The chief negotiator of Colombia’s government at peace talks with rebel group FARC said Wednesday that the negotiating teams will first hear civilian victims of the conflict before inviting military victims of war crimes.
Peace talks agenda
The FARC and the government, engaged in negotiations since late 2012, are currently debating victims, the fourth of six points on the Havana peace talks agenda.
In order to do this, the United Nations and the National University organized several victims forums, allowing victims to send proposals to Cuba where the talks are held.
Additionally, the UN and the NU are in charge of creating a commission of victims to directly negotiate with the FARC and government representatives.
Civilian, military and rebel victims
This selection process was complicated by the military which demanded that members of the institution that had been a victim of war crimes deserve to be recognized as victims and should be represented.
Although military victims of the FARC undoubtedly exist — hundreds of members of the military were held hostage by the guerrillas under inhumane circumstances and for prolonged periods of time – allowing military members as a victims is delicate because of the army’s own history of human rights violations and war crimes; Victims of crimes committed by the army could be offended by the inclusion of a victimizer representative at the victims table.
Subsequent to the military efforts to enter the victim delegations, the FARC stressed that rebels that have been tortured are also victims of war crimes and claimed that rebel groups like the FARC and ELN are responsible for 17% of the victims while 75% was victim of state forces.
An investigation of victimization carried out by the National Center for Historic Memory confirmed that the FARC are responsible of 17% of the killings carried out within the context of the conflict. However, it said that state forces were responsible for no more than 10.1% of the conflict-related deaths. The remaining murders were carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups or unidentified actors.
The FARC failed to mention its role in kidnapping, of which is the primary culprit.
Government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, who was called to Congress to respond to the military concerns, told lawmakers that the negotiation teams will first hear the civilian victims before inviting armed actors.
” Give us the option and the space to hear the civilians. Let’s hear them, I wouldn’t say with calmly because this isn’t a calm issue, but with respect and tolerance,” said De la Calle.
The government negotiator was quick to clarify that the prioritization of civilian victims over armed actor victims did not mean the government does not recognize soldiers as victims.
According to De la Calle, “International law under certain circumstances dictates that soldiers who have been submitted to acts that stand outside the ordinary course of a conflict, have this condition [of recognized victim] and are categorized as such.”
According to government statistics, some 6 million Colombians are recognized victims of the conflict. A delegation of 60 representatives, divided in five victim groups, is supposed to represent the different types of victims.