7 February 2017
ABColombia congratulates the Colombian Government and the second largest Guerrilla Group in Colombia the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army - ELN) on the start of the public phase of the Peace Talks in Quito, Ecuador which will provide for a negotiated end to the conflict with the ELN.
It is important to guarantee that these Peace Talks include the effective participation of civil society organisations (CSOs), and in particular, that of the victims, women, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant farmers. It is essential to continue the focus started with the FARC Peace Talks of maintaining the victims at the centre of the negotiations. This is vital for an inclusive process which offers the possibility of a sustainable peace agreement that incorporates economic inclusion and social justice.
We would urge the two parties to declare a bi-lateral ceasefire which will help to generate greater confidence in the process and improve the situation for civilians in rural areas. Security of the civilian population, community leaders and human rights defenders is vital for sustainable peace and democracy in Colombia. The Colombian Government must therefore ensure that the other illegal armed actor in the conflict, namely the paramilitary groups also referred to as “criminal gangs” (BACRIM), are effectively dismantled. The persistence of these groups and the lack of advances in dismantling them is presenting major challenges to the sustainability of peace, particularly as they move in the power vacuums left by the FARC and exert violent control over the civilian population in these areas.
The Peace Accord point 3.4 agreed with the FARC contains a Chapter on Security Guarantees.  This Chapter states that an independent unit with its own investigators, elite police force, policy committee and funding will be set up to investigate, prosecute and dismantle the economic and political structures behind the paramilitary groups (BACRIM). We urge the Colombian Government to prioritise the implementation of this chapter, especially in the light of the killing of 85 Human Rights Defenders in 2016 and more than 14 in the month of January 2017.
ABColombia urges the Colombian Government to issue an official invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders to visit Colombia, especially given the precarious situation of human rights defenders, who are vital to peace building and ensuring sustainable peace with social justice.