UN recommends Colombian peace-process takes into account victims of ongoing conflict
The peace process opened in Colombia between the government and the guerrilla FARC must not contemplate “pardons or amnesties” and must take into account the civilian victims of the ongoing internal war, said on Wednesday Todd Howland special envoy of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Howland said that the peace to be achieved through dialogue and scheduled to begin next month in Oslo, Norway must be accompanied by a “transitional justice” process which has as its main axis the rights of the thousands of victims of the Colombian armed conflict.
“The UN is very clear in this and how far criminal law must be applied”, said Howland, “which means appealing to several mechanisms of transitional justice” to ensure that a “true and lasting peace” is reached.
According to Howland, the UN believes that if the process between the Colombian administration of president Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, is successful “there will be a deep transformation of the Colombian society and thus the emphasis that there should not be an amnesty for all crimes committed”.
“The process must contemplate mechanisms to establish what happened and also compensations for the victims, individually or collectively”, insisted Howland who nevertheless praised the peace process.
Transitional justice is a combination of measures that enable to find replies to massive abuses of human rights, normally through the creation of truth committees which could include some form of remissions for those who come forward.
“It is quite clear in the international legal framework that an amnesty or a pardon can not be included, but it’s not clear how far you must go with criminal law. This is particularly the case for the disappeared to facilitate exhumations and to create a DNA data basis to help families recover the remains”, insisted Howland.
“Families are suffering every day, not only from a moral point of view but also legally. And until they don’t know where their loved ones rest, human rights violations persist”, said the UN envoy.
According to the UN office in Colombia there are at least 15.000 cases of forced disappearance reported in the last three decades.
Last February FARC officially announced they had given up kidnapping civilians and assured they are holding no hostages. However families associations of disappeared insist there are hundreds of next of kin that were kidnapped and nothing is know on their whereabouts.
Colombia has experienced three formal peace attempts in the last three decades, but contrary to previous ones, this last one contemplates in the agenda the issue of human rights as a pivotal point of discussion. The first peace talks attempt was under President Belisario Betancour (1982/86) and the second under President Andres Pastrana (1998/2002), both failed.
Howland said he was optimistic about the negotiations that will open in October in Oslo and later in Havana, as pledged by the Colombian government and FARC, because it is “realistic” and because it “will improve the human rights situation for all and will bring benefits for all Colombians”.
However, the UN envoy warned that “it won’t be easy” because the road will be full of advances and backward movements.