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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
US backs Colombian rights record
Army pays informer
The army is giving money to informers
The United States says Colombia's armed forces are complying with human rights requirements and has authorised the release of nearly $42m of aid to help the country fight rebel groups.

The US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, is said to be satisfied that the Colombian army is co-operating with civilian authorities in prosecuting soldiers who commit abuses and is also moving to end collusion with right-wing paramilitaries.


To say that Colombia has complied with human rights conditions is nothing short of a farce

William Schulz, Amnesty International
The US Congress had demanded the conditions following concerns about the conduct of the Colombian army.

The human rights group Amnesty International has denounced the decision.

The $41.6m represents 40% of a $104m aid package for 2002. A first payment of $62m was released in May after a similar certification.

Colombia has been fighting a civil war against guerrilla groups for nearly 40 years. It is estimated that the conflict has cost more than 200,000 lives.

Right-wing paramilitaries, such as the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), are sometimes in the pay of drug traffickers and large landowners. They have been backed by elements in the army and the police.

Concerns increase

Several human rights groups argued against the May certification and also opposed Monday's decision.

They say their concerns have increased since the inauguration of President Alvaro Uribe, who came to power promising to take action against insurgent groups.

William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: "To say that Colombia has complied with human rights conditions is nothing short of a farce. The country has failed to make significant progress on a single one of them.

Bomb attack on bus
The government is taking a tougher line with rebels
"Providing additional funds at this point is particularly dangerous. President Alvaro Uribe, only one month into his term, has created an environment that further empowers a military force already acting with impunity."

The US has given Colombia more than $1bn over the past two years to fight the drugs trade. Under new American legislation, Colombia can now use US aid for its fight against rebel groups.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the certification did not mean that all of America's concerns about the Colombian military and Colombia in general had been satisfied.

He said: "We recognise the real progress that has taken place in being able to certify here," he said.

"But we also recognise much more needs to be done to improve the human rights performance of the armed forces, including ending military and paramilitary collaboration."

President Uribe is to meet US President George W Bush in Washington on 25 September.


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09 Sep 02 | Americas
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