Urgent Campaign for Peace and Life in Colombia
As members of the international community, we want to express our concern regarding the difficulties in the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia, as well as for the aggressions against social leaders and human rights defenders.
With the signing and later endorsement of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla in November 2016, Colombia initiated a new historical era, with two big challenges ahead: the implementation of what was agreed, and the construction of a just and durable peace. It is a moment full of opportunities, but also full of risks.
It is an opportunity to overcome the inequalities and violence deeply embedded for decades, as well as to lay the foundations for a society that fully respects human rights. However, against this lie the critical situation for social leaders and human rights defenders, as well as a series of difficulties and challenges that must be dealt with in order to put into practice what was agreed upon at the negotiating table.
According to Indepaz (1), in only six months the numbers of threats, attacks and homicides towards social leaders and human rights defenders have reached alarming levels: 42 people have been murdered because they belong to peasant, indigenous or afro-descendant social organisations, and 9 have been killed due to their direct relation with the FARC-EP (relatives or pardoned guerrilla members). Outlaw and paramilitary groups, such as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia or the Águilas Negras, are responsible for most of these attacks and deaths (2), which are part of a strategy to gain territorial control on areas where the FARC-EP operated and had influence(3). Even though there are numerous testimonies of local communities about the presence ofthese illegal groups in their regions (4) – who occasionally coexist with the Colombian military armed forces – the government has not formally accepted the existence of these structures derived from paramilitarism, stating that they are criminal and drug trafficking gangs. Thus, most of the threats, attacks and murders are not being investigated or those responsible brought to justice.
At the same time, even though the implementation process of the Agreement is ongoing and both negotiating parts are going to great lengths to accomplish the goals set out, the deadlines initially agreed on have been modified due to delays in the adaptation of the Zonas Veredales Transitorias de Normalización (ZVTN) where the guerrilla members are gathered to begin their reincorporation to civil society, and where the weapons are being handed over. Another grave concern in the current re-negotiation process of the Agreement relates to the challenges and obstacles regarding the materialisation of it into laws and concrete actions. These processes have advanced very slowly, which generates a huge uncertainty for society as a whole, but above all and more critically for the guerrilla members in the ZVTN, for the communities which inhabit regions directly involved with the conflict and which expect a territorial peace, and for the ELN guerrilla, currently on a second round of peace dialogues with the Colombian government.
Consequently, many sectors are greatly concerned about the stage the Agreement implementation is currently at, as well as the grave security situation for hundreds of social leaders and human rights defenders in Colombia.
As members of the international community we want to support the process in Colombia. We are launching the Campaign for Peace and Life, with the purpose of drawing attention at an international level to the advances of the Peace Agreement implementation and by making visible and supporting social leaders and human rights defenders who are facing threats and attacks. Through the Campaign, we want to stress the following issues:
- It is urgent to implement the actions planned and included in the Peace Agreement in order to protect the lives of social leaders and human rights defenders that are under threat because of their work and additionally to properly recognise their work as a fundamental contribution to peace in Colombia.
- It is necessary to comply with what was agreed in the Peace Agreement, and ensure that the obligations assumed by both parts regarding the 6 items negotiated in Havana are maintained.
- Likewise, the Colombian government must recognise the existence, consolidation and re-arming of paramilitary groups in rural and urban areas and take action through its relevant agencies and institutions to dismantle these groups and to penalise – disciplinarily and judicially – state agents that illegally support or conceal the actions of such groups.
Signed by the following organisations, July 3 2017
Church of Sweden
International Action for Peace
Taula Catalana per la Pau i els Drets Humans a Colombia
The Swedish Fundation for Human Rights
For more information please contact:
1. General List of Human Rights Defenders Murdered in 2017 –May 3, 2017. Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz INDEPAZ.
2. Annual Report 2016 “El Paramitarismo sí existe”, 2016. CINEP. http://www.cinep.org.co/Home2/component/k2/item/415-el-paramilitarismo-si-existe-informe-de-la-situacion-de-derechos-humanos-en-colombia-durante-2016.html
3. Interview with Carlos Alfonso Negret, Colombia´s Ombudsman ”Hay un fenómeno criminal contra la paz”, advierte el defensor – Jan 4, 2017. Semana http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/carlos-negret-sobre-lideres-sociales-asesinados-en-colombia/520507
4. Report of the Visit to Bajo Atrato – Maj 2017. Space for Cooperation for Peace, a platform of international civil society organizations. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwfLs12RWJzkRXA1OTkxTWdfMXM/view