Colombia’s Catholic Church and several non-governmental organisations have asked rebel group FARC to clarify the status of more than 25,000 missing, release more than 6,000 recruited children and suspend the planting of mines, local media reported on Sunday.
According to Radio Santa Fe, such requests were sent via letter to peace delegations of both the rebels and the government in Havana, preceding the fourteenth round of talks beginning Monday.
The letter stresses the church’s and NGO’s commitment to peace, whilst pleading that negotiations reach a swift outcome.
“[We hope] that the talks will lead to the completion of the internal armed conflict and enable us to continue with more strength and determination, building lasting and stable peace,” opened the letter.
“The three most important points during negotiations are the victimization in the conflict, citizen participation and national reconciliation, and we call on both parties to complete work on the agenda items expeditiously and in the shortest time possible ” added the letter.
President Santos recently stressed the need to move negotiations forward at a greater pace, stating that “we are approaching the time when decisions need to be made.”
In an expansion of the points entitled “victimization”, the church and NGO’s insist that the rebels recognize the victims generated in the context of the armed conflict, and cease their use of mines and child soldiers.
“[The FARC need to] provide evidence and conduct investigations leading to the whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearances attributed to political or military action. More than 25,000 people have disappeared in the last 60 years.”
“[The rebel group also need to] suspend the planting of mines and unexploded mines, deliver maps highlighting the location of minefields and prohibit child recruitment. All children who are rank fighters should be returned immediately,” added the church.
The letter also demands that action be taken to ensure the safety of women and trade unionists throughout Colombia.
“Any victimization against women needs to be suspended, as between 1985 and 2012, 2,240,887 women have been the victims of forced displacement.”
“[Furthermore] rebels need to suspend and prevent attacks against trade unionists and take all measures for the promotion and strengthening of the trade union,” added the letter.
In relation to the matter of citizen participation, the letter refers to peace building as an issue for society as a whole and urges negotiators to increase the methods for which citizens can send proposals to Havana.
“We call upon the table to further strengthen the existing mechanisms and to generate new and increased opportunities for the organised participation of society that can feed proposals [to Havana].”
“The Colombian people have the right to validate any agreement that is reached, for which we consider the means of participation referred to in the national constitution as appropriate,” added the church.
This point has been of particular significance during negotiations. Rebel group FARC seek the creation of a constituent assembly to ratify any agreement, while the government are seeking new legislation allowing for a referendum on any agreement to be held simultaneously with the 2014 congressional or presidential elections.
According to the church and NGO’s, to ensure the effective transition from armed conflict to a stable and lasting peace, it is necessary to discuss reconciliation.
“Peace building requires the construction of a new social language, one that is less aggressive and dismissive. Reconciliation is constructed in everyday life, in the neighborhood, municipality, region, culture promoting advocacy of human rights and the peaceful transformation of all conflicts.”
“Peace will become evident and tangible in local society, and that is where we build re encounters for reconciliation,” insisted the letter.
Rebel group FARC and the government have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to the internal conflict.
While an accord has been reached regarding land reform, no agreements have been made on the issue of the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the armed conflict and the rights of the victims.