Colombia ended its 54 years long civil war on 24th August 2017, when it signed a peace deal with the country’s biggest leftist guerrilla group. The civil conflict has not left a single house in the country. As many as 220,000 have died, 25,000 disappeared, and over 7 million have been internally displaced from their homes – highest ever according to the United Nations, over the last half century.
History Of The Conflict
The conflict in the state started in 1964, in a small town of Marquetalia where militia of rural communists openly rebelled against the government and declared their own republic. A group of 1000 Colombian soldiers fought this tiny group of 50 guerrillas to remove all communist treats from Colombia. Those who escaped the army then formed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The founding father, Pedro Antonio Marin, alias “Manuel Marulanda,” or “Sure Shot”, announced himself as the communist revolutionary and pledged to overthrow the Colombian government. He formulated an 8 year plan to throw the government and even issued guidelines for recruitment and discipline, and recruited as young as 15 year old children in the army. The left-wing group took to sexual violence, kidnapping and violence as a means to sustain itself. They went to the extent of collecting taxes on Coca (herb used to make Cocaine) production in the areas they controlled.
The first attempt to reach the guerrillas was made way back in 1982 by then president, Belisario Betancur. As a result of peace talks between the President and guerrilla, the FARC contested elections. Their political party, the Patriotic Union won 14 congressional seats, two of which went to FARC commanders – along with numerous seats in state congresses, and 351 council seats. The party elected Pedro Luis Valencia as its senator in 1986. In 1987 country’s economic and social elites, along with drug traffickers, who were fed-up with the FARC, decided to organize a counter-insurgency movement with private armies and death squads. As a result Pedro Luis Valencia was shot 42 times by gunmen in his own house. An estimated 3000 UP leaders and militants had died before this unfortunate killing. Among them were two presidential candidates, eight congressmen, 13 state deputies, 70 councilors and 11 mayors.
The peace process that was initiated to ultimately disarm FARC came to end. The militants fled back to the Colombian forests. In the 1990s it got deep in drug trade to sustain itself, apart from killing the right-wing politicians and Colombian elites to sustain themselves.
2017 Peace Deal
“The war is over,” said Humberto de la Calle, the government’s lead negotiator, after signing the peace accord with the guerrilla. With no support of the citizens and continuously decreasing man-force and means to sustain themselves, the guerrilla had agreed to disarm themselves and take up civil life.
Meanwhile thousands have died, war atrocities have been committed and the citizens have been disheartened by both the right and left wing.
The Colombian government is currently carrying out its 5th round of peace talks in
Colombian Idea Of Justice
Peace Talks imply negotiations for a normal life for the citizens of Colombia. This involves disarming of guerrillas, with UN’s help and ceasefire during elections.
But the guerrilla agreed to be disarmed on stringent conditions. This includes their transition into a political party and minimal prison term for officials who were involved in war atrocities. A major reflection of the first peace deal in 1985, is reservation of seats in the parliament for FARC, showing Colombia’s desperate attempt to achieve peace and end half a century long turmoil.
Colombian government, with the help of ICC, has managed to set up a Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). A number of tribunals will be set up to be headed by local magistrates and foreign judges. They will be responsible for providing transitional justice to the victims.
The ones who have participated in human rights violations in a direct manner, FARC members, soldiers, etc. are allowed to present their case to JEP. Amongst those who fully cooperate with justice system will not punished for more than 8 years and will be kept in ‘special conditions’ with ‘effective restraint of liberty’. In simple words it means no prison term. The liberty of the convicts would just be restricted.
Though, this does not sound like justice to most of us the idea of justice of Colombians is a little different.
“Most of us know the names of the people who killed our sons and daughters. What we want to know now is where the bodies are buried.” Says Teresita Gaviria, a Colombian citizen.
“Justice is, at the very least, having the perpetrators recognizing and admitting to their crimes”. Most Colombians just want to ceremonially burry their close ones and for those, who have killed their family members, to accept their crimes.
Repercussions Of Peace
Since ICC has been involved in the process of setting up of the tribunal under the Rome Statute, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has been conducting preliminary examination of crimes in the state since 2004. In 2014 it warned the Colombian government against the consequences of such a sentence, cited below. The country now faces the problem in 2018 elections.
“informed the Colombian authorities that a sentence that is grossly or manifestly inadequate, in light of the gravity of the crimes and the form of participation of the accused, would vitiate the genuineness of a national proceeding, even if all previous stages of the proceeding had been deemed genuine.”
The move has been criticized by most human right activists and some of the Colombian as well.
There were controversies involving the top Colombian officials and reports of their involvement with the militants have surfaced. This has made most Colombians to believe that this is why the guerrilla are being left too easily.
Colombian Elections, 2017
As promised according to the peace agreement, FARC contested parliamentary elections in 2017 October but lost miserably, unlike in 1986. But their representatives still have seats in the parliament, as the same was promised during the peace deal.
But fortunately, they will have no voting rights, would junction as spokesperson, and would exclusively be involved in matters relating to the peace deal. This means they will not be voting in civil matters and the reserved seats provide their representation in any changes to the Peace Tribunal or terms of agreement.
Despite this most people criticize the war crimes tribunal is in its initial stage. There are thousands of cases and there is a possibility that a person sitting in the legislation had committed a crime during the conflict.
This lack of confidence of the people in the peace agreement is evident from the presidential election predictions. Latin American Geopolitical Strategic Center (CELAG) conducted a survey to predict the leading candidates for the presidential elections. The results show Gustavo Petro to be leading, followed by Ivan Duque.
Ivan Duque has a hard stand against guerrillas but he is also infamous for ignoring human rights violations by parliamentarians and being abusive towards human rights activists.
On the other hand, Gustavo Petro is an extreme leftist and a member of a former guerrilla group. He is popular among the poor Colombians and is an ex-convict. He was involved in killing number of civilians, siege on Colombia’s Palace of Justice and an attack on the Embassy of the Dominican Republic
The presidential elections to be held on 27th and 29th of May, 2018 would define the future of the peace deal. If Ivan Duque comes to power he has promised to alter the terms of peace agreement, which might result in the crumbling of the whole agreement.
The result of elections would result in altered definition of justice or see most controversial President of all times.
Authored by: Sonal Hundlani (Fourth Year Learner- Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA)