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Our honest apologies for not saying thanks to you earlier. The Leahy amendment prohibits funds from being provided to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the secretary of state has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights, unless the secretary determines and reports to the congressional committees on appropriations that the government involved is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.
In an important and welcome move, the State Department has chosen to apply the spirit of the Leahy amendment broadly, to include all types of aid, including presidential drawdowns. These conditions have played an important role in sending a strong message to the Colombian security forces that the United States considers respect for human rights a key part of bilateral relations.
That message needs to be strengthened by aggressive U. The procedures used to monitor these units must not be kept secret; transparency is a key part of any mechanism meant to monitor the compliance of an institution, like the Colombian military, that has amassed such a horrifying human rights record.
Defense Department's training and equipping of Colombian security force units should be cleared through the procedures established for the Leahy amendment. At present, such procedures are not applied by the Defense Department for these activities.
Human Rights Watch believes that U. To strengthen the rule of law and promote human rights, we encourage the United States to publicly support the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General's Office, and in addition, allocate funds to support their work. The United States should reform its drug certification process and ensure that it continues to allow and fund courses on human rights and international humanitarian law even when a country is decertified.
Then someone hung lights above a nearby door and window. On the December day Human Rights Watch visited this village of 2, in central Colombia, Robert Jaramillo not his real name opened his coffee shop for the first time in four months, and light from this single door spilled onto a lovely, deserted, and dark central square. Several months earlier, armed men had seized Guintar and accused its residents of supporting leftist insurgents.
The men forced everyone from their homes, residents told us, then chose one local man and cut off his nose.
One of the men told Jaramillo and other store owners that if they opened again, he would return, cut them open alive, and string their entrails from the manicured bushes in the square. Store owners were suspected of having sold food and medicine to the leftist insurgents who have operated in these dry mountains for decades.
Weeks later, guerrillas entered Guintar and vowed that their enemies would never win. Seven families left Guintar the next day, joining the thousands forced to flee their homes because of political violence in Colombia. Jaramillo, though, holds on.
He says he has no choice. The only one to reopen since August, Jaramillo knew he was risking his life and the lives of his family to reprisals. A mixture of fury, fear, and humiliation twisted his boyish features. Many of the victims of Colombia's war wear no uniform, hold no gun, and profess no allegiance to any armed group.
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Indeed, battles between armed opponents are the exception. Instead, combatants deliberately and implacably target and kill the civilians they believe support their enemies, whether or not the civilians are even aware that they are in peril.
It is store owners like Jaramillo, truck drivers, farmers, teachers, doctors, community leaders, food vendors, and washerwomen who run the highest risks in today's Colombia. In Colombia, there is often no attempt to win allegiance, only punish it as it is perceived by men with guns. In some wars, civilians can flee the front lines in the hopes of saving their lives and the lives of their loved ones. But there are no front lines in Colombia.
According to the office of the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace, which represents the executive in peace negotiations with guerrillas and paramilitaries, Colombia's three guerrilla groups and paramilitaries are present in over half of Colombia's 1, municipalities. In other cases, however, those same combatants wear civilian clothing. Occasionally, investigators examine the type of atrocity itself to determine probable responsibilities, since some armed groups have a reputation for particular horrors.
Yet Human Rights Watch has alsoreceived credible reports that parties to the conflict have committed unusual atrocities deliberately, to implicate their enemies. Combatants speak to their enemies and the population at large in a language made up entirely of bodies, not sounds. Despite increased attention to human rights and the laws of war, the toll of Colombia's war on the civilian population intensified in In the months preceding the October municipal elections, for example, mayors, town council members, and candidates were killed for political reasons.
For that reason, you are given a sentence of death. Many of the paramilitary killings, however, were carried out with the tolerance or active participation of the security forces, particularly the army.
Women and children dominate the ranks of the forcibly displaced. Guerrillas, state agents, and paramilitaries have on occasion killed women because they were family members of a perceived enemy or because they investigated the death of a relative or colleague. That day, she abandoned it along with her five children. The most dangerous professions are often the most quotidian, like store owner, bus driver, street vendor, or teacher.
What is key is that the occupation brings or appears to bring the civilian in contact with an adversary. Three days later, residents discovered his mutilated corpse in a pasture outside town. Infifteen human rights defenders were murdered, among them personeros, the municipal officials charged with receiving complaints about rights abuses from the citizenry. Among the most dangerous departments for human rights work is Antioquia. He was the fourth president of the committee killed since One government investigator termed it the "McCarthyization" of entire towns.
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Boarding a bus, buying beef, or sharing a meal can compromise civilians in the eyes of combatants. At a routine army roadblock in the department of Arauca on July 20,for example, soldiers informed the driver of an interstate bus carrying twenty-six passengers that guerrillas were in the area. Despite the obvious risk tocivilian passengers, the army commander ordered the driver to carry six soldiers to a point further along the highway, so they could mount a new roadblock. There, the soldiers left the bus and it continued its regular route.
Minutes later, guerrillas opened fire on the bus, apparently believing that soldiers remained on board. Guerrillas killed the driver, his assistant, and a nurse's aide, who was a passenger.
Five other passengers were wounded, including a four-year-old boy. For its part, the army has no pending investigation of the commander.
The laws of war and Colombia The laws of war have a long and complex history rooted in humankind's attempt to limit the damage caused by war to civilians and combatants who have been wounded or captured. In modern times, nations codified the laws of war into the Hague Regulations of and and the Geneva Conventions ofwhich deal primarily with conflicts between states. It is the only provision of the Geneva Conventions that directly applies to internal as opposed to international armed conflicts.
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: Common Article 3 thus imposes fixed legal obligations on the parties to an internal conflict to ensure humane treatment of persons not or no longer taking an active role in the hostilities.
Common Article 3 applies when a situation of internal armed conflict objectively exists in the territory of a State Party. It expressly binds all parties to the internal conflict including insurgents, although they do not have the legal capacity to sign the Geneva Conventions.
War Without Quarter: Colombia and International Humanitarian Law
That means that the Colombian government cannot excuse itself from complying on the grounds that the other parties to the conflict are violating Common Article 3 and vice versa. Application of Common Article 3 by the government cannot be legally construed as recognition of an insurgent party's belligerence, from which recognition of additional legal obligations beyond Common Article 3 would flow. Nor is it necessary for any government to recognize a party's belligerent status for article 3 to apply.
Unlike international conflicts, the law governing internal armed conflicts does not recognize the combatant's privilege and therefore does not provide any special status for combatants even when captured. Similarly, government combatants who are captured by parties to the conflict need not be accorded this status. Any party can agree to treat its captives as prisoners of war, however.
Since World War II, most conflicts have taken place within states: A new Diplomatic Conference was called to draft agreements to cover these radically different circumstances.
The result — Protocols I and II Additional to the Geneva Conventions, adopted in — offer more precise and detailed standards for the protection of civilians and combatants rendered hors de combat by their capture or wounding. Protocol I addresses mainly international armed conflicts while Protocol II addresses the new circumstances of internal armed conflict. For instance, the Colombian security forces characterize almost all guerrilla activities as violations of the laws of war, in an apparent attempt to damage them in public opinion and gain sympathy.
Yet they consistently fail to supply the evidence necessary to show how these actions violate the laws of war. In a similar vein, guerrillas argued in repeated interviews with Human Rights Watch that although they support humanitarian standards in theory, they do not accept Protocol II since it was not negotiated directly with them.
In fact, the international community made a determined effort to include non-state groups in the conference that led to the protocols. The application of laws of war does not depend on the discretion of any one of the parties to the conflict. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies automatically once a situation of armed conflict exists objectively.
Protocol II is applicable when opposing forces in an internal conflict are under a responsible command, exercise enough control over territory to mount sustained and coordinated military operations, and are able to implement Protocol II, all of which Colombia clearly satisfies. This comprehensive treaty prohibits in all circumstances any use of antipersonnel land mines. It also requires that stockpiles be destroyed within four years of the treaty's entry into force and that mines already in the ground be removed and destroyed within ten years.
Because the Mine Ban Treaty has been signed by two-thirds of the governments of the world, it has established an emerging global consensus against antipersonnel mines. In Colombia, there are mechanisms in place to encourage compliance with the laws of war. For instance, Common Article 3 states that humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC may provide humanitarian services during armed conflict if invited to do so.
Although clearly limited given the magnitude of violations, the ICRC's role is crucial. Representatives visit hostages and the detained, oversee their release when invited to do so, provide the parties with information and training about the laws of war, assist civilian victims and the wounded, and, when appropriate, present the government with cases of alleged violations.
As the YugoslavTribunal has determined, "customary international law imposes individual criminal responsibility for serious violations of Common Article 3, as supplemented by other general principles and rules for the protection of victims of internal armed conflict, and for breaching certain fundamental principles and rules regarding means and methods of combat in civil strife.
Security Council expressly empowered the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute persons for crimes against humanity, including systematic murder and torture. Individual criminal responsibility under the statutes of both the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals extends to a person who commits or orders serious crimes like massacres and hostage-taking. This can be a difficult, though not impossible task in Colombia. All parties to Colombia's conflict overtly and aggressively target civilians, yet claim that civilian casualties are in fact combatants in disguise.
All sides also seek to draw civilians into direct participation in the war. Paramilitaries routinely describe civilians as combatants simply because they cross paths with guerrillas, if only to share a dipper of water or witness the passing of an armed unit.
Similarly, all sides routinely attack civilian persons and objects, in clear violation of the laws of war. Yet rarely does anyone take responsibility for errors; instead, combatants find ever more cynical ways to justify or deny attacks that merit international condemnation.Nine Dead - OFFICIAL TRAILER
In this, Colombia is not unique. Parties in many internal armed conflicts blur the distinction between civilians and combatants, who attempt to apply the narrowest definition possible of "civilian" to justify attacks against those they suspect of allegiance to their enemies.
We then apply these definitions to the cases we have documented on each of the parties to the conflict to show how the laws of war have been violated. In this report we have chosen to highlight cases where eyewitness testimony and credible investigations point to a responsible party.
Human Rights Watch traveled to conflict areas to interview witnesses, government investigators, security force personnel, guerrillas, and paramilitaries, and collected abundant documentary evidence to support each case.
The FARC failed to respond to repeated requests. In our interview with a FARC representative, he had no information on the cases we presented, although he denied categorically that his organization committed violations. To define civilian, we have relied on the laws of war as well as the body of theoretical and practical commentary published since Protocol II was adopted. Commentary on the Two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of hereafter New Rulesan authoritative commentary on the laws of war, a civilian is defined as someone who does not actively participate in hostilities by intending to cause physical harm to enemy personnel or objects.
Both direct participation and the intent to cause physical harm to a combatant must be present in order for a civilian to lose his or her protected status. If there is any doubt about an individual's status, combatants should presume that the individual is a civilian unless there is clear proof that the individual meets the criteria for being a combatant.
While Protocol II was being negotiated, conference participants agreed that residents of territories where combatants are present necessarily come across information of use to the parties to a conflict and may, either knowingly or unknowingly, transmit it, a common occurrence in Colombia. However, this does not make them combatants. Essential to the definition of a combatant who is a spy or intelligence agent is that the person use disguise to gain access to information, acquire it under false pretenses or deliberately clandestine acts, or knowingly supply information that is of direct and immediate use in launching an attack.
In Colombia, all men are required to complete between twelve to twenty-four months of obligatory military duty.
While in the military, these individuals are combatants. Once they cease taking part in hostilities, however, they are civilians and are protected by the laws of war. Although Protocol I applies only to international armed conflicts, it provides useful guidance because of the precision with which it has developed concepts contained in other instruments. The total or partial destruction, capture, or neutralization of the military target in the circumstances ruling at the time must offer a definite military advantage.
Both conditions must be present in order for an object to be a military target. The element of time is crucial. An object that serves a civilian use may at a given moment provide one of the parties with a distinct military advantage and may at that moment satisfy the conditions defining a military target. For instance, if paramilitaries detect a guerrilla column using a bridge to transport supplies or as a regular transit point and there are no civilians present, the bridge may be a military target, since its destruction would serve a definite military advantage.
However, the bridge may not qualify as a military target the next day, when farmers are using it to carry goods to market. In that case, there is no definite military advantage at that moment and its destruction would be a violation.
Thus, timely and reliable information of the military situation is an important element in the selection of targets for attack.
In all cases, however, the force launching an attack must not only determine that it can gain a direct military advantage in the circumstances ruling at the time, but also that an attack would not cause excessive harm to civilians. As the New Rules elaborate, the rule of proportionality "clearly requires that those who plan or decide upon attack must take into account the effects of the attack on the civilian population in their pre-attack estimate.
Air Force echoes the language of Protocol I, Article 57 in stating that "in conducting military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population For example, in Article 51 5 b of Protocol I, an indiscriminate or disproportionate attack is an attack that "may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
In many instances, it is clear that guerrillas have taken few, if any, precautions to minimize excessive harm to civilians and often attack when there is little if any direct military advantage. Clearly, faulty intelligence and unforeseen circumstances can lead to unplanned damages. However, combatants cannot claim error if there is evidence that they omitted taking into account obvious risks to civilians or a reasonable estimate of potential damage.
It is important to note, however, that the rule of proportionality in no way justifies or ignores civilian casualties that may result from an attack.
If a force suspects that civilians may suffer from an attack, the attack must be suspended or canceled until the commanders have taken specific measures to avoid or minimize civilian casualties. Although Protocol II does not define these terms, the New Rules infer a protection from Protocol I, which expressly forbids belligerents from attacking objectives without distinguishing between military targets and civilians and civilian objects.
Article 51 4 of Protocol I describes indiscriminate attacks as: In Colombia, for instance, the army has reacted to guerrilla offensives by launching rocket attacks against areas where civilians live, violating the laws of war by treating the region as a single military objective and failing to properly separate out and identify the legitimate military targets within the area.
Article 51 5 a of Protocol I considers a bombardment indiscriminate if it "treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village, or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects.
For instance, a power station providing electricity to a military base may qualify as a military target since it contributes directly to the combat capability of a party to the conflict. They argue that attacks are justified since oil provides the Colombian government with money used to fund the war effort.
However, Human Rights Watch rejects this logic as dangerous and ungrounded in the laws of war, since it could be used to justify any attack on a source of government revenue, including tax-paying civilians. Types of Violations We have divided cases according to two criteria: In choosing cases to highlight, we have not attempted to include all violations reported nor necessarily the best-known ones. Instead, we have selected cases that either illustrate a common violation or stand out as particularly egregious or inhumane.
For each case described, there are perhaps dozens more that share similar horrors. We have established the facts to the best of our ability, despite thetremendous difficulties due not only to the failure in many cases of the relevant government authorities or the party to the conflict implicated to carry out even a cursory investigation, but also to the high level of violence against those who dare report abuses, which has made many Colombians fearful of reporting or talking about cases.
Each section begins with the killings of civilians, led by massacres. Massacres constitute multiple violations of the most fundamental rights guaranteed in Common Article 3 and Protocol II and in many cases also constitute a "collective punishment" meant to threaten and terrorize.
Both civilians and combatants placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause are protected under international humanitarian law and as such cannot be subjected to murder, torture, or other ill-treatment. In one blow, massacres eliminate those close or perceived to be close to an opposing side, punishing a family or population for the perceived action of one or a few of its members.
The threat to those who survive or witness or hear of the massacre afterwards is clear. If you have had or may be seen to have had contact with the enemy, it is best to flee. Often, combatants claim that they have killed individuals proven through trial to be guilty of certain crimes, like support for their enemies. Human Rights Watch found no evidence that either the AUC or guerrillas can guarantee the fair trial required by the laws of war.
Indeed, none of these groups makes any serious attempt to argue that their trials satisfy these conditions. These courts have failed to provide the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality required by Article 6 2 of Protocol II. In some cases, prosecutors who present evidence are strongly biased in favor of the military, particularly prosecutors who do business from military barracks. Colombia had determined that these courts will be dissolved as of June 30, This is a first step.
However, given the deeply flawed nature of these courts, we call on the government to abolish these courts immediately. In addition, Colombia should establish an independent commission to review cases of individuals convicted by regional courts and rectify injustices done. We follow with cases involving murder and torture, expressly banned by the laws of war.
These cases include non-combatants, elected and government officials, and combatants hors de combat. The Data Bank recorded cases of torture inall but nine attributed to paramilitary groups. Often, victims are tortured before being summarily executed. Both torture and mutilation are often used to threaten survivors, also a violation of the ban on acts of terror and threats of violence against civilians.
Often, forced disappearances are carried out by state agents or their paramilitary allies in the course of other violations, like the killing of non-combatants. A forced disappearance occurs when state agents or their allies conceal the fate or whereabouts and deny custody of persons who have been deprived of their liberty.
Clearly, forced disappearances are a violation of Colombia's responsibilities under human rights treaties. At the same time, forced disappearances violate the ban contained in Article 4 of Protocol II against violence to the life, health, and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment.
In alone, the Working Group received sixteen new cases. Like forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions can end with executions and the secret disposal of bodies, meaning that people are never seen or heard from again. Often in Colombia, the bodies of individuals who have been arbitrarily detained are mutilated in a variety of ways meant to maximize terror: Often, paramilitaries eviscerate the bodies of the dead to ensure that the bodies will not float and be found after they are thrown into a river.
Cases involving hostage-taking follow. According to the ICRC, hostages are "persons who find themselves, willingly or unwillingly, in the power of the enemy and who answer with their freedom or their life for compliance with [the enemy's] orders. In the same time period, paramilitaries were considered responsible for twenty-six kidnappings.
The UC-ELN, for instance, claims that victims are "retained" retenido and that these acts are not violations, since any ransom or political concessions gained for release do not benefit individual guerrillas, but the group as a whole.