Bogotá, September 1, 2015 (SIG).
The President of the Republic, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, announced this Tuesday that Colombia will engage on a diplomatic offensive to continue denouncing before international bodies and the international community, and demanding respect for the rights of the Colombian citizens deported from Venezuela.
In a speech, the Head of State explained that his Government will resort to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations, and International Organization for Migration, to denounce the violation of international law in the deportations.
“We will continue denouncing and demanding for the dignity and the rights of the Colombian people in as many scenarios as possible”, President Santos said.
He informed that Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín will file a claim before the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, before the Secretary General of the United Nations, before the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, and before the IOM.
“And we will do it before the public opinion and the world media, who may not ignore this human tragedy”, he added.
The President stated that regarding the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), an urgent meeting had been requested but it never took place, and therefore, we desisted from that meeting”.
Furthermore, he informed that this afternoon, the Prosecutor General of the Nation informed him that he is considering the possibility of filing a claim before the International Criminal Court against civilian and military members of the upper echelons of the Venezuelan Government who could be responsible for crimes against humanity set forth in the Rome Statute”.
“Specifically, these would be the forceful deportation or displacement of Colombian citizens who were subject to expulsion and other acts in violation of international law”, the President said.
He added that “the Prosecutor General’s Office believes there are bases to prove that a possible generalized and systematic attack against Colombian civil population has taken place”.
President Santos said that “Venezuela –as any State– has the right to close its border or expel people for security reasons”, but “international jurisprudence on human rights is clear in stating that such legal authority has limits: it may not violate international law”.
He pointed out that deportations may not be discriminatory based on nationality.
“Deportations may not be massive or arbitrary. They should be on an individual basis, provided there are due process guarantees and the possibility to appeal before the authorities. They may not affect the rights of minors, or separate families. And deportees may not be subject either to unbecoming or inhumane treatment”, he emphasized.
The President reminded that in August, 2010, when he took office as President, he said that he would favor dialogue over confrontation, peace over war, respect for differences over intolerance, and, -something that is very important and essential- respect for human rights.
“We have been applying that foreign policy and we have done so –in particular- with Venezuela, a government with which we have profound differences regarding the concept of democracy and the economic model”, he stated.
He pointed out that those differences have been respected, “but that is one thing, and another one, quite different, is that our neighboring country is violating its citizens’ human rights and –even more serious for us- the rights of our compatriots who live in its territory”.
He said that it is clear that none of these requirements has been met in the recent deportations of Colombians by Venezuela.
“And that is not all. As reported by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, all sorts of fundamental rights have been violated: as in the Nazi ghettos, family houses have been marked with a “D”, to be demolished thereafter”, he said.
“When this infamy became known, the universal question was: Where was the world when all this happened!” the President said.
“Well, today –to a different extent- the question we ask ourselves is: Where is the region!” he pointed out.
The President explained that “the properties of the humblest have been confiscated, or they have not been allowed to take their few belongings with them. Families have been separated, leaving the mother at one side of the border and the husband at the other, or –even worse- separating the children from their parents, because some of them are Venezuelan and others are Colombian”.
He considered that what has happened in the Colombian-Venezuela border “is a scenario of inhumanity and cruelty we never thought we would live or see in our region!”
President Santos reminded that international bodies –such as the UN and the OAS– were created to preserve peace based on respect for human rights.
“For that reason –for the seriousness of the topic- we asked the Permanent Council of the OAS to convene a meeting of foreign ministers, trusting that no one would evade a debate about a current and urgent situation related with human rights”, he commented.
However, “unfortunately, ideological and monetary interests prevailed over humanitarian reasons. It is sad to accept it, but that is what happened!” he declared.
The Colombian President admitted it was a setback, “but we do not feel defeated”.
“When reason accompanies us, when we act with the truth in our hands, when the issue is to defend the dignity of our compatriots, there are many reasons to persevere! If we suffer a misstep… we overcome it! If we are not heard at a setting… we will go to one hundred more! If a door is closed… we will knock on one thousand!” President Santos added.
“Because we are outraged, -justly outraged!-, and silence or lack of action are not –may not be- an option. Our respect for the rights and freedoms of the Colombian people means that a setback will not stop us… On the contrary, it encourages to denounce it even more forcefully!” he emphasized.
President Santos acknowledged the support of 16 countries in the hemisphere which, along with Colombia, voted in favor of discussing the topic at a meeting of foreign ministers in the OAS, and stated that they are serious countries, democratic countries, countries that believe in the advantages and benefits of dialogue and democracy, who do not evade a debate about human rights.
He stated that for the OAS and for the continent, it was an opportunity to enforce the rights of the migrant populations, a problem we are seeing not only in Colombia but also in many countries in the region and around the world.
He emphasized on the fact that “two sister countries as Colombia and Venezuela may not get immersed in those dynamics of persecution against immigrants, they may not tread that road of xenophobia and hatred that other regions of the world are facing. We cannot allow this to happen!”
“On our part, the Government and the Colombian people will continue caring for them and supporting them with utmost affection and dedication, as we have done from the start”, he announced.
On the other hand, President Juan Manuel Santos stated that “it is evident that the Venezuelan Government’s strategy is to blame Colombia for all its troubles. However –as I said a few days ago- Venezuela’s problems are made in Venezuela, not in Colombia”.
He stated that “the accusations and the finger-pointing are so ludicrous, so far from reality that they fall on their own weight”.
“And who could ever even consider that from Bogotá, with my government’s “consent, and turning the blind eye”, there are plans to endanger President Maduro’s life!” he asked, answered: “No. One thousand times no!”
“Colombia is a decent, civilized and democratic nation that respects human rights and international instances, which believes in dialogue and diplomacy, and it will continue as such! If others fall prey of paranoia, we will persevere in acting with serenity in all our actions”, he said.
In view of the situation, the President informed that he will convene a Cabinet Council meeting tomorrow in Cúcuta.
“And I am going to invite the diplomatic corps and the representatives of international bodies to that council, for them to have a first-hand look of what is happening”.
He praised the solidarity “of many Colombians towards those fellow citizens who need us now, more than ever!”
“On our part, we will continue deploying a firm and serene diplomacy, demanding respect for human dignity. But diplomacy –remember- is not passivity”, he said.
“The Colombian people may rest assured that we will not rest, we will not give up for even one second, in demanding respect for our fellow citizens, for their dignity, for their rights… and for the dignity of our country!”