Colombian Victims call for Immediate Ceasefire and Integral Reparation

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In August the peace talks taking place in Havana between the Colombian Government and FARC guerrilla group moved on to discuss the fourth item on the agenda – Victims. 

From July to September forums were held in Colombia and internationally at which victims put forward their views and proposals on how to ensure truth, justice, reparation and no-repetition for victims of Colombia’s almost 60 year conflict.

Victims Forums

The negotiators have set up some mechanisms and opportunities for victims to be heard both directly at the peace table in Havana and in other forums. On 16 August, the first group of victims from the conflict addressed the two teams of negotiators and the second group of victims travelled to Havana on 9 September.

The outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has described the involvement of representatives of victims in the peace talks as ‘unprecedented’.[1]

The United Nations and Colombia’s National University organised victims forums to generate inputs for the process, with victims participating in three closed regional forums in Villavicencio, Barrancabermeja, and Barranquilla, and a national victims’ forum in Cali during July and August.

Meanwhile Colombians living abroad gathered on Saturday 13 September 2014 at International Victims Forums which took place simultaneously in 20 cities in Europe and America. The aim of these forums was to provide a space for the expression and participation of Colombian exiles and migrants in order for them to contribute to the negotiation process in Havana.

The forums brought together victims from all armed actors in Colombia’s conflict. In London the event was co-convened by citizen groups and NGOs, including Rodeemos el Diálogo, Frente Amplio de la Migración, Mesa Permanente Por la Paz, Plan Perdón, Conciliation Resources and ABColombia.

Proposals for Peace

More than 6 million people have registered as victims of Colombia’s ongoing conflict. A large proportion of these are peasant farmers, Afro-Colombian communities, and indigenous people, who have been hit hardest by the years of conflict, many violently forced off their land.

Women have also been disproportionately affected. As the chief government negotiator, Humberto De la Calle, explained ‘Women have been the vortex in which the pain of the conflict has focused with immense intensity, but in them also lies the hope of reconciliation and a hopeful view for the future of Colombia’.[2]

ABColombia partner Sisma Mujer spoke at one of the Victims Forums held in Colombia. Some of the proposals they shared included the need for Colombia to guarantee in a transitional justice framework an integral understanding of victims’ rights (including truth, justice, reparation and no-repetition).[3]

In the case of conflict-related sexual violence, Sisma Mujer stressed the need to adhere to international standards, including the exclusion of this crime from amnesties, and to implement an immediate agreement by all armed actors to eradicate sexual violence.

As Margot Wallström said in her visit to Colombia in May 2012 as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, ‘we know from other post-conflict states that sexual violence acts committed during conflict have a tendency to continue long after the guns fall silent… which does not help the sustainable future of the country’.[4]

In September, negotiators confirmed that a Gender Sub-Commission would join the peace talks in Havana with the aim of ensuring that any debates and dialogue which lead to the creation of peace agreements take into account gender equality and the situation of women in Colombia.[5]

At the Victims Forum held in Cali on 3 August, Monseñor Hector Fabio, Director of Pastoral Social, shared the following ten key points on the subject of reparation for victims, presenting the reflections and conclusions on behalf of a major group of victims from across the country that are accompanied by Pastoral Social: [6]

  1. Reparation and protection for victims can only be achieved when there is an end to the armed conflict, for this there is an urgent need for an immediate and definitive ceasefire.
  2. All the victims should be heard and taken into account in the process of constructing a more just and fraternal society in solidarity and in peace.
  3. The reparation measures for victims should be timely, integral, targeted and adequate for their needs and those of their territories.
  4. Society needs to commit to no repetition of crimes and this should be accompanied by strategies to eliminate the social causes of all forms of violence and exclusion.
  5. There is the need for an integral and human development model which recognises and allows for the participation of local economies.
  6. There is the need to insist in the adoption of measures to avoid the re-victimisation of social leaders and human rights defenders. For this it is necessary to humanise all the country’s institutions.
  7. Justice as a common good should be embedded in a system which guarantees special and equal protection of fundamental liberties and human rights, the presence of a strengthened judicial administration that is efficient, and supports the processes of land restitution and reparation.
  8. As part of the process of dignified returns, sectors of the economy – such as mining and extractive industries- should carry our greater consultation with communities and comply with the demands of the food security of communities where mining is being carried out.
  9. Education, health, housing and decent work continue to be major concerns and should be integrated into our political and legal systems so that they are specially protected.
  10. To achieve peace, special education and social inclusion are needed so that all social sectors feel represented.
Placards featuring disappeared persons in the Colombian conflict are shared by victims at the International Victims Forum in London on 13 September

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