give details of the measures taken in this regard, as well as information on the rehabilitation and social reintegration services available to these children.
45.With regard to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 32), is the State party considering the possibility of making the declaration provided for under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention?
46.Please indicate whether the State party intends to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and, if so, the status of the ratification process.
47.Please provide information on the legislative, administrative and other measures undertaken by the State party to respond to the threat of terrorist acts, and please describe if, and how, these measures have affected human rights safeguards in law and practice. In this respect, the Committee would like to recall Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001), 1456 (2003), 1535 (2004), 1566 (2004) and 1624 (2005), which reiterate that States must “ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law”. Please describe the relevant training given to law enforcement officers, the number and types of convictions under such legislation, the legal remedies available to persons subjected to anti-terrorist measures, whether there are any complaints of non-observance of international standards, and the outcome of such complaints.
48.With reference to its previous concluding observations (para. 31), the Committee invites the State party to submit its core document in accordance with the requirements concerning the common core document set forth in the harmonized guidelines on reporting adopted by the international human rights treaty bodies, as contained in document HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, chapter I.
General information on the human rights situation in the State party, including information on new measures and developments relating to the implementation of the Convention
49.Please provide detailed information on relevant developments concerning the legal and institutional framework within which human rights are promoted and protected at the national level that have occurred since the submission of the fourth periodic report, including any relevant jurisprudential decisions.
50.Please provide detailed information on new political, administrative and other measures taken to promote and protect human rights at the national level since the submission of the fourth periodic report, including information on any national human rights plans or programmes, the resources allocated thereto, and the corresponding means, objectives and results.
51.Please provide any other information on new measures undertaken and any other developments in connection with the implementation of the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations since the consideration of the fourth periodic report in May 2010, including the corresponding statistics, as well as information on any other events that may have occurred in the State party which are relevant under the Convention.