Colombia’s internal armed conflict will likely be recognized in the Victims Law, but political recognition will not be given to illegal armed groups, members of the bill’s coordinating committee said Thursday.
Senate council members are working to resolve two of the big questions remaining before the Victims Law bill can be approved, regarding whether Colombia’s internal armed conflict will be recognized as such in the text of the law, and whether armed groups will subsequently be given political status.
According to El Espectador, project spokesperson Roy Barreras reported the decision that armed groups in the country will not receive political status under the law, stating that, “There is to be no political recognition or militant status [given].”
The senator added that the decision relates to the fact that the law is intended to assist victims of the conflict, and not the perpetrators of violence, and that the only thing left to define is if those who generated the violence will be considered armed groups or common criminals.
“We are establishing what the law’s Article 3 should say, but regardless, the law is for victims and not for the combatants,” said Barreras.
The decision means that the FARC guerrilla organization will continue to be considered illegal, and will not receive recognition from the Colombian administration as a political organization.
In regards to the status of the conflict itself, Senator Juan Fernando Cristo, the chairman of the Victims Law committee, said that the council plans to include recognition of armed conflict in the country in the law, with the aim of targeting reparations towards victims of the violence and not of other crimes.
“A group of advisors persuaded the president that in order to give clarity it is necessary to include and specify the armed conflict in order to provide reparations only to the victims of the violence,” Cristo explained.
He added that, “It’s absurd to say that because we are creating a victims law we are going to give political recognition to any armed group (…) the Geneva protocol says that the act of recognizing a conflict does not change the legal status of the combatants.”
President Juan Manuel Santos officially recognized the internal armed conflict as such in a Wednesday Security Council meeting, contradicting statements of his predecessor Alvaro Uribe, who denied the existence of a conflict.
Uribe responded to the pronouncement with severe criticism, stating that what exists is a “terrorist threat,” not an “armed conflict.”
Thursday evening, the council is expected to further define the projected outcome of the bill, after meeting with the president.
The Victims Law, which is intended to provide both monetary reparations and land restitution to victims of the armed struggle, has been the subject of partisan debate over the last few years, primarily between the Liberal Party and the Partido de la U.
Major concerns until this point have regarded the years to be covered by the law and whether it should include victims of state agents, with Senator Barreras proposing Monday that a separate legal framework should be created to prosecute state agents who have perpetrated crimes.