By Tanja Nijmeijer
Regarding an article published in The Guardian, called “Colombia peace deal with Farc is hailed as new model for ending conflicts” written by Ed Vulliamy, I would like to make a few clarifications.
The author mentions that only one of the six elements of the Agenda remains to be discussed: decommissioning and disarmament. If only it were that easy! Within the point of victims, the issue of non-repetition is still to be dealt with. A Commission for the Clarification and Dismantlement of Paramilitary structures has been created to that end.
After that, there are still two points left. The first one is End of Conflict, consisting of seven (!) sub-points, among which the revision of the situation of prisoners, charged or convicted for belonging to or collaborating with the FARC-EP, institutional adjustments for the construction of peace and bilateral and definitive cease of fire and hostilities. The second one is implementation, verification and countersignature of the peace accord (1).
The overall impression that remains with the reader of the article is that the government won a historic victory: the guerrilla fighters will have to respond for their crimes. Only when the reader arrives to the last paragraphs of the article, he or she finds out that State agents are also mentioned in the agreement. According to Vulliamy, Santos made “one concession that could leave many who served under him also facing justice” (referring to the inclusion of State agents in the agreement), although he “gained more ground from Farc than had been expected”.
This is completely in line with the position that has been taken by the government – and by the mainstream media- from the beginning of the peace talks: the FARC are responsible for this war and will have to pay for their crimes.
However, although the insurgency has never denied its part in this conflict, it is important to keep in mind that, after a long period of silence about State crimes, the truth is beginning to float to the surface.
In spite of the chaos that exists regarding numbers and statistics of cases after so many years of conflict, there is enough evidence to affirm that the State (individually or in compliance with paramilitaries) can be held liable for 80% of the crimes committed during the conflict.
Selective and collective homicides, torture, forced displacement, extrajudicial executions, persecution of political opponents, illegal arrests and forced disappearances are part of the list of State crimes, committed in a systematic and deliberate way. In the case of the forced disappearances, just to mention an example, if we take the number from the Prosecutor’s Office of 45.000 disappeared people, we must draw the conclusion that the Colombian State has disappeared more people than Chile’s and Argentina’s dictatorships together (2) .
Back in 1994, Amnesty International already reported that “since 1986 (until 1993), 20.000 people (in Colombia) have lost their lives for political reasons, the majority of them by hands of the military forces and the paramilitary groups allied to them”(3).
It is important to note that the agreement is for all combatants, not only for FARC combatants but also for the Colombian Armed Forces – implied in serious human rights violations like the more than 5.700 cases of false positives – and for paramilitaries. More so, it not only concerns combatants, but also non-combatants, that is, the masterminds behind the war, the ones who planned, financed and organized it.
All this leads us to the conclusion that Vulliamy’s sentence…
“Guerrilla leaders who “recognise their responsibility in a late fashion” face trial by the new tribunal and jail terms of between five and eight years. Those who “fail to recognise their responsibility and are declared guilty … will be convicted to prison sentences of up to 20 years”
… is misleading, yet the author, putting the word “guerrilla leaders” at the beginning of the sentence, suggests that justice is only to be applied to one of the parties of the conflict: the guerrillas.
Nothing further from the truth. As Timoleón Jiménez, commander-in-chief of the FARC-EP, said in his final statement on the day the agreement was signed:
“The system is designed so that all parts involved in the conflict – combatants and non-combatants, have the opportunity to provide comprehensive, detailed and full Truth, which can allow them to access to punitive measures of restorative nature, of reparation for the victims.”
In my opinion, therein lies the importance of the agreement as a model for ending conflicts in the world, not in “Farc leaders electing to co-operate in order to receive alternative sanctions”.
We are not ‘co-operating’; we are making peace.
(3) (Amnistía Internacional. Violencia política en Colombia: Mito y Realidad. España: EDAI. 1994, pág. 7.Índice AI: AM23/01/94/s).
Originally published here.
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