Rev. James Dekker recently represented the Christian Reformed Church at a human-rights tribunal in Colombia.
At such tribunals, international civilian judges listen to witnesses, articulate a verdict, and publicize it internationally to hold governments to account. “There is no legal jurisdiction, but rather moral and spiritual impact and witness,” said Dekker.
Dekker, who pastors Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario, attended the tribunal as part of the CRC’s participation in KAIROS, a Canadian ecumenical organization focused on justice. The tribunal also included judges from the United States, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Colombia.
Because Columbia is full of minerals, Dekker said, there is great wealth, but there is even more corruption, fear, intimidation, and violence. He said the government does little to stop the displacement and victimization of the poorest of the poor. “They are under the thumb of military groups, which operate with impunity,” said Dekker.
The judges heard accounts of kidnappings, beatings, and murders from witnesses as young as 11. Several witnesses spoke in anonymity for fear of retribution.
“It’s the scariest place I’ve been,” said Dekker, who has extensive experience in Latin America.
The Tribunal in which Dekker participated found the government guilty of human-rights violations. For full verdict see http://www.kairoscanada.org/e/countries/colombia/tribunalFindsColombiaGuilty0611.asp.