Americas: Zeid welcomes unprecedented commitment to human rights by all Colombian presidential candidates

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Saturday that a signed commitment to “respect, protect and guarantee human rights” by all five candidates taking part in tomorrow’s presidential election in Colombia is “unprecedented, impressive and heart-warming”.

Geneva, May 26, 2018.- “We believe this is the first time ever, anywhere, that every single presidential candidate has signed up to such an unequivocal formal pledge to uphold human rights,” Zeid said. “This comes as a breath of fresh air in a world where so many political leaders have been playing down, or actively flouting, their obligations to uphold international human rights law. I thank Colombia’s leading politicians for taking this positive step, and urge whoever wins the election to make every effort to abide by this landmark agreement.”

The Agreement on Human Rights, which was arranged by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia, and individually signed by each of the five candidates, states the following:
“I, as candidate for the Presidency of the Republic of Colombia, publicly pledge that in my Government there will be a special emphasis to respect, protect, and guarantee human rights. At the same time, the actions of my Government will promote, throughout the country, and in particular, in areas most affected by conflict and violence, the political, economic, and social inclusion of the people who live in these areas…”

In recognition of one of the most serious and persistent problems plaguing the country, the Agreement also specifically notes the UN Human Rights Office’s analysis “that it is important to avoid the assassination of leaders, rural leaders and human rights defenders, which will lead to true political, economic and social inclusion in the country”.

The UN Human Rights Office in Colombia, which was opened in 1997, is one of the oldest, largest and most respected of the organization’s 56 field presences around the world. It played an important role in the negotiations leading up to the signing of the Final Peace Accord by the current Government and FARC-EP movement in September 2016.

When announcing the signing of the Agreement in the capital Bogota on Thursday, the UN Human Rights Office Representative in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, highlighted four main challenges that would confront the next President:
1. Combating impunity, including in cases of femicide or violence against women;
2. Providing guarantees to enable the defence of human rights, noting that “lethal attacks against defenders of rights are the most visible symptoms of a deeper problem… and that the fear of violence leads to self-censorship and produces paralysis of the collective action necessary in a democratic society.”
3. Using the opportunities offered by the peace process to consolidate a state power that respects human rights through the consolidation of the rule of law and strengthening of public institutions at the local level, including combatting corruption and guaranteeing wide-ranging rural reform, as pledged in the Peace Accords.
4. Providing security while protecting rights, including a firm response to criminal activities while simultaneously fully respecting human rights standards.
“These challenges reflect real, chronic, everyday problems that have been holding back the political, social and economic development of Colombia,” Zeid said at the UN Human Rights Office headquarters in Geneva. “The fact that all the Presidential candidates have pledged to confront them, and all other human rights issues in Colombia, is a big step forward.
“I and my staff hope, above all, the people of Colombia will hold the next President, and his successors, to their word. Making a pledge is one thing. Fulfilling it is another. But we all now have a clear yardstick against which to measure the winning candidate’s performance upon taking up the role of President of the Republic.”

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