Colombian military victims of FARC war crimes want to be represented in ongoing peace talks with the rebel group, a thorny issue as the army is one of the conflict’s principal victimizers.
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 the army could be offended by the inclusion of a victimizer representative at the victims table.
Earlier this year, both the Colombian government and the FARC admitted to being victimizers in the Colombian armed conflict, which would present a conflict of interest if members of the army — even if victims of human rights abuses themselves — were to participate as victims.
The push for military victim representation
The push to include members of Colombia’s military victimized by the FARC at the victim’s table is led by ex-FARC prisoner, General Luis Mendieta, who was held for 12 years by the guerrilla group until he was rescued in the military rescue of four hostages in June 2010.
Mendieta criticized the lack of people in a similar situation to him at the victim’s table, “They don’t want us to attend [the peace talks], because they see us as prisoners of war […], they want to treat us as prisoners of war, or detainees and not the way it is addressed according to international humanitarian law,” he told national W Radio.
According to Mendieta, the selection process of who gets to be determined is biased. “There is a pre-established agenda, and they include the criteria of an ideological current led by Ivan Cepeda and Piedad Cordoba, where they don’t take our pronouncements into account,” according to television network RCN.
The National University, together with the United Nations in charge of the selection process for the 60-person victim delegation, denied this and said no selection has been made so far.
The director of the United Nations program in Colombia in charge of victim selection, Arnaud Peral, told W Radio that “we don’t want to exclude anybody, we are going to base our decisions in international humanitarian law, and are going to create a list of 60 representatives.”
Colombia’s Inspector General’s Office, led by peace talks critic Alejandro Ordoñez, asked the United Nations last week to verify that “real victims” of the armed conflict are represented at the negotiating table in Havana.
FARC Peace talks
The FARC have been in peace negotiations with the Colombian government since August 2012. Previous peace talks with the guerrilla group were unsuccessful. The peace negotiations are a contentious issue in Colombia, and were a hot debate topic between the two candidates for the presidential elections that occurred last month.
Recently re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos has vowed to continue the negotiations, however he declared that the peace talks could end should the FARC refuse to halt attacks on infrastructure.
“It’s insane. They [the FARC] themselves are digging their own political grave, because that is exactly what is being done, which the people reject more and more. What they did some days ago they attacked an aqueduct; they left populations of Meta without water. That’s an act of terrorism totally condemnable,” said Santos.
Both the FARC and the government recognized their role as victimizers in the Colombian armed conflict in June via a historic joint declaration. Both delegations have agreed upon three of the five negotiation points.
- Polémica por la elección de víctimas que viajarán a la mesa de La Habana (W Radio)
- U. Nacional desmiente que ya haya tomado decisiones sobre delegaciones de víctimas (W Radio)
- “No están representando a las víctimas directas de las Farc” (RCN)
- EL CENTRO DE PENSAMIENTO Y SEGUIMIENTO AL DIALOGO DE PAZ DE LA UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)