Duque trying to deny obligations to Colombia’s war victims, again

President Ivan Duque. (Image: President's Office)

In his latest attempt to deny state obligations to Colombia’s war victims, President Ivan Duque on Saturday proposed not to grant them 16 seats in Congress, but replace lawmakers for “real” conflict victims.

The president has so far only explicitly acknowledged victims of the demobilized FARC guerrilla group, effectively ignoring the vast majority of victims.

Duque’s proposal comes days after the State Council asked the Constitutional Court to rule on a congressional vote that  granted inhabitants of war-torn regions 16 seats in Congress.

Efrain Cepeda (Image: Senate)

This vote was unlawfully struck down by former Senate President Efrain Cepeda (Conservative Party) in 2017, according to politicians who challenged the decision.

If applying the same rule that previously sank Duque’s attempts to limit the powers of the war crimes tribunal, the court is likely to ratify Congress’ decision to grant the extra seats to victims.

Hope for victim seats in Colombia’s Congress revived after court upholds war crimes tribunal

Duque improvising his way out of state obligations

Miguel Ceballos (Image: President’s Office)

As part of a 2016 peace deal with demobilized FARC guerrillas, the State is obliged to create extra congressional seats for representatives from regions that have suffered the most from Colombia’s armed conflict.

In response to the State Council’s request to the Constitutional Court, Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos said the government would propose a new bill to grant these 16 seats.

Duque’s far-right Democratic Center (CD) party, which opposes the peace process, fiercely opposed this suggestion, and the president said on Saturday that his government would ask political parties to make space for “real” victims.

The CD has falsely claimed these seats would not go to victims, but to the FARC.

Victims’ rights advocates have dismissed the government’s improvised reactions as attempts to avoid complying with the pending court decision, which is likely to ratify the previous senate vote.

The president’s next humiliation?

President Ivan Duque (Image: El Espectador)

Duque’s latest attempt to prevent executing policies derived from the peace agreement is likely to result in another political humiliation.

If the court rules that Cepeda unlawfully blocked the victims’ representation in Congress, Duque will be expected to sign off on this bill.

The president’s proposed legislation does not comply with the court-ordered state obligation to grant representatives from war-torn areas extra seats in Congress.

Consequently, the proposal is unlikely to succeed and likely to become another humiliation for Duque.

The proposal may, however, allow the government to further delay the effective implementation of the peace deal and the fulfilling of state obligations to victims.

The president’s attempts to frustrate the implementation of the peace process and meet state obligations in peace talks with ELN guerrillas have so far only damaged Duque’s credibility both in Colombia and abroad.

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