The head of the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (NRRC) told El Tiempo on Thursday that the deadline, which is Thursday, should be extended to accommodate the thousands of victims of Colombia’s armed conflict who are entitled to reparations, but have yet to file a claim.
“The FARC and the ELN are still in action and are leaving more people affected. For this reason, we should extend the deadline as far as possible, until the cycle of violence ends,” explained Eduardo Pizarro, president of the NRRC.
According to Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris, a Colombian think-tank, about 60% of victims entitled to the government reparations, which can be as high as COP20 million for the most serious cases, have not yet submitted their claims.
Arco Iris says that many victims have failed to apply for compensation because they are unaware of their right to the money, or because the presence of armed groups impedes their mobility.
Some Colombia’s departments that have suffered the most in the armed conflict have relatively low levels of filed claims, according to El Tiempo: in Arauca, there are 4,000 registered victims; in Caqueta, 6,200; in Choco, less than 3,000; and in Putumayo, less than 7,000.
Luis Gonzalez, head of the Justice and Peace unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office, which deals with the demobilization of paramilitary gangs, also says that Thursday’s deadline should be pushed back. “An effort to extend the deadline another six months, with more press and publicity, would give the chance not only for victims to learn about their rights, but also to [encourage other] victims… who are just starting to come out, not to slow down.”
Program administrators report that so far, 305,957 people have sought reparations and registered themselves as victims of the armed conflict. Of these, 67% sought reparations for homicides, while 10% sought reparations for forced disappearances.
In addition, nearly 10,000 people claim that they were victims of kidnapping.
So far, the reparation claims of about 10,500 victims have been approved. The remaining victims who have filed claims will have to wait about another eighteen months to have their cases analyzed and approved.
To determine whether or not the program will continue into the future, the government will prepare a final report on the reparations program prior to leaving office, and will deliver it to the incoming president, who will be elected in May, and will be charged with determining the fate of the program.