The law regulating the compensation of approximately 4 million victims of Colombia’s armed conflict took effect Monday.
The “Victims Law” allows victims of violence committed by left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and state officials after 1985 to claim a financial compensation between approximately $4,500 and $11,000.
The law, officially called Law 1448 of 2011, also allows displaced farmers to reclaim land that was stolen or obtained under threats by illegal armed groups or their henchmen.
The law was initially the initiative of Liberal Party party congressman Juan Fernando Cristo and was agreed upon by the government of former President Alvaro Uribe without a clause that included victims of state violence. After his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos assumed the presidency the proposal was extended and victims of state violence were included.
The law, signed by Santos on June 10, 2011, defines a victim as “those people who individually or collectively have suffered violation of their fundamental rights because of the inetrnal armed conflict through acts that have occured since January 1, 1985, provided that this violation is the result of violations of international humanitarian law or serious and flagrant violations of international standards of human rights.”
The ammendment of the law was fiercely criticized by former President Alvaro Uribe who claimed that the inclusion of victims of state violence would make the execution of the law unaffordable; Colombia’s security forces have committed more human rights violations than all Colombian guerrilla groups together since 2004 and between 2006 and 2007 were the main culprit of human rights violations against civilians.
The Colombian government earmarked $3.1 million in its 2012 budget for victim compensation.
The signing of the Victims Law has led to increased violence against representatives of groups that have made claims on stolen land, particularly in the northern Antioquia and Cordoba departments where neo-paramilitary groups have most control. Between the inauguration of Santos in August 2010 and November 2011, 22 displaced leaders have been murdered.
In response, Colombia’s government in December vowed to step up protection of these groups and their leaders to secure a successful implementation of the Victims Law.