The first 12 of 60 victim representatives met with the delegations of rebel group FARC and the Colombian government in Cuba to discuss the treatment of victims in the event of a peace deal between the country’s oldest rebel group and the state.
Each victim met individually with the delegations and was given some 15 to 20 minutes to expose ideas and answer questions from the delegates.
The victims are accompanied by representatives from the United Nations (UN) and the National University (NU), who have been selecting the victims and have organized several victim forums to allow other victims to speak their mind of victims’ role in the ending of the 50-year-long armed conflict.
The first group of victims consists of victims of the several parties involved in the conflict; Five are victims of FARC atrocities, three victims of state atrocities, three victims of state-aligned paramilitary groups and one representative of victims of unknown perpetrators.
Military victims of war crimes and family members of killed politicians have criticized the victims representation and have demanded presence at the peace talks.
Their claims are controversial as the state and its security forces are among the primary victimizers in the conflict.
Senator Sofia Gaviria (Liberal Party), whose brother was killed by the FARC and whose politically powerful family has faced accusations of ties to paramilitary groups, told Caracol Radio that the government and the FARC had been manipulating which victims to allow to the talks.
This was denied by the government delegation chief, former Vice-President Humberto de la Calle, who on Friday stressed that the UN and the NU, and “not the government or the FARC have chosen this group of victims.”
According to De la Calle, “the victims were chosen taking the critically chosen and agreed criteria to guarantee the pluralism and balance of the victims’ presence in Cuba.”
At the beginning of Saturday’s meeting both victims and negotiators from the warring parties held a minute of silence to commemorate those who were killed in the 50 years since rebel groups like the FARC and the smaller ELN took up arms.
The organizers reported on Twitter that the meeting proceeded “behind closed doors and in an atmosphere of respect.”
According to official statistics, the conflict has left more than 6 million victims, 220 thousand of which were killed.
The government and the FARC have been negotiating peace since late 2012 and have already agreed on rural reforms, drug trafficking and political participation.
Once the negotiating teams found agreement on the victims of the conflict, the logistical end to the ongoing violence will be discussed.