BOGOTA (AFP) — Human Rights Watch said that President Alvaro Uribe's administration "hampers justice efforts" by obstructing investigations into its alleged links with paramilitaries, and called for world oversight of the probes.
"The government of President Uribe, in our opinion, has become an obstacle for the advancement of justice," HRW's Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco told reporters Thursday on presenting the organization's annual report on Colombia.
The rights group especially focused on investigations into past activities of the recently demobilized United Self-Defense Group of Colombia (AUC) and its alleged links to officials in the Uribe administration and lawmakers in the ruling coalition.
Uribe in May extradited to the United States 13 top AUC leaders whose testimony is considered vital in the investigations.
HRW called on the United States to turn over to Colombian investigators any information it gleans from the 13 jailed AUC leaders, and to give them "legal incentives" to confess their alleged crimes in Colombia.
Uribe's vicepresidential office issued a prompt statement dismissing the HRW report as "ridiculous" and "full of lies."
The Colombian government, the statement added, "wants a quick and full clarification of the circumstances surrounding the violence all armed groups have perpetrated against (government) institutions and the people."
HRW said that "at this time, more than ever, international pressure on Colombia is crucial to ensure that Colombia's Supreme Court and other institutions of justice are able to proceed unhampered" in their investigatons.
"Without significant oversight and pressure from the international community, the enormous efforts made by Colombia's courts and prosecutors to hold paramilitaries' accomplices accountable could easily be squandered," said Vivanco.
HRW also called on the US Congress to withhold approval of a free trade agreement Washington and Bogota finalized in 2006 until the investigations into paramilitary activities and the past murders of several union leaders in Colombia yield results.
A summary of HRW's report, "Breaking the Grip? Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia," is headlined: "Colombia: Government Hampers Justice Efforts."
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