Report: Military Assistance and Human Rights: Colombia, U.S. Accountability, and Global Implications

U.S. military aid flowing to Colombia is having a direct, negative effect on the human rights of Colombians. Though the “Leahy Law” prohibits aid to military units that have committed gross violations, the United States continues to support such units in Colombia. Worse, areas where Colombian army units received the largest increases in U.S.assistance reported increased extrajudicial killings on average.

You can read the executive summary below, browse our recommendations, or download the full report (PDF, 1.4 MB).

Executive Summary

The scale of U.S. training and equipping of other nations’ militaries has grown exponentially since 2001, but there are major concerns about the extent to which the U.S.government is implementing the laws and monitoring the impact its military aid is having on human rights. This report by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and U.S. Office on Colombia examines these issues through a detailed case study of U.S. military aid, human rights abuses, and implementation of human rights law in Colombia.

28U.S. Military Assistance to the Colombian ArmyThe experience of US military funding to Colombia shows alarming links between Colombian military units that receiveU.S. assistance and civilian killings committed by the army. To prevent similar errors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, relevant Congressional committees and the State Department Office of the Inspector General must thoroughly study the Colombia case and implementation of U.S. law designed to keep security assistance from going to security force units committing gross human rights violations.

Monument to Impunity: Medellín Judge Acquits Officers Involved in Massacre

Monument to Impunity: Medellín Judge Acquits Officers Involved in Massacre
 Disregarding recent Supreme Court precedents on command responsibility, a judge in Medellin acquitted 10 officers investigated for the February 2005 massacre in which Peace Community members, including 3 children were brutally murdered. The ruling was released August 6th. (1)

Although it had been proven that army and paramilitary forces had patrolled together for several days, including the day when the massacre took place, the judge found that the army could not be held responsible for the killings, because there was no proof that the officers had planned the actual killings in advance with the death squads and that “they did not know nor should have known the risks of their action [of patrolling with the illegal groups]”.

Our Planet of Tranquilandia

By Liza Smith

It’s the eleventh day of the tour and we’ve introduced a new word to both the Spanish and English languages — it is a cross between “tranquila” which means “relaxed” and is a pop cultural reference to Transylvania: the place in Romania where vampires originated and the planet where the dancing extra-terrestrial transvestites in Rocky Horror Picture Show come from.

Our new word is tranquilandia and it describes the peaceful world of our van; everything else is a rush between places and people, a different bed every night, new streets and getting lost, loading and unloading our suitcases at each stop. But in the van we chill, take a deep breath and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. Right now, somewhere between Wooster, Ohio and Allentown, Pennsylvania, we just passed a sign that read, “Dusty Bibles Lead to Dirty Lives” and a confederate flag. It’s slightly raining and Jill Scott is playing in our world of Tranquilandia.

I take this opportunity to chat with Paula about her impressions of the tour so far. What has she liked the most? The yellow leaves she says (we’ve taken a number of pictures featuring Paula and the leaves) and the egg quiche that we ate this morning for breakfast. She’s a bit tired (we’ve been packing it in and always seem to be running a bit behind schedule) and she misses Colombia too.

I ask Paula what inspires her about what she has seen up to this point? She talks about one interesting and exciting example of campus organizing: the Coke boycott. A student we recently met at Loyola University described the organizing process — collect as many signatures as possible among the students and present a petition to the university, with information about the human rights abuses in Colombia in which Coke is implicated and then pressure the university to cancel the contract. Paula saw value in this strategy because organizers don’t have to depend on the usual avenues of state infrastructure (like lobbying politicians), but rather can push for a change in their own community and in the process educate and politicize as many folks as possible.

Next I asked her what seemed like the biggest challenge or obstacle to doing this work in the US? She responded that the students at each campus focus on the war in Iraq or Colombia or maybe another crisis in another place, but notices that the tendency is to focus on issues “over there” and that it seems there aren’t local issues that unite them where they are. For example, at Wooster College after talking about the relationship between displacement and militarism in both Colombia and Detroit, we brought the discussion back into the here and now — and talked about race relations on campus. The all white audience at our panel recognized that while there might not be overt racism at their school, there are “invisible lines that divide us.” Paula connects these “invisible lines” to a culture of individualism where everybody has their own computer, phone, house and car and where people don’t step across those invisible lines to be interested in one another’s struggles. During her talks she often shares how the Red Juvenil also fights against the forces of individualism and works to create a horizontal structure based on a culture of collectivity and solidarity.

Paula talks about how students have access to so much information and many possibilities to learn about different issues. She wonders what makes a person take a step beyond their own education and move into action. How can we encourage folks to go beyond just learning about the issues? With these questions unanswered we continue orbiting in our world of Tranquilandia and head to the next stop — Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.


A few words from tour member Isaac Martin

By Maryrose Dolezal

With us on the Drop Beats Not Bombs tour are Invincible, Paula Galeano, Not Your Soldier facilitator Isaac Martin, & FOR staff Liza Smith and Maryrose Dolezal. Missing from the tour, at the moment, are tour members Shauen Pearce and Brie Phillips. Shauen participated in the tour launch in St. Paul last week, and Brie will be joining at the stop in Allentown, PA next weekend. Shauen and Brie are providing back up from the offices in St. Paul and Washington DC.

Tour member Isaac Martin joined at the last minute due to staff illnesses to lead workshop facilitation. He has also been invaluable in helping with merchandise sales, translation, and packing the van! Isaac has been journaling about his experience along the way — check it out below, and check back for more soon!

Getting the opportunity to be on the tour!

Hi everyone, this is Isaac Martin. I wasn’t originally set to be on this tour, but a last minute change to the tour has given me the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge of youth activism/organizing and social justice focused youth mentorship.What is social justice youth mentorship, you may ask? Well it’s the engagement of youth to understand the social conditions of their community from a critical thinking lens. Where traditional youth mentorship is more focused on self confidence and self esteem as a way to build personal leadership and develop stronger social interaction, social justice youth mentorship encompasses all that traditional youth mentorship does, as well as develop critical thinking, community based leadership development, and community engagement. Traditional youth mentorship attempts to “fill a gap” or “void” in a young persons life, and help them participate in positive ways in the world around them. Although there is lots of overlap, social justice youth mentorship goes another few steps, supporting youth to take ownership of their identity and responsibility to question the world around them. As a young person who’s been on both sides of the coin, I can speak to the importance of any such program that seeks to make an impact not only to the lives of young people, but the communities that they live in.

There are generally two outcomes, (none of which is mutually exclusive of each other)

1. The young person gains a better sense of their skills and knowledge.

2. The young person develops a sense of self determination and takes more of active role in shaping their future. (Many end up understanding the importance of continuing their education, and while others take more of an active role in changing their communities.)

As part of this tour, we are seeking youth activist/organizers who are dedicated to making an impact in their local community. We are seeking to build relationships with college students who are committed to develop their leadership and facilitation skills as young adult youth mentors, in order to build a movement towards social justice on their campuses and in their communities.

I feel very privileged to be on the Drop Beats Not Bombs tour as a representative of theFellowship Of Reconciliation (FOR) and Not Your Soldier. I consider myself lucky to be on a tour headlined by Invincible, an amazing female hip-hop artist from Detroit, andPaula Galeano, a Colombian Conscientious Objector and Director of the “Red Juvenile” or Youth Network in Medellin Columbia.

“I guess that makes me the unlisted opening act…”

Hamline (11/5 -11/6)

Day 1

We started the tour on Wednesday in St. Paul MN at Hamline University. We held our first set of workshops, Not Your Soldier & Art in Resistance. Felt good to get the tour underway close to home, well my new home anyway. (I just moved to Mpls a few weeks ago from LA, after my short and good experience organizing with Not Your Soldier and Youth Against War and Racism for the summer Counter Recruitment training and RNCstudent walk out). The response and participation in the workshops was good and gave us a feel for what to expect and what to work on for the rest of the tour. We also got to see Invincible perform that evening and see firsthand the hard work she puts into every performance.

Driving to Chicago (11/7)

We spent just under six hours on the road and got into the windy city with an amazing view of the skyline from the I-90. We’re hungry and are looking for something to eat, if you got any ideas for us while we’re in Chicago, let us know

Chicago! (11/7-8)

The tour is well underway here. We stopped at DePaul University and gave our Not Your Soldier workshop to students and faculty. It went very well and we got to share some interesting experiences with the participants. During the panel discussion that evening I began to lose my voice!! (Oh no!!) I don’t know how that will affect the tour as of yet, but I am working to get better fast!!!

*Saturday morning we had brunch at the Living Water Community Church, followed by a presentation on youth militarism and resistance in Colombia.

*Saturday afternoon a few of us toured Chicago, accompanied by our host Gilberto Villesenor.

*Saturday afternoon and evening was the Peace is Always in Fashion Show hosted byAFSC at Q4, followed by an after party at Gilberto’s.

More Soon!

Peace is Always in Fashion

By Maryrose Dolezal

Last night the Drop Beats Not Bombs tour had an awesome show at Quennect 4, hosted by the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago!

The event, “Peace is Always in Fashion,” started with a fashion show to protest Sear’s new “First Infantry” line of military issues apparel, and to offer non-military based fashion options. The fashions were modeled by students who were involved with the AFSC Chicago’s 2008 summer institute, a program for high schoolers to learn about militarism and alternatives to military service, and other friends and supporters. Following the fashion show, we were entertained by Primo Dance Troup from University of Illinois Chicago, Perfect Kiss, an excellent new wave band, local rapper Popz Crakaz, DJ Orville Kline, & Invincible, who fininshed the night with a full set including guest appearnces by Chicago based FM Supreme and b-boy Super In Light.

Thanks to Sheena, Rachel, Darlene, and all the AFSC organizers who made this event a success! Learn more aboutAFSC’s work to support youth resistance to militarism at: