International crimes committed in Colombia
For decades, Colombia has suffered under an armed conflict that particularly affects the civilian population. In the course of this conflict, human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists have been labeled as guerrilla fighters, making them into ostensibly legitimate military targets for the Colombian army and paramilitary groups.
In light of the ongoing violence suffered by human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists, and the crucial importance of their work for a free and democratic society, there is an urgent need to take legal action and deter future attacks. The same applies to the widespread sexual violence against women, which is committed by all parties to the conflict and is part of the military strategy. There is a real need to challenge the impunity often enjoyed by those responsible, especially by higher ranking officials. Impunity is also rife when it comes to the impact of transnational corporations’ business practices in Colombia. The role of companies in human rights violations is rarely investigated, let alone examined before a court.
Focus on Colombia: ECCHR interventions before national and international courts
In light of the above, the situation in Colombia – which is representative of many recurring global human rights violations – is a focus area of ECCHR’s work. The goal is to hold accountable those responsible for international crimes, including the most powerful actors. Since to date there have been no effective investigations against high-level state officials in Colombia, ECCHR and its Colombian partner organizations are also calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take action.
Transitional justice: amicus curiae on command responsibility
In July 2017, ECCHR submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Colombian Constitutional Court in order to highlight gaps in the legislation to be applied in Colombia’s new Special Jurisdiction for Peace. In its submission, ECCHR argues that the formulation of the legal standards for establishing the responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by their subordinates – oft-amended during the peace negotiations between the government and FARC – is problematic, in particular regarding the requirements to demonstrate military commanders’ effective control over their subordinate units and the overly high threshold set for establishing the criminal liability of commanders.
The Case Nestlé/Luciano Romero
In March 2012 ECCHR filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against Nestlé concerning the murder of Colombian trade unionist Luciano Romero. In December 2014 ECCHR brought a complaint against Switzerland at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in connection with Romero’s case.
The case is also part of a communication ECCHR together with the Colombian human rights organisation CAJAR (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo) as well as the Colombian trade union confederation CUT (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia) submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as one example of the systematic persecution of trade unionists in Colombia.
ICC complaint on sexual violence in the Colombian conflict
Aiming to ensure that the topic of widespread conflict-related sexual violence against women is finally addressed by a court, ECCHR and Colombian human rights organisations SISMA Mujer and CAJAR (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo) submitted a communication (criminal complaint) concerning Colombia at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in April 2015. The organizations are calling on the Office of the Prosecutor in The Hague to investigate high ranking Colombian suspects.