Twelve-thousand victims of the Colombian conflict will begin to receive
reparations in a process set to begin next month that will eventually
include 200,000 “atrocity victims” and 3 million displaced persons, the
head of Colombia’s reparation and reconciliation commission said on
Eduardo Pizarro and Colombian Peace Commissioner Frank Pearl kicked off
a tour in Madrid that will take them to the European Parliament and
Norway to explain the evolving application of Bogota’s Justice and
Peace Law, which regulates the re-integration of former irregulars.
a breakfast with reporters, Pizarro said that “at the end of May or the
beginning of June we are going to begin awarding reparations to 12,000
victims” as a first step in a long process that is calculated to
include some 200,000 people.
The first 12,000 were chosen from
among people who have suffered different kinds of violence, such as
those injured by landmines, people who were forcibly recruited as
children by leftist rebels or right-wing militias and women who endured
It is a very complex process, from the time of
defining what reparations mean for the victims to the impossibility of
quantifying “how much a human life is worth, how much the life of a
child is worth to a mother.”
For that reason the reparations
concept to be used will not be a mere check for a certain amount.
“Economic reparations are important, above all when dealing with such
poor people, but we speak of reparations in the wider sense of helping
victims go on with their lives,” Pizarro said.
He also spoke of
Colombia’s 3 million internally displaced people, for whom a project
will be undertaken to restore their assets so they can go back and
reclaim them, “a very complex task since many of their lands are
occupied by armed groups or by other poor peasants.”
that displaced persons left behind 4 million hectares (nearly 9 million
acres) of land, “half the territory of Switzerland,” which in many
cases will be very difficult if not impossible to recover, since added
to the problem of squatters is the fact that only a third of the owners
have property titles.
Pizarro said there were up to “seven
different ways of seizing” lands, including “putting a pistol to the
head” so that in some cases “the owners transferred titles to the
property” or sold it.
For cases that involve litigation a “Land
Tribunal” will be set up that will use, as was done in Bosnia and
Kosovo, “local surveys” to find out who the real owner is.
“If we don’t return the lands, we’ll have a violent post-conflict situation,” Pizarro said.
defray restitution costs there are two funds, one through “the court
system” made up of assets from paramilitary chiefs, of which $13
million came from belongings surrendered voluntarily and around $100
million in seized assets.
There is another $100 million fund
from the government budget for administrative reparations, following a
model similar to that used by Spain for providing reparations to
According to the chairman of the reparation
and reconciliation commission, “90 percent of victims in Colombia are
from the lowest economic strata.”
An independent group that
calls itself the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, or
CODHES, said last September that 270,675 Colombians were forced from
their homes during the first half of 2008, up 41 percent over the same
period in 2007.
Causes of the rise in forced displacement
include the re-emergence of rightist gunmen despite the 2006
demobilization pact between the AUC militia federation and President
Alvaro Uribe’s government, CODHES said.
The group also blamed Colombia’s biggest leftist insurgency, the FARC.
weakened by military setbacks and the deaths of its two top leaders,
the FARC continues to plant landmines and extort “revolutionary taxes”
from farmers and merchants, according to CODHES.
And the security forces, “pressured to produce results, are not exempt from grave violations of human rights,” CODHES said. (Efe)