Bogotá, July 17, 2001
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
REF: Aerial fumigations against crops used for illicit purposes violate Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law since they are a hazardous to food sources, human health and the environment.
- Human Rights, Environmentalist and Peace organizations request that the Colombian and United States governments halt the glifosate + Cosmo Flux 411 and Cosmo In-D chemical war against Colombian civilians.
Dear Madame Robinson:
Considering the severe situation being generated by the fumigation of coca and poppy crops in Colombia, we are appealing to you —and through you to the other UN bodies charged with protection of Human Rights; refugees and displaced peoples; environmental safety; and defense against chemical war— so that you may intervene with the governments of Colombia and the United States to cease a policy which clearly contravenes Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
At this stage, the threat of fumigation is being directed against the indigenous and peasant communities of the departments of Cauca and Nariño in Southeastern Colombia, although these are precisely the regions where the local authorities and communities have proposed alternative, consensual and peaceful solutions to "War on Drugs" eradication measures.
As of December 2000 —starting with the initial phase of the Plan Colombia— innumerable tons of agrochemical products have been dumped from the air over more that 50,000 hectares of land in the Putumayo, Caquetá, Southern Bolívar, North Santander, Huila and Guaviare departments. The Human Rights Ombudsman, regional governors, mayors, municipal spokepersons and representatives, as well as those civilians directly affected, have clearly informed how these aerial aspersions are carried out without taking into consideration the local inhabitants, livestock, staple food crops, wildlife, water sources, and the ecological importance of these areas for the world at large.
Colombia's civilian population is being bombarded. In the name of stemming the flow of illegal drugs and combating narcotics trafficking by mafias and insurgents, chemical herbicides are being used as weapons of war. This strategy has turned COLOMBIA'S CIVILIAN POPULATION INTO A MILITARY TARGET.
In a precipitated search for the means to cope with the country's internal strife, the state has resorted to practices which abuse its peoples' Human Rights and put the military establishment in a position which openly violates both International Humanitarian Law and international conventions, such as ILO Convention 169 of 1989, Artícle 8, which stipulates that "[I]n applying national laws and regulations to the peoples concerned, due regard shall be had to their customs or customary laws." It furthermore violates Colombian Law 21 of 1991 which demands respect for indigenous communities' autonomy and prior consultation regarding actions within their territories.
Consequently we are requesting that urgent action be taken to stop this folly.
The stated goal of destroying 50% of coca and poppy crops within a five-year period has led to the intensification of chemical aerial aspersion. According to recent research and findings ——which confirm complaints lodged by Colombian citizens— the National Antinarcotics Police is using a highly toxic mixture which contains not only glifosate but also Cosmo Flux 411F and Cosmo In-D. Furthemore, not even the instructions and warnings issued on the labels by the makers regarding the use of these chemicals are being taken into consideration.
In a letter written to the Minister of Justice on July 12th, the Human Rights Ombudsman insists on the need to apply the principle of precaution and thereby suspend all fumigation under the consideration that an Environmental Plan has not been designed to address the issue of aerial eradication, and as of the lack of knowledge which exists regarding the substances being used and their effects on human health, plant and animal life, and water sources. In a consequential manner, the British Chemical Company ICI refused to have its product, one of the ingredients of Cosmo Flux, used for fumigation in Colombia when Colombian researchers revealed proof of the application (and effects) being given to its product.
The effects of fumigation are devastating: it aggresses the country's civilian population; it endangers staple crops and food sources; it pollutes rivers and bodies of water; it affects ecosystems and harms or destroys animals and plants; it generates the forced displacement of thousands of families and terrorizes the peoples living in these areas thus affecting their living conditions. As a result, the state is violating the Geneva Convention II Protocol, which clearly stipulates in Article 13 that "[T]he civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations." In its Article 14 that, "[I]t is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless, for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works." And in its Article 17 which stipulates that "[C]ivilians shall not be compelled to leave their own territory for reasons connected with the conflict."
International public opinion, citizens, the academic community, and opinion makers should have close-up knowledge of the fact that chemical fumigation —which could not be legally carried out over territories in countries such as the United States— is being instigated in Colombia. We are certain that the international community's democratic conscience would be alarmed to know that —in the name of an antinarcotics war— the Colombian peoples' basic Human Rights are being abused and International Humanitarian Law is being transgressed.
Madam Robinson, we direly require your intervention to cope with a situation which is directly related to the High Commissioner Office's capabilities and competence, and those of its delegation in Colombia. The Ombudsman has repeatedly requested that the fumigations be halted with the aim of avoiding Human Rights abuses. As noted in his press release of July 12th of 2002, “Persisting in the program of fumigating crops used for illicit purposes, without paying heed to the aforementioned, violates basic rights to life, integrity, health and food safety as well as the collective right to a healthy environment, ecological balance and to public health and safety, and other rights of the Colombian people.”
We hope that national and international support and the declarations of international organizations regarding this S.O.S. sent out by peace, environmental, and Human Rights organizations will call the attention of the Colombian government regarding the humanitarian implications of the fumigations which are currently being carried out and which are severely affecting the civilian population.
· Señor Kofi Annan, Secretario General de las Naciones
· Señor Klaus Nyholm, Representante UNDCP en Colombia, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Señor Manuel Manrique, UNICEF, email@example.com
· Señora, María José de Oliveira Zimmermann, Representante de la FAO en Colombia, FAO-COL@field.fao.org
· Señora Leyla Lima, Representante de ACNUR en Colombia, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Señor Lars Franklin, Representante PNUD en Colombia, email@example.com
· Señora Cora Weiss, Presidenta del Grupo del Llamado de la Haya por la Paz y los Derechos Humanos, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Secretario General del Consejo, Bélgica, Unión Europea, email@example.com
· Señor Andrés Pastrana Arango, Presidente de la República de Colombia, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Señor Gabriel Merchán, Director Nacional de Estupefacientes, email@example.com
· Señora Sara Ordóñez, Ministra de Salud, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Señor Juan Mayr Maldonado, Ministro de Medio Ambiente, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Señor Rómulo González, Ministro de Justicia, email@example.com
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