Colombia: MADRE Shadow Report to UN Reveals Women’s Human Rights Abuses
Monday, July 19, 2010 1:00 PM

As the United Nations Human Rights Committee began its review of Colombia’s human rights record on July 15, 2010, the NGO MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, presented a shadow report documenting the persistent violation of women’s human rights. MADRE’s report provides a countervailing assessment of women’s human rights violations to the largely positive appraisal presented by the Colombian government.
The report, which includes input from LIMPAL, Taller de Vida, CODHES, Humanas and Women’s Link Worldwide, documents the ways in which the long-standing conflict in Colombia combine with government actions to result in the violation of women’s human rights. The impact, especially in the form of forced displacement, is largely felt by marginalized groups, including indigenous populations and Afro-Colombians, with women being especially effected.
The report identifies sexual violence as a frequent cause of forced displacement. The report also details the ways in which women’s reproductive rights are violated and the threats and violence faced by those working to protect women’s human rights. In addition to the violations committed by guerrilla groups, the report indicates that the Colombian government has carried out extra-judicial executions, groundless detentions, threats, and torture. The government is also implicated in failing to implement strategies to reduce the effects of forced displacements. 
Procurador General Alejandro Ordoñez, tasked with enforcing court decisions, has publicly expressed his opinion that women should enjoy limited sexual and reproductive rights. In Memo 030, he directed public officials to disregard the Constitutional Court’s ruling authorizing life- and health-saving abortions. Procurador Ordoñez has also failed to prosecute those failing to fulfill their legal obligation to provide access to abortions. Finally, Procurador Ordoñez has attempted to reverse the Constitutional Court’s judgment that information regarding abortion should be a part of sexual education.
The report estimates that twenty percent of women experience forced displacement as a result of gender violence and over half of women who are known to be displaced report having been the victim of gender-based violence. Despite this, only 72 of the 183 cases remitted to the Attorney General for investigation by the Constitutional Court had been submitted to the National Unit for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Of those cases assigned to the Unit, 55 were still undergoing preliminary investigation.
Women human rights defenders seeking to address the above issues are faced with threats, imprisonment, and even death. In addition to official public accusations that such human rights workers are linked with guerrillas and terrorists, the Attorney General has authorized police monitoring of the communications of human rights NGOs. MADRE Human Rights Advocacy Director Lisa Davis, in Geneva to present MADRE’s report highlighted the dangers faced by human rights workers, noted that “Colombian human rights advocates and organizations have been tireless in their efforts to document and denounce the on-going conflict, harmful government policies and the human rights violations targeting women . . . . Because of heightened threats at this time, our partners are not able to join me in person to testify before the Committee.”