The Presidential Program for Human Rights has called upon the Colombian public to be more welcoming to demobilized combatants.
The program’s director, Alma Bibiana Perez, stated that the process of demobilization is not simply a matter of providing ex-combatants with a new vocation. It also paramount that the general public acknowledge former combatants have a right to reintegrate back into society.
Perez stated that the Colombian Agency for Reintegration has assisted more than 50,000 individuals in their attempts to demobilize and reintegrate.
“If this society is going to strive for peace then it must be willing to support the individuals that come from illegal armed groups, and that includes the children who were part of those groups.”
According to Perez, the Colombian government is relying upon two initiatives, the Law of the Victims and the National Human Rights System, to facilitate the reintegration process.
“With these two tools the state is advancing the process, but the transformation has to be initiated by the country as a whole,” said Perez, “We have to ask ourselves if we want to keep on living in a society that refuses to live with demobilized persons, or LGBT persons, or displaced persons”
Alejandro Eder, director of the Cololmbian Agency for Reintegration (ACR) told Spanish press agency EFE that each demobilizing rebel is a person “with dreams and ambitions,” and “for each one we create a space where each can develop as an individual in a democracy where he has the right to do what he wants.”
This support is important to prevent former rebels from returning to arms, said Eder. The ACR director also stressed the importance of extra attention for mid-level commanders, who proved to be more vulnerable to recidivism during the demobilization of paramilitary organization AUC.
In the demobilization of the paramilitaries that took place between 2003 and 2006, thousands of mid-level commanders and fighters formed neo-paramilitary groups that have since taken over parts of the former paramilitary organization’s criminal structure.
The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos is currently engaged in peace talks with the FARC, the country’s largest rebel group. If the peace talks proceed smoothly, the negotiating teams will discuss the FARC’s demobilization ,which will include reintegration programs.
More than 6 million Colombians have been directly or indirectly victimized in the country’s ongoing armed conflict.