Justice for the many victims of human rights abuses and violations amid Colombia’s five-decade armed conflict must lie at the heart of peace talks announced today between the government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), Amnesty International said.
The government and the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group, said that official peace negotiations between the two sides are soon to begin in Ecuador.
The country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) are expected to sign a peace agreement with the government in the coming weeks or months after more than three years of talks.
“The talks between the ELN and the government, coupled with an imminent peace deal with the FARC, bring hope that more than half a century of conflict in Colombia might soon be over,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“However, the authorities must ensure that all those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law committed in this conflict – be they members of the security forces, paramilitaries or the guerrilla groups, including third parties such as businesspeople and politicians – mustnot avoid justice before ordinary civilian courts.
“The government and the ELN must ensure that human rights, including measures to put an end to impunity, lie at the heart of the negotiations.”
The 50-year conflict in Colombia has been marked by widespread as well as systematic violations andabuses of human rights, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture, forced displacement, and sexual violence.
These have been committed by the security forces, either acting alone or in collusion with paramilitaries, and by guerrilla groups.
Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities, as well as human rights defenders, community leaders and trade unionists, have been particularly at risk.
“There can be no long-lasting, effective peace without full respect for the rights of the conflict’s victims to truth, justice and reparation in line with international law and standards,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
“The agreements on justice reached thus far with the FARC appear to fall well short of this mark.”
There has been a recent spike in threats against – and killings of – human rights defenders in Colombia.
There have also been ongoing attacks against Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities, mostly carried out by paramilitary groups.
“Recent attacks on activists and other groups are a grave reminder that the human rights crisis in Colombia goes on despite the peace talks,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
“The Colombian authorities must now step up efforts to protect those groups and communities at risk, including by effectively combating paramilitary groups and breaking the links that such groups still have with some sectors of the security forces.