Where is the Peace?

10 December 2021

On Human Rights Day, PBI Colombia commemorates all the defenders who demand respect for their rights, those who fight against impunity and in favor of truth, justice, and guarantees of non-repetition. We celebrate women who confront multiple forms of violence due to their status as female leaders. We celebrate the Indigenous, Black, and Mestizo communities who resist from their territories and care for the foundations of life in the midst of the armed conflict and ecological crisis.

Today is a day for all those who are committed to a peaceful and socially just Colombia. We commemorate those who are no longer here, their lives snuffed out for having raised their voices. While threats and attacks against defenders persist, it is necessary to continue accompanying and listening to their courageous testimonies. With this in mind, we interviewed several defenders and leaders who spoke to us from their territories about a peace that has not yet been achieved.

“The Peace Agreement with the FARC was important but has been insufficient to resolve the armed conflict”

Danilo Rueda is the national coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission (JyP), an organization that for more than 30 years has accompanied Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and Mestizo communities affected by violence for the defense of their rights. PBI has accompanied the Justice and Peace Commission since 1994.

The greatest challenge for Colombian society and the international community is to understand that the Peace Agreement with the FARC was important but has been insufficient to resolve the armed conflict and the structural causes that underlie the armed conflict and new dynamics of violence. The murders of social leaders and signatories of the peace agreement reflect this unresolved situation of the continuation of violence that was ignored by the previous administration to achieve a resolution through dialogue. So the Peace Agreement with the FARC was the beginning of a possibility for peace, or the development of new dynamics of violence in Colombia. The non-resolution of the political-armed conflict with the ELN and new dynamics of violence inherited from paramilitarism need to be seriously and coherently addressed for peace to be possible in this country.”

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document enacts the inalienable rights inherent to every human being, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic position, birth or other status.” [1]

“As long as there is no Global Humanitarian Agreement, there will be no peace”

Argemiro Bailarín is an emblematic Embera leader from the Uradá-Jiguamiandó Humanitarian Reservation in Bajo Atrato who, together with his community, fights for the defense of their land and territory amid extractive interests and serious human rights violations. Since 1994, PBI has accompanied the Justice and Peace Commission, an organization that accompanies the resistance struggles of the Bajo Atrato communities.

These five years of the Peace Agreement have generated more armed conflict for us, illegal armed groups have extended into the territory left by the former FARC. They have social and territorial control, both in the territories of Indigenous Reservations and in the Community Councils. That is our concern at this time. Threats, accusations, and homicides continue, the recruitment of minors and installation of anti-personnel mines continue… And, within that, there are also mining projects, agribusinesses, among other large projects that companies, both national and multinational, want to implement in the collective territory of the Community Council and Indigenous Reservations. Today the objective we have observed or thought about from our territory is a Global Humanitarian Agreement among all armed actors acting unlawfully, including the Army as a State Force. As long as there is no Global Agreement, there will never be peace.”

Colombia has ratified all the international treaties [2] and conventions from the Inter-American Human Rights System [3] and has, therefore, committed to respecting, protecting, and promoting the fundamental rights proclaimed in those documents. However, Colombia continues to be the deadliest country for the defense of human rights[4].

Today we are experiencing a dispute over territory; for the small-scale farmer it means living a new conflict”

Irene Ramírez is the president of the Small-Scale Farmer Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC- Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra), an organization that has been defending the human rights and dignity of small-scale farmers in Magdalena Medio for 25 years. PBI has accompanied the ACVC since 2007.

We believe that these five years that have passed since the signing of the Peace Agreement have been a very strong challenge for the Peasant Association. Today we are experiencing a dispute over territory; we are experiencing a dispute between paramilitaries, the ELN, Clan del Golfo, and new FARC [dissidents] in the regions. This, for the small-scale farmer, is reliving the conflict. We feel that if there is not more government support, fulfillment of the agreement, a lack of attention paid to the regions,  with everything that is happening, we feel that we are regressing. We are going back to 2002-2008, which was the hardest and cruelest period in our region. But even still, we remain committed to peace; we remain committed to continuing to talk about the Agreement which is an opportunity for the peasantry to remain in the regions, to live and continue fortifying the Peasant Reserve Zone that, as peasants, is our home and where we feel we belong.”

Five years after the signing of the Peace Agreement, only 28%[5] has been implemented, and 1,267 leaders[6] and 292 former FARC-EP combatants have been murdered [7].

Not even 30% of what was agreed to with the victims has been fulfilled”

Ninfa Cruz is a human rights defender and member of Social Corporation for Community Counseling and Training (COSPACC- Corporación Social para la Asesoría y Capacitación Comunitaria), an organization that has accompanied victims of human rights violations in Boyacá and Casanare for 20 years. PBI has accompanied COSPACC since 2009.

“In the context of the signing that took place in 2016 and within the framework of the Peace Negotiation Table, we have seen that since then, not even 30% of what was agreed upon with victims has been fulfilled. What has happened is the murder of ex-combatants who laid down their weapons. There have been approximately 300 murders more or less through massacres in 2021, and, at the same time, murders of human rights defenders and the displacement of social leaders. There have been no guarantees in Colombia concerning the Negotiation Table. What I see is that there has been no peace.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross pointed out that there are still at least five armed conflicts in Colombia [8] in 2021, a year in which there has been an alarming number of 88 massacres [9] and the forced displacement of 70,000 people [10], precisely in the regions that have been historically most affected by the armed conflict .

Building a stable and lasting peace involves the the necessity of opening dialogue with the ELN”

Ramón Abril is a human rights defender and member of the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS- Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), a leading organization in the promotion, defense, and protection of human rights in the Magdalena Medio region. PBI Colombia has accompanied CREDHOS since 1994.

“From CREDHOS, we have watched the progress made on the implementation of the Peace Agreement with great concern. We fully understand that one thing was the signed agreement, and another is what the Iván Duque administration is trying to implement which, quite simply, has been a whole strategy to sabotage the implementation of the agreement, to sabotage institutions, to sabotage progress, and slow down implementation as much as possible. While obviously there are some advances in what is the Comprehensive System, these have been more the product of pressure from civil society and from the international community than a real effort by the Iván Duque administration to advance a system of transitional justice that can guarantee truth and provide guarantees of non-repetition to victims. Progress on the issue of political participation has been very slow. Only now are the special peace constituencies beginning to be deliberated or formulated, the product of lobbying through the submission of a tutela (constitutional writ of protection), not due to the initiative of the national government. What are the challenges? I believe that the challenges first reside in signing a complete peace. Building a stable and lasting peace involves the necessity of opening dialogue with the ELN. In addition to this, obviously, monitor everything about the financial process of implementing the agreements, about what this has to do with the PDET and PNIS. We showed that the national government is also using resources destined for the PDETs as petty cash that will end up subsidizing the next round of the electoral process in 2022″.

PBI Colombia.

[3]Organización de Estados Americanos: Tratados Multilaterales Interamericanos.

[6]Indepaz (@Indepaz):Tweet, 9 November 2021.

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