In an historic announcement, Colombia rebel group FARC and the country’s government on Saturday recognized being victimizers in the armed conflict and announced to be inviting victims to take part in ongoing peace talks.
The two negotiation teams announced the agreement to begin discussing victim compensation and said to be scheduling the participation of victims in the talks in a “declaration of principles” that seeks the “granting of rights of victims,” which according to the negotiators “is an essential part of the guarantees to achieve peace.”
The FARC and the government additionally announced the creation of a truth commission as requested by the FARC to clarify crimes and human rights violations committed by actors in the 50-year-old conflict.
The FARC and the Colombian government agree to the following:
Recognition of victims
It is necessary to recognize all the victims of the conflict, not just in their condition as victims, but also and mainly in their condition as citizens with rights.
Recognition of responsibility
Any debate regarding this point should begin with the recognition of responsibility towards the victims of the conflict. We are not going to exchange impunity.
Satisfying the rights of victims
The rights of victims of the conflict are not negotiable. We need to come to an agreement on how [the victims' rights] within the framework of the conflict should be honored in the best possible way.
The debate on the honoring of the rights of victims of serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that took place during the conflict makes the participation of victims through different means and at different times necessary.
The clarifying of truth
The establishing of what happened during the length of the conflict, including its multiple causes, origins and effects, is a fundamental part of the honoring of rights of victims and society in general. The recovery of confidence depends on the plain clarification and recognition of truth.
Reparation of victims
Victims are entitled to being compensated for the damages suffered because of the conflict. Restoring the rights of victims and transforming their living conditions in the context of finalizing the conflict is a fundamental part of a stable and lasting peace.
Protection and security guarantees
The protection of the lives and personal integrity of victims is the first step towards honoring their other rights.
No repetition guarantee
The end of the conflict and the implementation of the reforms that spring from the Final Agreement constitute the main guarantee of no repetition and the way to make sure that no new generations of victims emerge. The measures that will be adopted in the fifth and other points on the agenda should aim to guarantee the no repetition in a way that no Colombian will be put in the condition of victim or at serious risk.
Principle of reconciliation
One of the goals of the honoring victims’ rights is the reconciliation of all Colombian citizens to take the road towards civility and coexistence.
Focus on rights
All the agreements we have gotten to regarding the points on the agenda, and in particular regarding to that of point five, Victims, must contribute to the protection and the guarantee of the effective enjoying of rights for all. Human rights are inherent equally for all human beings. This means that they belong to them for the sole fact of being one [human being]. Consequently, recognizing this is not a concession, but universal, indivisible and interdependent, and must be considered in a global way and in a just and equal way. Consequently, the State has the obligation to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental liberties, and citizens [have the obligation] to not violate the rights of their compatriots. Considering the principles of universality, equality and progress , and for the purpose of compensation, we will take into account the infringements caused due to the conflict on economic, social and cultural rights.
The treatment of the millions of victims of Colombia’s armed conflict was originally not to be discussed until reaching the fifth point of the agenda, but has been pushed forward and will now be treated simultaneous to point three, the last remaining issue on the agenda, which is the logistical end of the conflict.
The FARC’s admitting of responsibility in human rights violations and violations of fundamental rights of Colombians is historic; Never before have the guerrillas explicitly admitted responsibility.
FARC negotiator “Simon Trinidad” last month caused indignation among FARC victims after declaring to the BBC that the organization itself is a victim of the conflict.
On other occasions, FARC negotiators have expressed sympathy for victims and hypothetically agreed to eventually accepting responsibility without explicitly recognizing the rebels’ responsibility.
Victim organizations have long urged the negotiators to allow them to take part in the talks held in Havana, Cuba.
Their inclusion to the talks is not just historic within the context of the ongoing negotiations, but is historic in the context of Colombia’s entire conflict that has seen the coming and going of numerous guerrilla and paramilitary groups since violence erupted in 1964, but never involved victims of these groups in the negotiations.
“In no other peace process with guerrillas or paramilitaries has the issue of the victims been considered as a topic in the negotiations agenda,” Mario Aguilera of the National Center for Historical Memory (CNMH), told Colombia Reports in March.
Both the FARC and the Colombian government are held responsible for hundreds of thousands of human rights violations ranging from kidnapping, homicide, torture and sexual abuse.
The FARC, weary of being deemed the sole responsible of the violence and human rights violations, have frequently called for a truth commissions which has now been agreed to.
The two negotiating teams have been engaged in formal talks since late 2012 and have since agreed on the political participation of the FARC and non-violent dissident organizations, the FARC’s abandoning of drug trafficking activities and a rural reform.
Colombia’s current armed conflict began in 1964 when, in response to state violence towards farmers, Marxist farmers in the south of the central Colombian Tolima state formed a self-defense army and declared their municipality independent from Colombia.
Fueled by poverty on Colombia’s countryside and violent incursions from the government then run by the political elite from the capital Bogota, the FARC grew from little more than 40 fighters in 1964 to tens of thousands of fighters at the guerrillas’ peak in the 1990s.
American diplomats working in Colombia that time said the FARC were close to overtaking Bogota and thus effectively taking control of the country.
A US-backed military offensive that took place in the first ten years of this century forced the guerrillas to retreat to the peripheries of the country from where they carried out typical guerrilla attacks on state forces.
These attacks are ongoing as the negotiating parties so far have failed to agree on a unilateral ceasefire. According to the government and the FARC, this ceasefire will not take place until after the signing of a final deal.