State Department Human Rights Report on Colombia Names SOA Graduates Print
The Ties That Bind: Colombia & Military – Paramilitary Links -

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, issued February 23, 2000, presents detailed and abundant evidence of continuing ties between the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups. Complied by Human Rights Watch and investigators from the Colombian government, the report implicates three brigades that operate in Colombia’s three major cities, including the capital, Bogot?. The report reveals that despite claims by the Colombian Army, military support for the paramilitaries remains national in scope. In fact, the cited brigades function in areas of the country where military units are receiving or are scheduled to receive U.S. aid.

The investigation found that as recently as 1999 Colombian Army officers established a "paramilitary" group composed of active duty, retired and reserve duty officers. "Paramilitaries," such as this, operate in coordination with the military. This means that the Colombian military shares intelligence, plans and carries out joint operations, provides weapons and munitions, provides support with helicopters and medical aid, and coordinates with the paramilitaries on a daily basis.

It is important to note that though human rights violations attributed to the Colombian military have diminished over the past several years, abuses by the paramilitaries have skyrocketed to 70% of all violations. The military—paramilitary ties allow political violence to continue while the Colombian Army maintains a relatively clean human rights record, making it eligible for U.S. military aid.

SOA Graduates

Human Rights Watch reports that at least 7 SOA graduates are highly involved with the paramilitary. Colombia has graduated more officers from the SOA than any other country. Among the officers cited in the report are Brig. General Jaime Ernesto Canal Alb?n, General Carlos Opsina Ovalle, Captain Diego Fernando Fino and Major David Hern?ndez Rojas.

Hern?ndez trained at the SOA in 1985 for Cadet Arms Orientation and in 1991 for Psychological Operations. In August 1996, troops under Hern?ndez’s command fired on and used tear gas against a group of protesting peasants. Four were wounded. The soldiers also burned the protester’s tents and stole money intended to purchase food. (Noche y neblina: Panorama de derechos humanos y violencia politica en Colombia, Banco de Datos de violencica politica).

Supporters of the SOA say that training at the school does not lead to human rights violations and that the SOA is actually increasingly important as a tool to teach democracy and instill respect for human rights. The Human Rights Watch report presents the SOA grads as evidence that training does not prevent human rights abuses. The Colombian military continues to operate outside the rule of law in its relationship with the paramilitaries. The Colombian government has been unable to force the military to sever ties with the paramilitaries and act in accordance with the laws. Officials who have tried are often subjected to death threats and several officials who worked as government investigators for the HRW report were forced to leave the country. The School of Americas is not a human rights training tool and continued training and aid to the Colombian military only serves to support and legitimate the Colombian Army’s connection to the paramilitaries and the human rights violations that occur.

Military aid and training to Colombia must be stopped and the SOA must be closed!

ACT NOW TO STOP the "Emergency Supplemental" Aid Package of $1.3 BILLION