Policy Briefing Giselle Lopez The Colombian Civil War Potential for Justice in a Culture of Violence For decades Colombia has been plagued by an internal armed conflict that is rooted in a complex history of socioeconomic inequality, political corruption, and a culture of violence. Due to the state’s inability to effectively address widespread instability and corruption, the civilian population has been placed in the midst of horrific violence and clashes between various armed groups. Colombia’s culture of violence and the prevalence of impunity underscore grave humanitarian concerns that demand a solution. In an effort to explain the complex history of this conflict and the factors that allowed for the enormous suffering of its victims, this essay will outline the background, causal factors, and the nature of the violence. To establish a lasting peace and to address the suffering of the civilian population in this conflict, this essay recommends that the Colombian government take actions to strengthen and establish mechanisms that promote security, accountability, and justice. T he internal armed conflict in Colombia has been characterized by decades of widespread internal violence, political instability, and blatant disregard for norms of international law. The conflict has ravaged the country, displaced millions, and effectively placed the majority of the civilian population in the middle of violent clashes. In Colombia, the government has attempted to deal with rebel forces using its own military and the assistance of paramilitary groups. In light of strong evidence that exposes the extremely unlawful tactics used by the paramilitary forces, the state’s reliance on these external groups to fight this war has greatly undermined its legitimacy. Although illegal armed groups have been weakened and policies 6 Vol. 2 - No. 1 have aimed to address victims’ rights and establish accountability, several of these policies have proved inefficient and inequitable, and sustainable security and peace remain objectives. This essay will explain the complex background and causal factors of the conflict, the nature of the violence, and potential for future action. In light of recent developments, I recommend that the Colombian government take actions to strengthen the judiciary, to establish local citizensecurity initiatives, and to pass critical legislation that will address the enormity of crimes and suffering of victims; these steps are essential to promote peace, security, and accountability and to regain the trust of the Colombian people. The Colombian Civil War Background The long-standing internal armed conflict in Colombia has its roots in an extensive history of struggles for political, economic, and social rights. Since its beginnings in a civil war of the 1950s, the war has involved multiple armed actors and agendas of violence, power, drugs, and greed.1 These agendas have complicated the development of the conflict and have overshadowed the political partisanship and ideologies – borne out of socioeconomic inequities and political exclusion – that provided the original backdrop for this violent war.2 For more than a century, ruling power in Colombia has been shared between two political parties, the Conservatives (Partido Conservador Colombiano, or PCC) and the Liberals (Partido Liberal Colombiano, or PL); throughout the twentieth century, the intense rivalry between these parties was exacerbated by vast social and economic inequality, and often led to violence.3 From 1949 to 1958, in the midst of widespread internal unrest, a partisan civil war emerged and claimed the lives of an estimated 280,000 people.4 La Violencia, as it was called, marked the beginning of the violent internal armed conflict that has lasted for more than half a century.5 The emergence of armed groups led to continuation and escalation of hostilities with widespread violence that undermined the legitimacy of state power. Leftist guerrilla groups emerged in the mid-1960s as a reaction to factors such as exclusion of political movements outside of the National Front, the marginalization of the rural poor, the influence of communist and socialist ideologies, and the ineffectiveness of the judicial system.6 The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC) had its beginnings in La Violencia and was a mostly rural movement composed of a loose association of peasant self-defense groups; it later came increasingly under the influence of the Communist Party and declared itself a revolutionary army in 1964.7 With a strong presence throughout Colombia, the FARC is considered the most powerful guerrilla group in the conflict.8 The National Liberation Army (ELN) is another guerrilla group that had its roots in La Violencia and continues to be one of the main parties to the conflict.9 The guerrilla forces have expanded their forces over the course of the conflict: the FARC increased from an estimated 3,600 combatants in 1986 to 16,500 in 1996, while the ELN went from about 800 in 1986 to 4,500 in 2001.10 In the 1980s, paramilitary forces were created by the military with U.S. aid; though they were created to combat revolutionaries, the paramilitaries were soon engaged in drug trafficking and were terrorizing the citizens of Colombia.11 Kidnappings, summary executions, and armed violence against civilians became characteristics of daily life in cities and rural areas, and this forced greater efforts to meet demands of the revolutionaries, further undermining state power.12 With an inefficient judiciary and the shift of coca cultivation from Bolivia and Peru to Colombia in the mid-1980s, drug cultivation also began to prosper. The wealth generated from the drug cartels fueled violence and corruption and strengthened both guerrilla and paramilitary activity.13 For the past 25 years, Colombian governments have alternated between strategies of war and peace in efforts to deal with illegal armed actors who have defied the authority of the state.14 Spring 2011 7 Giselle Lopez While negotiations led to the disarmament of several smaller armed groups, a number of failed attempts to form peace agreements with the FARC and the ELN have “Kidnappings, summary executions, and armed violence against civilians became characteristics of daily life in cities and rural areas, and this forced greater efforts to meet demands of the revolutionaries, further undermining state power.” allowed the internal conflict to continue to plague Colombia and its citizens.15 In 2002, after the breakdown of peace talks between President Andrés Pastrana and the FARC, and just before the election of President Uribe, the government of Colombia abandoned the peace process and announced plans to destroy the revolutionary groups using military offensives.16 After 2002, violence declined as guerrillas and paramilitaries were militarily and financially weakened; homicides and kidnappings decreased significantly from 2000 to 2007.17 While security conditions have improved, the violence and displacement has continued, particularly in rural areas.18 In addition, while the demobilization of the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary force, led to a dramatic decline in paramilitary violence, it also generated dozens of new criminal and drug-trafficking organizations and networks that continue to terrorize the civilian population.19 The internal armed conflict in Colombia is shaped by a complex history of tensions and struggles between armed groups and the state. For decades this conflict has led to widespread 8 Vol. 2 - No. 1 violence and wholesale violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all sides of the conflict, and continues to be a major issue concerning the international community. Causes of the Conflict There are several complex factors that have contributed to the Colombian civil war. These factors represent not only the root causes of the conflict but also forces that have allowed for the continuation of the war and the escalations of violence that characterize its evolution. Structural deficiencies historically contributing to widespread inequalities, institutional weaknesses of the state, and proliferation of the drug trade are all primary contributing factors that have influenced the conflict and the humanitarian crisis that exists in the country today. Structural Deficiencies and Inequality Although the urban population in Colombia represents the majority of the total population, the historical roots of political violence are primarily rural. A history of unequal access to land and natural resources and struggles to gain political and economic power has traditionally characterized the status of Colombia’s rural population.20 Political exclusion throughout the twentieth century favored economic elites and neoliberal trade interests, and led to unequal access to land and resources.21 A combination of availability of natural resources – including land, agricultural resources, and oil – and high levels of inequality transformed rural areas into a battleground The Colombian Civil War between guerrilla and paramilitary groups as they competed for resources.22 With the increased violence in the countryside, entry of displaced people into local communities also led to additional widespread violence in conflict over land and resources.23 The roots of violence in Colombia lay in a foundation of economic inequality tied to poverty, unemployment, and lack of education.24 Despite positive growth rates in the 1980s and 1990s, in 2001 52% of the population lived in poverty, unemployment remained at 20%, 63% of the campesinos (farmers) owned less than 5% of the land, and drug traffickers owned more than half of the most productive land.25 This marginalization had significant effects on the conflict, contributing to insecurity of the population and highlighting inadequacies of state institutions. Weaknesses of the State “[L]evels of violence in Colombia would likely decline if the central government and state institutions were strong enough to create and enforce rule of law and repress violent challenges to state authority.”26 The historic weakness of the Colombian state stems from its institutional deficiency. With large portions of Colombian territory lacking a strong state presence, the state is inefficient in tax collection and has an extremely weak resource base.27 Because of this lack of resources, the Colombian military is small and weak by Latin American standards.28 As a result of poor training and organization, the military was unable to assert itself in territory controlled by guerrillas, and relied on paramilitary forces to deal with rebel forces.29 The unlawful methods used by paramilitaries against rebels and civilians undermined the legitimacy of state authority.30 Colombia’s physical and political geography also has proved a major obstacle to state building; with several discontiguous population centers, Colombia’s rural communities remain in semi-isolation as limited participants in the economy and politics of the nation.31 As a result, Colombian rebels have been able to consolidate their operations in areas where the state presence is weak; it is in these stateless areas that illicit drug cultivation is also most prevalent.32 These weaknesses are a significant root cause of the conflict and highlight reasons for the government’s inherent inability to form a lasting peace and mitigate the effects of the conflict. “...Colombian rebels have been able to consolidate their operations in areas where the state presence is weak; it is in these stateless areas that illicit drug cultivation is also most prevalent.” Drug Trade and Escalations of Violence Over the course of the war, the drug trade has provided a steady source of income that fueled the conflict and contributed to its intractability.33 As their profits from the cocaine trade in the 1980s were converted into immense power within the economy and society, drug traffickers expanded their operations: they terrorized the judicial system through systematic assassinations of judges and police, bombings of newspaper offices, and the killing Spring 2011 9 Giselle Lopez of pro-extradition politicians.34 They also began to support the rebel forces – while the ELN distanced itself from the drug trade, it is estimated that 70% of the FARC’s income is derived from the trade.35 Tired of being targeted by guerrillas, drug traffickers turned on the left and began to finance paramilitary squads: “through the support of the drug traffickers, the paramilitaries became increasingly effective in terrorizing the populace in communities perceived as supporters of the guerrillas.”36 With cultivation of illicit drugs, guerrillas and paramilitaries have engaged in a deadly conflict for control of coca fields and trade routes, essential resources for those involved in both insurgency and counter-insurgency.37 Coca itself is subject to a global regime of opposition to illicit drugs, dominated by the United States.38 This opposition has had numerous unintended consequences: it has given coca extraordinary value as “lootable” wealth appropriated by combatants in civil wars; it has made it difficult for the government to appropriate directly the profits associated with drug cultivation, allowing non-state actors to capture most of the profits of the trade; and the coercive military and police activities of the “War on Drugs” has simply shifted the flow of profits to a different set of private actors.39 While there were a series of tactical successes in the 1990s, U.S.-promoted antidrug policies have actually strengthened the FARC; they pushed coca cultivation into FARC-dominated areas, providing the FARC with opportunities to extract resources from the cocaine industry and deepen its insurgency against the state.40 The large-scale deficiencies in state sovereignty have also allowed for the growth of the drug trade and the expansion of the guerrilla forces in stateless and politically vulnerable areas.41 10 Vol. 2 - No. 1 The causal factors of this conflict are numerous and complex, and involve a deep history of institutional problems in Colombia and destructive developments that thrive on the state’s weaknesses and the marginalization of the population. In addition to these internal factors, the involvement of the international community presents some critical external factors that have affected the nature of the conflict and the potential for a lasting peace. The Role of the International Community In the 1980s and 1990s, the “war on drugs” shaped U.S. policy directives in the region; in 1999 the United States supported Colombia’s efforts to combat drug trafficking by financing an anti-narcotics battalion and its operations.42 In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the war on terror drove U.S. foreign policy concerns to combat insurgencies, including a fight against armed groups in Colombia.43 U.S. involvement in the region throughout this period had serious implications for hopes of a lasting peace. The most significant and historical milestone in Colombia-U.S. relations was Plan Colombia, formed in a partnership between President Clinton and then-Colombian President Andrés Pastrana.44 Plan Colombia was a multi-billion dollar plan to strengthen the Colombian state. From 2000 to 2007, Colombia received more than US $5 billion for its military and police to conduct counterinsurgency and antinarcotics operations, and for oil pipeline protection.45 Plan Colombia was widely criticized for worsening the situation in Colombia: rather than fighting various drug cartels or rightwing paramilitary groups (who have admitted The Colombian Civil War that 70% of their money comes from drug trafficking), the plan targeted the FARC, turned Colombia into the third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, and helped escalate the war by pushing the FARC deeper into drug trafficking.46 Additionally, from 1993 to 2003, more than 35,000 Colombians were killed, the vast majority (about 82%) at the hands of death squads operating in collusion with the Colombian military, which was backed by the United States.47 Involvement from the rest of the international community has been primarily directed at attempts to form peace agreements to end the conflict and negotiate cease-fires, demobilization, and exchanges of prisoners. Third parties have played a marginal role in peace negotiations in Colombia: no third party has ever served as a full-fledged mediator, and the UN has never sent a peacekeeping or peacebuilding mission to help implement any peace “[F]rom 1993 to 2003, more than 35,000 Colombians were killed, the vast majority (about 82%) at the hands of death squads operating in collusion with the Colombian military, which was backed by the United States..” accords.48 As a result, there have been no real outside enforcement mechanisms in place to implement afor parties to a peace accord. Within the region of Latin America, relations between Colombia and other countries have also been strained due to drug trafficking and guerrilla activity in border areas, as well as disagreements over Colombia’s management of the conflict. Tensions with Ecuador and Venezuela have heightened as a result of a series of events that included the suspension of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as mediator for a hostage exchange with the FARC, the military incursion into Ecuadorean territory that killed FARC leader Raul Reyes, and the emergence of information linking the Venezuelan and Ecuadorean governments, among others, to the FARC leadership.49 Such tensions between Colombia and neighboring countries have made it difficult to create solidarity in the region and to realize common goals of peace. Public resentment of U.S. support for a corrupt military, counterproductive interventions, insufficient involvement of the international community and strained relations with other countries in the region have all been obstacles in the development of lasting peace initiatives and a permanent end to the war.50 Yet these failures of outside intervention also underscore a historic inability of the state to effectively and lawfully deal with the threat of illegal armed actors, a fact that has had significant implications for the nature of the conflict and the suffering of its victims. The Nature of the Violence and Violations of International Law There are several implications of international humanitarian law in this conflict. The two provisions of the Conventions that apply to internal armed conflicts are Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II.51 To protect civilians, Article 3 prohibits violence, murder, mutilation, Spring 2011 11 Giselle Lopez torture, hostage taking, degrading treatment, and extrajudicial killings or passing of sentences.52 In temporary agreements, all armed parties have demonstrated a willingness to act in accordance with the laws of war.53 In practice, however, all armed parties have committed grave violations of these laws to the detriment of the Colombian people. Violations by the State and Paramilitary Forces According to Human Rights Watch, at the root of many violations of the war is the Colombian army’s consistent and pervasive failure or unwillingness to distinguish civilians “Both killings and torture of civilians have been used to spread terror,63 and Colombia has become known as the “kidnap capital of the world”: between 2002 and 2009, more than 17,000 people were kidnapped – including prominent legislators, government ministers, presidential candidates, businesspeople, and U.S. contractors..” from combatants in accordance with the laws of war.54 Paramilitary groups, allied under the name United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (AUC), have engaged in particularly brutal violence in the conflict; paramilitaries see their non-state status as a carte blanche to combat guerrilla groups by using their same tactics.55 The ties between the state forces and paramilitaries are significant: 12 Vol. 2 - No. 1 “Witnesses frequently state that [massacres] were perpetrated by members of the armed forces passing themselves off as paramilitaries, joint actions by members of the armed forces or police and paramilitaries, or actions by paramilitaries enjoying the complicity, support or acquiescence of the regular forces.”56 When questioned about executions and massacres conducted by joint paramilitary units, leaders of the armed forces have denied military participation in the operation and claimed that the victims were guerrillas, fugitives, or their supporters.57 In addition to engaging in indiscriminate attacks, the army and paramilitaries have been implicated in crimes of torture, widespread forced displacement, death threats, and attacks on groups protected under international law.58 In its efforts to weaken rebel groups, the government even came close to setting off an international conflict. The 2008 Colombian army’s invasion of a rebel camp in Ecuador, which led to the killing of Raúl Reyes and other FARC leaders, nearly provoked an international war as Ecuador and Venezuela sent troops to the border and protested Colombia’s violation of Ecuador’s territorial integrity.59 The conflict was prevented, but this signaled the extreme actions that the government is willing to take to combat guerrilla forces. Violations by Guerilla Groups “Each night they kill groups of five or six defenseless people, who are cruelly and monstrously massacred after being tortured. The screams of humble people are audible, begging for mercy.” 60 - Virginia Bouvier, 2009. The Colombian Civil War Just as army and paramilitary forces have engaged in gross violations, the tactics used by guerrilla groups in the conflict have been characterized blatant disregard for international norms. A large number of crimes against civilians have been attributed to the FARC and the ELN rebel groups; in 2009, among other violations of international humanitarian law, there were at least 27 massacres, 18 indiscriminate attacks, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, torture, sexual violence against women and girls, kidnappings and hostage-takings, and attacks on medical and other public buildings.61 While guerrilla groups have claimed that they respect international law, they have demonstrated support only when there has been a political advantage to do so.62 Throughout the conflict, the guerrilla forces have used several tactics to terrorize the civilian population and support their military objectives. Both killings and torture of civilians have been used to spread terror,63 and Colombia has become known as the “kidnap capital of the world”: between 2002 and 2009, more than 17,000 people were kidnapped – including prominent legislators, government ministers, presidential candidates, businesspeople, and U.S. contractors.64 Widespread recruitment of child soldiers, use of anti-personnel land mines, sexual violence, torture, and enforced disappearance have also characterized the extremely inhuman tactics utilized by the guerrilla groups against the civilian population throughout the war.65 In contrast to the FARC, the ELN was one of the first insurgent groups in Colombia to begin an internal discussion of humanitarian law. In the 1990s, the group adopted a “Guerrilla Code” that expressed general compliance with Protocol II in regulating the behavior of militants.66 Nevertheless, the ELN, like the FARC, has continued to engage in indiscriminate attacks, massacres, kidnappings, torture, and other acts that violate the laws of war.67 Violations of humanitarian law have been common practice by all sides throughout this conflict, and have effectively placed the civilian population at the center of its violence. Forced Displacement The effects of this conflict on the population are most clearly reflected in the numbers of those forced to flee their homes from the violence. According to the UNHCR, an estimated 3 million people remain displaced throughout Colombia as a result of the conflict.68 Since 1980, all parties have provoked forced displacements of the civilian population.69 Displacement has led to a number of concerns: displaced populations have lost millions of hectares of land, much of which has been taken by illegal armed groups; threats against and murders of leaders of displaced communities have become prevalent;70 and with an estimated 4.3 million undernourished persons in Colombia and the interruption of activities to obtain food, the conflict has led to acute food insecurity for those internally displaced.71 The issue of forced displacement clearly illustrates the widely destructive and indiscriminatory nature of the conflict and represents one of the most serious issues surrounding the Colombian war. Recent Developments The last decade has seen several positive developments in Colombia’s conflict. During the Uribe administration and the new Santos administration new developments have Spring 2011 13 Giselle Lopez been made that demonstrate an encouraging willingness to establish accountability and security mechanisms and to curb corruption. Yet while some of these developments represent major gains for victims’ rights and justice, others portray the limitations of corruption, limited resources, and political interests. Progressive measures are critical to advancing claims to justice and peace, but each measure should be analyzed critically to determine its sustainability and effectiveness. Following the 2002 breakdown of peace talks between President Andrés Pastrana and the FARC, Álvaro Uribe was elected president based on his commitment to all-out military victory over the guerrillas.72 While this new approach has led to improved security conditions in many large cities and towns, the violence and displacement has continued, particularly in the rural areas.73 Additionally, while the demobilization of the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) led to a decline in paramilitary violence, it also generated dozens of new criminal and drugtrafficking organizations and networks that continue to terrorize the population.74 The Uribe administration succeeded in promoting constitutional order and institutional stability, yet politicking and corruption at lower levels of government institution has prevailed.75 In addition to a shift in the government’s approach toward counterinsurgency, the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process in Colombia, which began in 1992 and continues today, represents the goal of transitional justice; this process has the objective of securing the rights of citizens and creating space for the reintegration of demobilized armed groups.76 The process involves provision of amnesty to any former combatants not under investigation, and reintegration through 14 Vol. 2 - No. 1 provision of benefits.77 While there is hope that this process may provide a basis of peace and justice, “it remains to be seen if the Colombian DDR and transitional justice model can be implemented so it satisfies both the requirements for an immediate cessation of violence while also meeting victims’ demands for reparation.”78 As part of DDR and for the prosecution of alleged crimes, the government passed the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) in 2005.79 With this law, combatants charged with violations are eligible for trial and benefits after relinquishing illegally acquired property and ceasing illegal activities, child soldiers are handed over to authorities, and demobilized individuals receive benefits if they provide information.80 While thousands have demobilized and applied for benefits through the JPL, challenges remain. Implementation of the law was stymied by relative disinterest of the Uribe government in promoting victims’ rights, and problems were exacerbated by deficiencies in the judicial process and in reparations, as well as persistence of the conflict.81 While political issues have hindered progress at the national level, initiatives by civil society organizations, in alliance with disempowered groups and victims, have helped to create a more inclusive system to address major issues of the conflict.82 At the local level, Colombian citizens have carried out negotiations with armed actors to release kidnap victims, prevent displacement, and allow safe passage of food and medicine; they have also addressed corruption and created opportunities for economic development.83 Because the government has prioritized efforts to reestablish security above interests of justice and victims’ rights, initiatives such as the JPL have hindered the progress of justice.84 With The Colombian Civil War an ability to address concerns of communities, the participation of victims and civil society is absolutely crucial to any plan for peace. Victim’s Rights and Justice Initiatives While the Justice and Peace Act of 2005 was precedentialset important precendents, the Act had numerous shortcomings and flaws. It required war criminals to surrender voluntarily to receive amnesty in return, placed restrictions on the investigative and prosecutorial process, gave reduced sentences for all accepted charges, and made paramilitary crimes domestic political crimes to prevent war criminals from being tried by the US or the ICC.85 Most significantly, the decree denied all state responsibility in the crimes perpetrated.86 According to numerous articles published on the subject, the Act exemplified the government’s failure to adequately address gross violations of international law.87 In addition, reparations have been hampered by the slow judicial proceedings and limited inventory in the fund for victims reparations.88 By placing an emphasis on economic reparation, it has undermined efforts at establishing the truth behind the crimes that these individuals suffered and the responsibility of the criminals.89 For these reasons, the Justice and Peace Act has represented an incomplete application of justice. The Santos administration’s “Victims’ Law” was sent to Congress on September 17, 2010, and if passed may represent the most significant advancement in human rights and justice to date. It builds on the 2009 draft, which failed because the Uribe administration opposed key elements that would have investigated state abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.90 The new law extends protection to all victims who suffered damage in the conflict, includes victims of crimes committed by state agents, provides financial and non-financial reparations to victims, provides special protection and legal aid, and gives priority to vulnerable groups.91 This law would mark a major advancement in fully recognizing victims’ rights. While the bill is consistent with international standards and would represent a major step forward in recognition of victims’ rights and application of justice, several problems with the bill have been identified. First, the bill allocates only $22 million for reparations over 15 years, which is a meager amount when taking into account the vast measures that would have to be implemented to enforce its claims. In addition, as identified by Amnesty International, there are several major concerns regarding “The Santos administration’s ‘Victims’ Law’ was sent to Congress on September 17, 2010, and if passed may represent the most significant advancement in human rights and justice to date.” the law: ambiguity about addressing crimes of international humanitarian law, denial of compensation to future victims of the conflict and to victims of state agents other than security forces, failure to effectively address restitution of land misappropriated by paramilitaries and acknowledge state responsibility in abusing human rights and violating IHL, and ineligibility of thousands of recent victims of paramilitary Spring 2011 15 Giselle Lopez violence because the government denies that such groups still operate.92 These concerns are valid and important for the government of Colombia to consider. To maintain legitimacy, it is essential that all victims of violence receive the same access to reparations and justice and that there are adequate resources to provide reparations. Nevertheless, the urgent interests of justice and victims’ rights demand swift actions; this bill has potential as a comprehensive and progressive resolution to address crimes committed by all groups and to promote the principles of justice and peace. For the armed parties to the conflict, impunity has generally remained the rule. These groups have failed to comply with humanitarian law by neither investigating nor punishing individuals who commit violations.93 With flagrant violations of the laws of war and a highly incompetent judiciary, Colombia’s government has historically failed to fulfill its responsibility to promote accountability and protect its citizens. With issues of corruption, there have been recommendations by civil society groups that the ICC bring a prosecution against officials of the Colombian government for their support of war crimes.94 However, recent developments have provided grounds for hope of more effective systems of accountability and recognition of human rights. Although there is room for improvement, initiatives such as these are crucial to establish accountability for the crimes committed, to implement initiatives that strengthen security and curb corruption, and to regain the confidence of the Colombians in their government. 16 Vol. 2 - No. 1 Recommendations for Future Action “If you want peace, work for justice.” – Pope Paul VI The civilian population of Colombia has suffered extensively from the culture of violence and unlawfulness that has characterized this conflict. These citizens have demanded justice and compensation for their suffering as victims of the conflict. Although there have been advancements in favor of justice and peace initiatives, there is still a desperate need for more effective initiatives to promote peace, accountability, justice, and security. In order to realize these goals, I strongly recommend that the Colombian government strengthen the judiciary and curb corruption in the government, establish and strengthen local citizen-security initiatives, and pass critical legislation to address the enormous suffering of all victims in this conflict. Recommendation 1: Strengthen judiciary and curb corruption “The judicial system too often is unable to bring offenders to justice. Its capacity and independence need to be strengthened so it can better address high levels of impunity.”95 The inefficiency and partiality of the courts in Colombia has been a significant concern in the pursuit of justice, and has gravely undermined citizen trust in judicial institutions. During the Uribe administration the judiciary and executive had a troubled relationship; allegedly, the DAS The Colombian Civil War (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad), a state-sponsored intelligence agency, was involved in wire-tapping several judges and opposition politicians.96 Since becoming president, Santos has disbanded the DAS and has promoted the establishment of a new agency that is subject to oversight by the judiciary rather than the presidency.97 Such measures can strengthen the integrity of the judiciary and combat corruption in the government. Implementation of these measures by the Colombian government is “With flagrant violations of the laws of war and a highly incompetent judiciary, Colombia’s government has historically failed to fulfill its responsibility to promote accountability and protect its citizens.” necessary not only to provide legitimacy to state authority, but also to promote realization of domestic justice for perpetrators and victims. Recommendation 2: Establish and strengthen local citizen-security initiatives With an increase in urban violence since 2008 and a limited and generally uncoordinated state response to such violence, citizens-security initiatives that promote local enforcement and strengthen the role of civil society groups should be a priority. Fighting corruption in law enforcement agencies, engaging local authorities, and providing more intelligence to investigate individual perpetrators and criminal structures are essential actions that the government should take to achieve this aim. The Citizen Security Law, passed in October 2010, would address some of these goals. The package’s preventive measures, however, are outbalanced by its other objectives involving reactive, repressive actions that may fill already overcrowded jails with more prisoners than they can handle.98 For violence in the countryside, the government should engage with local civil society groups to understand their concerns and develop detailed protection plans. Citizen-security efforts can provide environments in which state representatives can operate and citizens can engage with them without fear of being targeted by armed groups. As discussed, structural deficiencies, socioeconomic inequality, weaknesses of the state, and the drug trade in Colombia have been highly influential in the proliferation of tensions and escalations of violence during the conflict. Addressing these factors is critical to the political, social, and economic stability of the country and its citizens, and will greatly benefit peace initiatives. Civil society organizations have and can continue to help the government reach marginalized groups of the population, facilitate discussions on peace initiatives, and engage in communication with armed groups.99 These groups help to consolidate state presence in more vulnerable regions and therefore reduce the weaknesses of the state. For all of these reasons, local initiatives are essential to promote peace and security and to give a voice to citizens. Recommendation 3: Pass critical legislation to promote justice and victims’ rights: Victims’ Law Although human rights groups have identified fundamental problems in the Victims’ Law, this bill represents a bold initiative and a willingness of the government to acknowledge not only the crimes of rebel groups but also Spring 2011 17 Giselle Lopez those of paramilitaries and state forces. Passage of this bill is critical to establishing truth behind the crimes and justice through reparation for the suffering of the victims. An urgent need for justice and sustainable peace requires that the government pass this law to acknowledge the rights of victims and provide assurance that they will never again endure such violence and flagrant violations of the law. For decades, impunity has remained the rule in Colombia; recent developments provide grounds for hope of reversing this trend by establishing more effective systems of accountability and recognition of human rights. It is absolutely crucial for the Colombian government to pass such initiatives in order to establish accountability for crimes and to regain the confidence of the Colombian people. historically hindered progress toward peace. Yet there remains a great deal of progress to be made. A sustainable peace in Colombia will require the strengthening of social and political institutions to restore the legitimacy of the state and to protect human rights. The establishment of thorough and effective accountability mechanisms for violations of international humanitarian law is essential to reconstruct vital social and community structures and to restore the confidence of the civilian population. For the future of Colombia and interests of domestic and international security, the Colombian government must rectify its failures to provide security and respect human rights. By supporting initiatives that promote the interests of peace, security, and justice, the government can bring a formal end to this conflict and formally acknowledge the suffering of its victims. Conclusion “Restoring the State’s capacity to meet its responsibilities depends on a process of social and community reconstruction. For this reason, peace is not a simple question of political will… peace must be constructed gradually. State institutions must be developed and strengthened in order to guarantee security and respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens in all parts of the national territory.” 100 -Chalres Bergquist, et al, 2001. In the 21st century, Colombia faces numerous challenges in consolidating the central power of the state, building a foundation for peace and security, and restoring its integrity among the population. With recent developments, the Colombian state has taken important steps in addressing many of the political and socioeconomic problems that have 18 Vol. 2 - No. 1 Bouvier, Virginia Marie, Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2009), 3. 2 Ibid., 3. 3 “Colombia: Recent History,” Europa World Plus, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, accessed April 22, 2010, http://www. europaworld.com.offcampus.lib.washington. edu/entry/co.is.4. 4 Ibid. 5 Bouvier, 9. 6 “Colombia: Country Profile – September 2008 Main Report,” Economist Intelligence Unit, September 2008, accessed April 29, 2010, http://portal.eiu.com. 7 War Without Quarter: Colombia and International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Watch (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998), 131. 1 The Colombian Civil War Ibid., 131. Ibid., 161. 10 Bouvier, 43. 11 Rebeca Toledo, War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A. (New York: International Action Center, 2003), 44. 12 Ibid., 44. 13 “Colombia: Country Profile.” 14 Bouvier, 9. 15 Ibid., 9-10. 16 Toledo, 44. 17 “Colombia: Country Profile.” 18 Bouvier, 10. 19 Ibid., 10. 20 Caroline O.N. Moser and Cathy McIlwaine, Encounters with Violence in Latin America: Urban Poor Perceptions from Colombia and Guatemala (New York: Routledge, 2004), 71. 21 Ibid., 35. 22 Moser, 72. 23 Ibid., 72. 24 Ibid., 88. 25 William Avilés, “Institutions, Military Policy, and Human Rights in Colombia,” Latin American Perspectives 28, no. 1 (2001): 36-37. 26 Alex McDougall, “State Power and Its Implications for Civil War Colombia,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 32, no. 4 (2009): 326. 27 Ibid., 327. 28 Ibid. 29 McDougall, 333. 30 Ibid. 31 McDougall, 332. 32 William Avilés and Eduardo Posada-Carbó, “Assessing Colombia’s Political System,” Latin American Perspectives 28, no. 1 (2001): 166. 33 Bouvier, 4. 34 Avilés, “Assessing Colombia’s Political System,” 172. 35 Bouvier, 62. 36 Avilés, “Assessing Colombia’s Political System.” 172. 37 Moser, 73. 8 9 Mark Peceny and Michael Durnan, “The FARC’s Best Friend: U.S. Antidrug Policies and the Deepening of Columbia’s Civil War in the 1990s,” Latin American Politics & Society 48, no. 2 (2006): 96. 39 Ibid., 96. 40 Ibid., 95. 41 Avilés, et. al., “Assessing Colombia’s Political System,” 166. 42 Bouvier, 5. “Colombia: Recent History.” 43 Ibid., 5. 44 Ibid., 5. 45 Ibid., 5. 46 Ibid., 56. 47 Toledo, 51. 48 Avilés, et. al., “Institutions, Military Policy, and Human Rights in Colombia,” 49. 49 “Colombia: Country Profile.” 50 Bouvier, 12. 51 War Without Quarter, 21. 52 Ibid. 53 Ibid., 24. 54 Ibid., 44. 55 Ibid., 102. 56 United Nations, and United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia (Geneva: United Nations, 2008), 16. 57 War Without Quarter, 66. 58 Ibid., 81-84. 59 Bouvier, 12. 60 Ibid., 100. 61 United Nations, 14. 62 War Without Quarter, 133. 63 Ibid., 138. 64 Bouvier, 5. 65 United Nations, 10-14. 66 War Without Quarter, 162. 67 Ibid., 171-178. 68 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “2010 UNHCR country operations profile – Colombia,” accessed April 22, 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/ 38 Spring 2011 19 Giselle Lopez page?page=49e492ad6. War Without Quarter, 205. 70 United Nations, 15. 71 United Nations, 17. 72 Columbia: Beyond Negotionation, Human Rights Watch (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001), 10. 73 Ibid., 10. 74 Ibid. 75 “Colombia: Country Profile.” 76 Paula Torres, Yaneth Giha and Sergio Jaramillo, “Transitional Justice and the DDR: The Case of Colombia,” International Center for Transitional Justice, June 2009, accessed May 5, 2010, http://www.ictj.org/static/ Publications/Giha_Torres_Jaramillo_DDR_ Colombia_ResearchBrief_RB_2009.pdf, 3. 77 Ibid., 2. 78 Ibid. 79 Ibid., 3. 80 Ibid. 81 “Correcting Course: Victims and the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia,” International Crisis Group, October 30, 2008, accessed May 5, 2010, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/ regions/latin-america-caribbean/andes/ colombia/029-correcting-course-victimsand-the-justice-and-peace-law-in-colombia. aspx. 82 Bouvier, 13. 83 Ibid., 14. 84 “Correcting Course.” 85 Ibid. 86 “Colombia: President Santos’s Conflict Resolution Opportunity,” International Crisis Group, Latin America Report, October 13, 2010, 9. 87 A. Bolletino, “Crimes Against Humanity in Colombia: The International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction Over the May 2003 Attack on the Betoyes Guahibo Indigenous Reserve and Colombian Accountability,” Human Rights Review 9, no. 4 (2008): 495. 88 “President Santos’s Conflict Resolution Opportunity,” 9. 69 20 Vol. 2 - No. 1 Ibid. Ibid., 22. 91 Ibid. 92 “Colombia: Congress must not approve seriously flawed ‘Victims’ Law,’” Amnesty International, November 24, 2008, accessed December 3, 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/ docid/492bb7e71e.html. 93 Colombia: Beyond Negotiation, 26-28. 94 Ibid., 500. 95 “President Santos’s Conflict Resolution Opportunity,” 18. 96 “Colombia politics: Fissures emerge,” Economist Intelligence Unit, ViewsWire, November 12, 2010, accessed November 22, 2010, http:// viewswire.eiu.com/index. 97 Ibid. 98 “President Santos’s Conflict Resolution Opportunity,” 15. 99 Bouvier, 14. 100 Charles Bergquist, Ricardo Penaranda, and Gonzalo Sanchez, Violence in Colombia: 19902000 (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001), 233. 89 90 Giselle Lopez is originally from Austin, Texas, and is a senior in the Jackson School majoring in International Studies with a focus in Human Rights, Law, Society and Justice. She has an interest in international humanitarian law, human rights, and conflict resolution, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. After graduation, Giselle plans to earn a masters in international affairs and to pursue a career in foreign diplomacy or with the United Nations. This paper was originally writen as a Qualifying Paper for SISME 420, a course on International Humanitarian Law, taught by Professor F. M. Lorenz. Paper edited by Kelsey Barrett.
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