Colombia: Human Rights Committee criticises batidas

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During its 99th session, the Human Rights Committee also considered the periodic report of Colombia. On the issue of conscientious objection, the Colombian delegation was requested to provide more particulars on conscientious objectors and what protections were in place for them until the law concerning this matter was adopted. The Committee referred to the ruling of the Constitutional Court, had handed down nine months ago, but there was still no written ruling. Did this delay pose problems for lower courts who were expected to implement the ruling and litigants who had filed cases under the law? Rulings could not be implemented on the basis of press releases alone.

In its reply the Colombian delegation said that although they did not have the full text from the Constitutional Court, they were familiar with part of the law through the press release. This did not stop people from filing cases based on the tutela law. In terms of military recruitment and compulsive military service, there were no regulations or clear procedures to respect the rights of persons who should be serving their military service. There was a law governing how people were recruited and how they were to report for service. When a man turned 18 he had to present himself to the military authorities to see if he would be recruited. If people were stopped and had an unclear military status they were not disappeared or deprived of liberty or not allowed to talk to their families. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been following this closely and there was a good relationship between the Office and the Department of Defence, so if there were any cases that were questionable or people filed complaints they would look into to determine the merits of the claim. Young men who could prove there were in school could postpone their military service.

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee wrote:
"22. The Committee notes with appreciation sentence C-728/2009 of the Constitutional Court, which urges the Congress to regulate conscientious objection to military service, which denotes an advance in the implementation of a previous recommendation made by the Committee in 2004 (CCPR/CO/80/COL, para. 17). The Committee, however, remains concerned about the lack of progress in the realisation of the legal changes necessary to recognise conscientious objection, and also about the practice of batidas to confirm who has performed military service (Article 18).

The State party should, without delay, adopt legislation that recognises and regulates conscientious objection to allow for the option of an alternative service, which option should not have punitive effects, and revise the practice of batidas."

With this Concluding Observations, the Human Rights Committee for the first time mentions and criticises the practice of batidas, following up on the Opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which did the same in its Opinion No 8/2008.

Sources: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Human Rights Committee considers report of Colombia, 16 July 2010; Human Rights Committee: Examen de los informes presentados por los Estados partes en virtud del artículo 40 del Pacto. Observaciones finales del Comité de Derechos Humanos - Colombia, CCPR/C/COL/CO/6, 29 July 2010

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