In a resolution it adopted Wednesday, the Organization of American States' (OAS) Permanent Council expressed its "most vehement rejection and condemnation of the numerous terrorist acts perpetrated by armed groups in Colombia operating outside the law."
Declaring its "profound repudiation of the despicable terrorist attack carried out by the FARC on February 7, 2003, in Bogotá," the Permanent Council pledged its "cooperation in pursuing, capturing, prosecuting, punishing, and, when appropriate, expediting the extradition of the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of this act, in accordance with the internal legal framework of States and international treaties."
The OAS body said it was in full solidarity with the Colombian people, and offered condolences to the families of the victims, deciding as well to "support the efforts of the President of Colombia, Mr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, his Government, and the Colombian people to combat terrorism within the context of the rule of law."
In the resolution, the member states undertook to step up efforts to see to it that United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 and the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism are strictly complied with. They also reaffirmed "the obligation to refrain from providing any form of support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts."
In addition, the Permanent Council decided to apply the OAS' antiterrorism mechanisms and, in particular, within the terms of the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism and the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), it decided "to adopt the necessary measures to intensify information exchange on the activities of terrorist groups, to reinforce border controls to prevent the movement of terrorists, and to suppress the funding of such groups."
The resolution urges member states to adopt, in accordance with their domestic laws, urgent measures to strengthen regional and international cooperation in this area, and asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to continue to pay special attention to the negative impact that acts of terrorism have on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Colombia.
Colombia's Vice President, Francisco Santos, told the specially-convened meeting of the Permanent Council that the Colombian and United States governments had irrefutable evidence that the FARC masterminded last Friday's attack in Bogotá.
Asserting that "No country has suffered as severely from terrorism's ravages as Colombia has," he said that over the past five years some 8,000 acts of mass destruction have been visited on Colombians, more than the rest of the world. In 2002 alone, he stressed, the FARC assassinated 834 civilians and committed 876 terrorist acts.
According to Vice President Santos, despite the harassment and terrorist threats, his government is working relentlessly to build democratic security for Colombia - the essence of which is to restore the rule of law. However, he conceded, such efforts by the Colombian state and citizenry calls for "decisive, unequivocal support, expressed through action on the part of the international community."
The Colombian Vice President also told the OAS Permanent Council that the activities of illegal armed groups in his country were a direct threat to political, economic and social stability in his country, violate the human rights of each and every Colombian, are contrary to international humanitarian law, and furthermore are terrorist acts that should be reckoned with by invoking the full weight of the law.
He explained that the OAS was being approached for assistance and commitment to defend Colombia's democracy and its people. "Forty-four million of us Colombians stand ready to make even greater sacrifice until our country is secure and living in peace. We hope our sister nations will arise to the challenge terrorism poses for the Hemisphere's democracies at this critical juncture," he added.
Several OAS member state delegations expressed their indignation, denouncing all terrorist acts that have taken place in Colombia. They also gave their full backing to the draft resolution, while emphasizing that the Organization's member states do have at their disposal the mechanisms best suited to fighting the scourge in the Americas.