The United Nations is optimistic about reaching peace in Colombia but warned on Wednesday there will be difficult times ahead for the country’s government and FARC guerrilla group during negotiations.
The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Todd Howland, at a meeting with the International Press Association of Colombia in Bogota, warned that the road to peace which Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has put a June 2013 limit on, “is not going to be easy.”
The UN representative said that the government and the FARC would have to “change their positions a bit to succeed” at the peace talks which will formally begin in Norway’s capital Oslo on October 8th.
Howland considered these negotiations to be “realistic” as opposed to former attempts at peace which resulted in disaster, most notably a decade ago when the government acceded a zone the size of Switzerland to the FARC in Colombian territory where they proceeded to strengthen and build their forces and illegal activities.
The UN representative also emphasized the importance of the victims’ human rights, guarantees of the opening of politics for opposition, and disarmament of the guerrillas, all items which are on the agenda for the tables of negotiation.
Howland was very clear however that amnesties and pardon could not be negotiated and that the dialogue should center around the victims who have suffered during the 48-year armed conflict that has devastated the country.
“The UN position is very clear and within the international legal framework there cannot be an amnesty or a pardon,” said the representative.
Howland also noted that the legal frameworks must be defined and said that at the moment it is not “clear how and to what level criminal justice must apply.”
“There must be mechanisms to clarify what happened and to compensate the victims personally and collectively,” Howland told the press, insisting that the truth must be clarified about the kidnapped and the disappeared.
“Families are suffering … and until they know where their loved ones are it is a violation,” said the representative.
The FARC on the other hand want a possible peace deal with the government to include judicial mechanisms granting them pardon and amnesty for their crimes, and shielding them from extradition to the United States.
Pending legislation that defines the legal framework in the case of the demobilization and integration of illegal armed groups is not sufficient for the FARC to give up weapons said one of the guerrilla leaders on Monday.
Howland claimed that with the proper mechanisms to reach a “true and lasting peace,” there could be a “profound transformation” of Colombian society.