If the State Department and the Pentagon believe that Colombia's military is purging its ranks of human rights violators, they are overly optimistic ["Colombia's U.S. Connection Not Winning Drug War," front page, July 6]. The process has barely begun.

Only after sustained international pressure did President Andres Pastrana on April 9 cashier Gens. Rito Alejo del Rio and Fernando Millan, each facing prosecution for alleged support for paramilitary atrocities. This long-awaited action has yet to lead to a wider purge of the armed forces.

At the same time, top brass repeatedly show their contempt for accountability by insisting on military rather than civilian courts when human rights violators face prosecution. Military courts in Colombia regularly turn a blind eye to human rights violations perpetrated by those in uniform. Moreover, when the U.S. government for the first time denied a visa to a high-ranking Colombian officer, Gen. Ivan Ramirez, because of his alleged involvement in human rights abuses, Colombia thumbed its nose at Washington's action by sending him to Santiago, Chile, as military attache.

Unfortunately, Colombia's armed forces still are peopled by officers who either have committed human rights violations or have supported or acquiesced in paramilitary atrocities.


Executive Director, Americas Division

Human Rights Watch