The peace process between the FARC and the Colombian government suffers from a lack of credibility and a “humanitarian void,” citing the lack of a ceasefire and continued violations of human rights by neo-paramilitary successor groups, according to a prominent conflict-monitoring NGO.
Camilo Gonzalez, president of the Institute for the Study of Development and Peace (Indepaz), told Colombia Reports that the government needs to “reach accords and commitments regarding human rights and a ceasefire so that the population can give credibility to the peace process.”
These comments come in the wake of a recent Gallup poll that showed only a minority of Colombians supports the talks.
Peace talks support in Colombia
Additionally, a study published earlier this month attributed 43% of the human rights violations in Colombia in 2013 to the state, while paramilitary successor groups were allegedly responsible for 44% of the violations.
Human rights ignored
Gonzalez said the publication of these numbers by the Center for Research and Public education (CINEP), a conflict analysis NGO, was important in order to alert the government of “the need of the armed forces to decisively respect the civilian population.”
“The problem is that in Havana, the agenda did not include the following of human rights norms and protection of the civilian population until the end of the peace process. The humanitarian issue was not included in the agenda. Instead, what was agreed on the agenda was to keep the war going and keep killing each other until a peace agreement is signed, which seriously hurts the credibility of the peace process and the process itself,” Gonzalez said.
The FARC has been at war with the government since 1964 and attempted to end hostilities through negotiation before. This round of talks between the government and Colombia’s largest guerrilla group has been going on for more than two years.
But as the talks enter their third year, violence and human rights violations continue. While the FARC have called for a bilateral ceasefire, the government has remained unwilling to halt military operations until a final agreement is reached.
According to the CINEP report, around 11% of the human rights violations in Colombia are committed by the FARC. The worst offenders, paramilitary successor groups, are not participating in the talks.
More than 30,000 members of Colombia’s paramilitaries participated in a demobilization process between 2003 and 2006 during the administration of Alvaro Uribe. According to Human Rights Watch, however, many participants were not actually members, and many of the paramilitary simply regrouped and formed successor groups, now called “BaCrim” (“bandas criminales,” or criminals bands) by the government.
These groups, along with state forces, are the primary violators of human rights in Colombia.
When asked for a comment on the CINEP report, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense told Colombia Reports that they would have to look into it and “wait for a response on the topic.”
Bringing victims to the table
To bring greater legitimacy to the peace talks, both groups agreed to invite victims’ delegations to Havana. One of the six points of discussion at the negotiating table is the rights of victims.
According to the joint statement released in July of this year, both sides agreed that the victims would be selected from regional forums and must be direct victims of the conflict who reflect the entire spectrum of human rights violations, taking into account different regional and social structures. The United Nations and Colombia’s National University have been responsible for organizing the delegations and choosing which victims would attend.
Lisa Haugaard, the executive director of the U.S. organization Latin American Working Group (LAWG), told Colombia Reports in an email that it is important that the “victims of all armed actors are able to present their testimony and their proposals,” as each group has committed “grave violations of human rights.”
“It’s an encouraging step that the groups of victims traveling to Havana are so diverse,” Haugaard said.
The first delegation included five victims of the FARC, three victims of state forces, three of paramilitary groups, and one from unknown actors. The second delegation also included victims of a range of perpetrators.
Three more delegations are to participate in the talks in Havana, each with 12 participants, bring the total number of victims’ representatives to 60.
Haugaard lauded these efforts, stressing the importance of the need for all victims to be able to “present their testimony and their proposals.”
“Now we need to see an accord that really tries to find truth, justice, meaningful reparations and guarantees that the brutal past shall not return for all of Colombia’s victims of violence, and for future generations,’ she added.
- Interview with Camilo Gonzalez
- Banco De Datos De Derechos Humanos Y Violencia Politica (CINEP/Noche y Niebla)
- World Report 2013 (Human Rights Watch)
- Interview with Ministry of Defense spokesperson
- Comunicado conjunto #39 (Prisident’s Office website)
- Email from Lisa Haugaard