A Colombian victims’ organization said that victims “are very happy” with Wednesday’s deal on transitional justice between the government and FARC rebels.
The justice deal includes the creation of a court which will investigate and sentence those found guilty of murder, torture, kidnapping and sexual violence committed during Colombia’s decades long armed conflict. Those found guilty will have to pay reparations to the victims.
Teresita Gaviria, who co-founded the Association for the Paths of Hope Mothers of the Candelaria in 1999 after her 15-year-old son was forcibly disappeared, was visibly content.
“Peace is about to arrive,” the victims’ representative said optimistically.
Similar to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the Mothers of the Candelaria meet weekly outside the Church of Our Lady of la Candelaria in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, to show photos of their missing loved ones and demand to know what happened to them, where they are and whether they are alive or dead.
The justice deal signed on Wednesday includes the guarantee of truth commissions which will reveal the whole truth of the conflict to its victims and the Colombian population as a whole.
Gaviria’s Mothers of the Candelaria consists of 92% women and 8% men; they are the mothers, fathers, wives, children and relatives of those who were kidnapped or disappeared. Gaviria’s organization campaigns for truth, justice, reparations and the promise of no repetition for the victims of the conflict.
Gaviria told Colombia Reports that “the victims must receive reparations and be listened to” and expressed her joy at the news of the deal signed on Wednesday and her confidence that the announced Special Jurisdiction for Peace will provide justice for victims.
Gaviria went to Havana in 2014 as part of the second group of 12 victims, 60 in total, who were invited to the negotiation table so that the peace delegations could listen to their plight.
The campaigner, whose organization won the National Peace Prize in 2006, told Colombia Reports that Wednesday’s justice deal is “the best opportunity that [the victims] have had,” and that this development shows that the peace talks are “on the right track.”
President Juan Manuel Santos announced following the signing of the deal that the final peace deal will be signed within six months.
Gaviria told news agency AFP that the deal additionally was “a fatal blow for all those people who doubted the peace of Colombians, a peace that we all yearned for, victims and not victims.”
The National Unit of Victims has the total number of persons killed, displaced, disappeared or otherwise victimized by guerrillas or the State during the conflict at over 7 million. According to the National Center of Historic Memory, there are 26,000 cases of forced disappearance, 37% of which are attributed to the FARC.
Peace talks have been taking place in Havana, Cuba between the FARC and the government since November 2012 in the hope of resolving the devastating 51-year-long civil conflict.