Colombia: New round of arbitrary recruitment

WRI's Colombian affiliate Red Juvenil reported a new round of arbitrary recruitment in Medellin in October and November 2008. 'Batidas', the recruiting of youth on the street or public places if they cannot show the right military papers, have been observed in various places of Medellin, among others the main transport terminal in the north of Medellin, several metro stations, the football stadium of Medellin, and in several poorer neighbourhoods of the city (Comunas 2, 5, 6, 13). In several cases, the military kept the identity cards of youth and demanded that they reclaim them back from the military barracks.
Red Juvenil also reports on similar recruitment in several parts of Antioquia, especially in Yarumal, Amalfi, Oriente Antioqueno, Urrao, Canas Gordas, Dabeiba and Apartado.

In May 2008, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in an opinion on cases of recruitment in Colombia that "neither does the practice of 'batidas', raids, or 'levas' with the aim to detain youth who cannot confirm their military situation in the streets or public spaces a legal basis or juridical substance." The Working Group therefore declared in the three cases before it that "the deprivation of liberty of which Mr Estrada Marin, Giraldo Hincapie and Gonzales Duque were victims was arbitrary, and in contravention of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

In addition to the general illegality of the 'batidas', Red Juvenil observed a range of irregularities, such as:
  • requiring youth so recruited to sign a declaration that they presented themselves voluntarily;
  • making parents of minors sign declarations that they agree to their children serving military service;
  • ignoring earlier medical examinations by the military in which the person in question had been declared unfit for military service;
  • recruitment of youth who have legal reasons for exemption;
  • medical and psychological examinations by persons who do not have the necessary qualifacation, and a lack of clear criteria for those examinations.
Recruitment in BarrancabermejaRecruitment in Barrancabermeja

On the request of Red Juvenil, War Resisters' International acted in two cases of recruitment and sent letters to the Colombian Ministry of Defence, complaining about their illegal recruitment. So far, a reply on the issue is outstanding.
The conscientious objection group Quinto Mandamiento from Barrancabermeja recently released a video on recruitment in Barrancabermeja on Youtube. This video gives an impression of the practice of recruitment and the impact this practice has on young people. The video is available (in Spanish) at http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=yB5caRsO2QA.

Sources: Red Juvenil de Medellin: El reclutamiento en Medellin…, November 2008; War Resisters' International: Colombia: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says batidas are a form of arbitrary detention, 1 October 2008