The head of the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (NRRC) said that reparations made to victims by demobilized paramilitaries under Colombia’s Justice and Peace process have been “absolutely insufficient,” reports El Tiempo on Thursday.
According to Eduardo Pizarro, president of the NRRC, the government run reparations program, in which paramilitaries compensate their victims, “Has been positive, but absolutely insufficient,” due to the program’s legal loopholes.
“The problem [with the program],” Pizarro claimed, “is that it doesn’t say when they [paramilitaries] should deliver the reparations, and the Supreme Court hasn’t said either. If you ask me what is the main reason for this, it is because of legal loopholes. They left open the possibility for them to give reparations after their sentences… [allowing them to] take advantage of five years of making the resources disappear, to sell everything and hide their tracks… Also, they are selling their resources to honest buyers, and to take away [from those honest buyers] what they bought is something virtually legally impossible. We gave them [the paramilitaries] a gift: five years to make their resources disappear.”
Pizarro went on to explain that rising levels of violence against victims of Colombia’s armed conflict stem from a typical and cyclical pattern in which the alleviation of a conflict leads to the start of another.
“Violence against the victims is a signal of another conflict… One conflict coming to an end leads to the return of a displaced population to their homes, which produces another cycle of violence, but this time, it is for the disputed land.”
Pizarro also explained that the neo-paramilitary organizations across Colombia have emerged in order to prevent the displaced victims from reclaiming lands lost during the previous stage of Colombia’s internal conflict.
Since the demobilization program commenced, 45 leaders of victim groups trying to reclaim land have been assassinated, three of which have happened in mid-May.
Since the assassination of land activist Yolanda Izquierdo in 2005 in the department of Cordoba, Colombia’s Ministry of the Interior has received 1,471 requests for protection for victims who sought reparations via the Justice and Peace program, El Tiempo indicates.
Of those requests, 214 were granted special protection after police investigations deemed their situations “extraordinarily risky.”
Another factor behind the violence against those working to reclaim land, Pizarro went on to argue, is that the “extradition of the former paramilitary chiefs forced their deputies, front men, and mid-level leaders to wage war against each other and those threatening their ownership to the land deeds.”