Hope in sight for victims of Colombia's 50 year conflict

By agency reporter
December 22, 2015

Christian Aid has hailed a victims reparations deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group as a breakthrough on perhaps the most complex point of the peace talks agenda.

Bolstering the chances of the two sides reaching final agreement next year to end the five-decade old conflict, the deal will give victims of the conflict the right to compensation.

In addition, the deal instigates the setting up of a truth commission and a special unit to search for those who disappeared during the conflict. Special tribunals will be established to try the most serious crimes – war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity – while an amnesty will cover other conflict-related offences.

Christian Aid’s country manager in Colombia, Thomas Mortensen, said: “The task ahead will be immense, but both sides with this deal have signed up to going the distance.

“We welcome the fact that the rights of victims are at the centre of the peace agreement and we encourage the international community to prioritise the rights and interests of the victims in their support of building peace in Colombia. 

“The conflict claimed the lives of some 220,000 people with 15 per cent of the population alive today – some seven million people – victims in one way or another of what took place. At least 5.7 million people were internally displaced, while an estimated half a million women experienced sexual violence in a conflict-related context over the past 10 years alone.

“One major problem regarding sexual violence that will require tackling is the fact that impunity for perpetrators has been rampant. Sexual violence is a terrible crime that leaves the victims marked for life, but the impunity rate is almost 100 per cent.”

Christian Aid and its partners have promoted a negotiated end to the armed conflict for decades. In recent rounds of talks, it supported communities of victims, including women’s groups, in engaging with the Government and FARC to influence the peace process.

With this aspect of the talks now settled, negotiators must now move on to discussing disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration,  and agree on an adequate mechanism such as a plebiscite to ensure that the public has a chance to legitimise the eventual over-all agreement,.

One major concern of FARC is how to ensure that its demobilised combatants are not killed by paramilitary forces. Ironically, it will have to be the armed forces, their former enemy, which guarantees their safety.

To do so, says Christian Aid, the armed forces will have to establish a monopoly of the use of force in Colombia. One worrying development, however, is that in some parts of the country there are reports of large groups of armed paramilitaries apparently trying to fill the power vacuum left by the FARC.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

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