The leader of Colombia’s second largest group, the ELN, admitted on Tuesday that his guerrilla organization has committed human rights violations during its 51-year existence.
The ELN chief said in regards to human rights that “there have been individual mistakes, which we have recognized when they presented themselves and taken internal penal measures.”
Gabino emphasized that these “individual mistakes” happened despite “efforts made from various levels of management to adequately comply with the established regulations” in regards to international humanitarian law.
The guerrilla leader claimed that the ELN started applying the regulations of International Humanitarian Law within their ranks before the government officially accepted its rules.
The ELN is currently in exploratory talks with the government in the hope these talks will be formalized and lead to a peace deal that would end the guerrilla group’s existence.
The government have been in official talks with Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, since November 2012 in the hope of resolving the country’s 51-year-long civil conflict which killed 260,000 Colombians and left 6 million displaced.
Admitting to isolated incidents of human rights violations is an important step towards joining the peace process seeing as recognizing responsibility for war crimes is a crucial component of compensation for the victims.
“We reiterate the ELN’s commitment to Colombia’s peace and we fully share the words of Pope Francis when he appealed that we don’t allow this effort to fail,” wrote Gabino.
The ELN leader responded to a book published by author Victor de Currea-Lugo about the history of violence in Colombia, including the story and current situation of the rebel group.
“Currea is right when he mentions the distrust of the ELN with respect to the offers of peace from the government,” Gabino said.
Gabino describes a long distrust of the State stemming from such historical events such as the 1928 Banana Massacre of hundreds of United Fruit Company workers.
The Colombian government continued to commit atrocities throughout the century, including the phenomenon of killing civilians and dressing them up as rebels to inflate military successes, which has led to the current feeling of distrust.
Despite distrust of the State Gabino has said that he is ready to formalize peace talks with the government.