Impunity – freedom from punishment

What I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse.”

– Isabel Allende

Last month we accompanied the Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC) in a forum of victims in Cali called “Victims of State Crimes. Justice Agreement? Peace? Impunity?”.

The event commenced with a symbolic remembrance act wherein family members of victims of the armed conflict recounted terrifying and emotional stories of disappearances and assassinations and placed a symbolic flag with the victims´ names and details on a map of the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca.

During one such testimony, Carmen, an Afro-Colombian described the day that armed men entered her house and murdered seven of her male family members. Her testimony was horrifying and emotive, but concluded in her spontaneously singing a beautiful song of remembrance accompanied by others.

Once the map was complete with flags with the names of hundreds of victims, an Afro-Colombian band from the Pacific Coast of Colombia played several songs inspiring many to sing and dance.

This is Colombia, this is my experience of Colombia; one minute a person will share with you a traumatic or violent story of death or loss and the next they will sing and dance. Although their stories are traumatic, their spirit is strong and they inspire as they fight for recognition and non-repetition. But they also continue to sing and dance.

Following the remembrance acts, we heard from two eminent human rights lawyers, Jorge Molano (also accompanied by PBI) and Frederico Andreu. Both presented fascinating legal analyses and criticisms of the legal implications and uncertainties surrounding the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC. Their central concern being whether the peace agreement will really deliver justice to the victims of state crimes or will the status quo of impunity continue.


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