The truth commission meant to clarify why Colombia’s armed conflict degenerated into victimizing more than eight million people was inaugurated by President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday.
The 11- member commission began its preliminary investigations months ago already and will be expected to inform the country on its findings in three years.
The commission will try to learn the truth behind the decades of violence through field investigations and public interviews with some of the leading actors in the conflict, including guerrilla and paramilitary chiefs.
“Today we are taking a new step in the construction of peace and in respect of the rights of victims,” Santos said at the inauguration ceremony.
Commission chief Father Francisco de Roux and 10 other investigators will “help with something very important, which is healing the wounds,” said the president.
The body’s purpose is to find out and tell the truth about the conflict as a whole in order to support reconciliation efforts and prevent repetition. The commission will not investigate individual crimes or impose justice for which a war crimes tribunal took force.
The leaders of the demobilized FARC guerrilla group and some of the leaders of the AUC, the paramilitary group that demobilized under former President Alvaro Uribe, have agreed to cooperate with the commission.
In order to facilitate the commission’s quest for the truth, testimonies made before the body may not be used in court cases.
The truth commission and the war crimes tribunal continue to be highly controversial among staunchly conservative sectors in politics and the private sector.
Senator Ernesto Macia, an ally of the hard-right Uribe, called De Roux a “guerrilla priest,” citing that the peace process seeks to “surrender the country to the FARC.”
Victims, however, have praised the coming into force of the truth commission and the war crimes tribunal in the hope thei rights will be revindicated after decades of almost absolute impunity.