Speaker: Father Javier Giraldo
Chair: Dr Chaloka Beyani, Centre for the Study of Human Rights
For generations now, Colombia has been in the grip of a plague of political violence that has annually claimed many thousands of lives. The atrocities continue year after year, and are mainly the work of right-wing groups, often suspected of working in cooperation or with the support of government. But now the United States - concentrating only on the Leftist groups and on the problem of narcotics - has decided enormously to bolster the armed forces through its investment in Plan Colombia.
In 1988 Padre Javier Giraldo, a Jesuit priest, was instrumental in founding a human rights organization, originally Catholic and now ecumenical: the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (Interchurch Commission for Justice and Peace, generally shortened to Justicia y Paz). Over the years Padre Javier has helped compile Proyecto Nunca Más (the Never Again Project), a massive database of human rights violations in his country. He has been forced into exile and faced many threats to his life. A key theme of Padre Javier's work has been impunity - the Colombian government's failure to punish, or even properly investigate, crimes committed by paramilitaries, army personnel, and officials of the state. In this talk he considers questions of justice, human rights and impunity in the context of his work in Colombia.