Threats and attacks overshadow the second mandate of the UN Verification Mission which starts today

The United Nations Second Verification Mission in Colombia starts operating today, 26 September.[1] Several reports in July and August warned of how shifts in regional power structures, armed groups and economies have resulted in threats, murders and forced displacement in different parts of the country; these incidents have exposed the risks that overshadow the Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC.

After the FARC combatants regrouped in preparation for disarmament, groups like the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC)[2] and the ELN[3] got stronger, according to the report Crimen organizado y saboteadores armados en tiempos de transición, by Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). The report also explains how eight “emergent criminal gangs” have become more powerful, and questions the State’s ability to control the territory and keep the population safe.[4]

We are Defenders warns of an increase in murders and attacks against the life and physical integrity of human rights defenders in Colombia. Between January and June, 51 people were murdered and 225 were threatened, which represents an increase in the number attacks compared to the first six months of 2016, when 35 murders were reported.[5] The Peace Community reported that international accompaniment organisations were threatened in San Jose de Apartado in August.[6] The number of women defenders murdered rose from three cases (2016) to seven cases (2017).  Many of the victims in these killings were linked to Community Action Boards, did community work, or were farming leaders; 59% of attacks (197 cases) were allegedly carried out by neo-paramilitary groups.

The Draft Legislative Act 015/2017 (Chamber) and 004/2017 (Senate) “[d]ictates measures to ensure the legitimate monopoly of force and the use of weapons by the State” and its final reading is currently being debated by Congress. The bill enacts a commitment agreed in point 3.4.2 of the Peace Agreement, which aims to “prohibit the promotion, organisation, funding or official and/or private employment of paramilitary structures or practices, and thereupon develop necessary norms for its application, including criminal, administrative and disciplinary sanctions”.

Meanwhile, there are many concerns about the FARC demobilisation process, particularly because ex-combatants and their families are being murdered in several regions in the country. A total of 22 people have been murdered, 11 ex-combatants and 11 family members. Neo-paramilitaries carried out the killings in 10 of the cases, the ELN in one case and unknown individuals in the rest. [7]  The advance of neo-paramilitary groups in different regions and their takeover of many of the territories left by the FARC are putting at risk the disarmament process’ sustainability and the reintegration of the guerrilla group into civilian life.

This is the context surrounding the September 2017 UN Security Council approval for creating the Second United Nations Mission in Colombia, whose purpose is to verify the reintegration of FARC ex-combatants into civilian life; in contrast to the First Mission which included the Tripartite Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, the Second Mission will be of purely civilian nature with the ad hoc participation of un-armed police; the issue of physical protection will be the Armed Forces’ responsibility. The Mission will tentatively create 9 regional offices and 26 local offices, and report directly to the UN Security Council every three months. Its mandate will be for one year initially and can then be extended for 3 years; it will focus on verifying the fulfilment of the terms on political and social reintegration of the FARC and monitoring how the State is guaranteeing security in a much more regional and local dimension; monitoring will cover the situation of former combatants, and also that of local communities near the Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation, due to the high risks they face at the current time.[8]


[1] Security Council, Resolution 2366 (2017) , 10 July 2017
[2] The AGC have 1,900 members, but could number up to 3,500 including the people they subcontract to and their support structures used for murders, microtrafficking, narcotics distribution and intelligence work.
[3] According to the FIP, the ELN appear to be more cohesive in some regions.
[4] FIP: Crimen organizado y saboteadores armados en tiempos de transición, July 2017
[5] El Espectador: Agúzate, siguen matando defensores de derechos humanos, 16 August 2017
[6] Comunidad de Paz: Cuando ya no anunciamos muertos nos arrancarán todos los demás derechos, 15 August 2017
[7] ACPA Cauca, RADIOGRAFÍA: Integrantes de las FARC y familiares asesinados en lo corrido del 2017, 14 August 2017
[8] Verdad Abierta, Nuevos espacios de las Farc, bajo diagnóstico reservado, 16 August 2017

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