PBI has a coffee with Diego Martinez, member of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH), a lawyer and adviser to the Legal Commission of the Havana Negotiations Table.
PBI: What is your role in the Legal Commission of the Havana Negotiations Table?
Diego Martinez: In September last year, together with five colleagues, we designed the Special Jurisdiction for Peace which will finally be the justice component of the Havana Agreement, including Agreement No.5 on the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. I was one of the team of lawyers who built and made the proposal for the parties on the issue of justice.
PBI: How did you experience being present at the Table as Diego?
DM: I think that for any Colombian it is a deep satisfaction to be able to avoid people continuing to kill each other, and in that sense it is such a sensitive issue that the Negotiations Table hadn’t been able to reach an agreement on it. And being part of the conversations, means making a small contribution towards something that we have been doing for all of our lives, fighting for human rights and above all, having the possibility for the voices of the defenders to also be heard in these scenarios.
PBI: As you say, it is a very important scenario for all Colombians and so, how have you seen the participation of civil society at the Table?
DM: I must say that in general, and especially regarding point No.5, there was wide participation by civil society groups. In Colombia there was a big debate, I think, amongst civil society organisations, including those which defend political prisoners. I think that the debate which emerged from forums held all around the country, which was aimed directly at the Table, enabled us in great part to build a synthesis of proposals on issues of truth, on proposals for reparation and proposals on justice and guarantees of non-repetition.
PBI: One of the great challenges will be the implementation of the agreements. What mechanisms are designed by the Table for the effective implementation of the agreements?
DM: I believe that it is most important to implement two parameters of the agreements. One parameter is the political commitment of the Government, of the people who govern us. It is a very important commitment to fulfill an agreement that is not an agreement entered into by a Government, but by a State. And on a second level: the level to which civil society and organisations, especially social ones, take ownership of the issues in the agreement. I believe that on issues like integral agrarian reform, for example, it will be necessary for civil society to closely involved if the agreements are to be fully implemented. It will be a gradual struggle too, because we know the agrarian problem in Colombia is a complex one, and one that won’t be resolved in a few years alone.
PBI: And speaking of the agrarian issue, in the regions which have been the most affected during the armed conflict, what risks do you think could emerge in the regions, in the post-agreement phase?
DM: Yes, I think that the main risk that could occur is that the conflict continues in different ways; not inherently the same armed conflict, but yes, different expressions of the conflict do exist. So I think that a very important theme is the guarantees for non-repetition, which means that the State has to adjust its institutional apparatus for it to genuinely guarantee fundamental rights, and for the right to life to genuinely be guaranteed by the State, I think that is the first problem that we have.
The second theme that seems to be to be supremely important, is the whole theme of the State’s security doctrine, and I think that there is a danger for the implementation if the State’s security doctrine does not change. This signifies that, in effect, there must be a wide process of democratising the Armed Forces, with regards to the grave human rights violations that still take place in the regions, above all for them not to happen. And thirdly, the continuity of what we have termed the paramilitary phenomenon in the Agreement on guarantees. The Agreement puts special emphasis on a recurring phenomenon in Colombia, the continuation of the paramilitary phenomenon, or what has been labelled successor paramilitarism.
PBI: From your point of view, what will the agreements mean for the communities in particular?
DM: There was a reduction of more than 35% in violent deaths in the country, this has been one of the most peaceful years in the last 50 years. This can be partially explained in the following way: normal people are seeing that the opposing actors are negotiating in Havana and this has meant that today, people in the country who are facing their daily problems that would have resolved themselves violently before, are resolving them in other ways. This is a response that is very important in criminology, because it says to the country that the agreements have meant that 35% more of the Colombians are not murdering each other.
For the communities, I think that issues of local development will be very important. I believe it is an essential point for territorial development. In many regions forgotten by the State, it is the first time that the idea, even, of agrarian reform is being thought about, and the implementation of a model of participative development through what was created in the agreements on political participation, the Special Peace Districts.
For the first time, people in the territories will have the possibility of electing people who don’t belong to traditional parties and who will have seats in the chambers of the Congress of the Republic.
PBI: We talked about the risks earlier, how do you see the theme of security guarantees specifically for human rights defenders in this country?
DM: I think that we should pay careful attention to the last agreement from the Table, which is the agreement to generate security guarantees, also in terms of dismantling organisations which can be considered the successors of the paramilitary phenomenon. It is a very robust agreement containing fundamental guarantees by the Colombian State, this is one of the agreements where the State has a direct guarantee above all to generate mechanisms, particularly on public policy issues, to dismantle the paramilitary phenomenon.
I think that in terms of guarantees for human rights defenders, a central issue will be the existence of a kind of: “Never Again” Pact, which is what the agreement calls for, a Never Again Pact so that paramilitary organisations will never again exist in Colombia, a pact against these expressions of armed violence which operate in the territories and where the people principally affected are human rights defenders and rural communities.
PBI: We have talked a Little about civil society’s participation at the Table, but, how do you imagine civil society’s participation in building peace in this country once the agreements are signed?
DM: I think that civil society’s participation in terms of the implementation will be very important. That is to say, civil society will have to participate in different ways.
First of all, by verifying that the agreements are put into effect. Civil society is the primary guarantor in terms of verifying the implementation of the agreement.
Secondly, for the first time there should be a big debate and a lot of reflection, and whether we deserve governments which use corruption as a form of generating violence. I think there is a big question there for society, civil society, and that it falls to civil society, when the time comes, to elect governments that are not corrupt, and there is a central theme, which essentially revolves around the implementation of the agreements.
And thirdly, it seems to me that oversight of human rights issues will be one of the central themes of civil society’s participation especially in such a convulsive setting as Colombia. I think that the situation will happen soon, it will be difficult, remember that the transitions once peace accords are signed are also difficult in terms of the increase in political violence. Let’s remember a case, for example, in South Africa, and the high levels of violence which were seen after the peace agreement. That scenario is one that we, the human rights organisations, might eventually have to prepare ourselves for.
PBI: How do you see PBI’s future role in this country?
DM: I think that the territorial provisions of the agreements are a communitarian model, a model to strengthen organisations in the territories. I think that the big challenge for organisations like PBI who do accompaniment should be to continue to accompany organisations in the rural territories which will need accompaniment more than ever because many areas will be left unprotected and it will be necessary to require the presence of international organisations so that people can take up their role as civil society, but also the role that communities have historically had in the territories a local power, a community based power. I think that these forms of power will not be eliminated by the agreement, and on the contrary, they will have to be strengthened to guarantee a period of normalisation, in which human rights are respected and where the State also effectively guarantees its presence in the territories, not a military presence but a presence in terms of economic rights, health and education.
PBI: Diego, thanks so much for being here with us today and we’ll be seeing together how the agreements are implemented.
DM: Many thanks to you for the invite, and for a nice cup of coffee.