Inom ramen för kampanjen Peace and Life som ett antal internationella organisationer lanserade i slutet av juni, bjöd Fonden för mänskliga rättigheter och Colombiagruppen på frukost och samtal med Olga Lilia Silva, advokat och chef för människorättsorganisationen Humanidad Vigente som arbetar för att försvara konfliktoffrens rättigheter i Colombia. Olga samtalade om den oroande utvecklingen gällande säkerhetssituationen för sociala ledare och människorättsförsvarare i Colombia. Situationen kräver mer engagemang av den Colombianska staten för att komma till rätta med utmaningar som lösningen på problematiken kring paramilitära och andra beväpnade illegala grupper som finns i landet. Det är en förutsättning för fredsbygget i landet. Olga bjöd även på en uppdatering om framskridandet av implementeringen av den femte punkten i avtalet övergångsrättvisa och konfliktoffren. Titta på videon (SP/EN) eller läs referaten från eventet och ta reda på läget i Colombia sex månader efter ratificeringen av avtalet. Låt oss gärna få veta vad du tyckte om eventet!
Seminar with Olga Silva from the Colombian human rights organisation Humanidad Vigente, Stockholm, 170622
The seminar was organised jointly by the Swedish Platform for Colombia and the Swedish Transitional Justice Network. The seminar which was moderated by Fredrik Svensson from the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights covered two main areas: the work of Humanidad Vigente in light of the worrying security situation for Colombian human rights defenders and an update on the implementation of the Colombian peace agreement from a transitional justice aspect.
Fredrik opened by welcoming Olga and explaining the topics of the seminar. He also brought up the newly initiated campaign in support of Colombian human rights defenders called Peace and Life
Olga explained that she is a lawyer with the human rights organisation Humanidad Vigente which was founded in 1996. Their methodology focuses on legal representation of victims of human rights abuses and providing human rights trainings. The aim is to combat impunity, and often the people they represent are women, children and teenagers. More often than not the violated rights are connected with land rights.
When asked to comment on the current local context and possibilities and challenges in the implementation of the peace agreement, Olga mentioned two aspects in particular. The chosen route of a negotiated peace opens up for positive developments such as the peace agreement with the FARC guerilla. The fact that the dialogue process with the ELN guerilla has been initiated and sustained in Quito is very important. It can also serve to cover gaps in the peace agreement with the FARC. There are high expectations on a positive outcome of the peace dialogue with the ELN, both on the government and the guerilla.
But with this follows the other aspect of the peace process – the increasingly threatening situation for human rights defenders. Statistics from the Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del pueblo) show that during the time the peace negotiations with the FARC took place in 2016, 175 human rights defenders were murdered. During the last months, 100 human rights defenders have been killed and numerous other forms of attacks have taken place. Olga explained that in particular those defenders and social leaders (men and women) working in areas where the peace agreements are implemented are under attack, and in particular in rural areas. Areas formerly controlled by the guerilla are increasingly occupied or controlled by paramilitary groups and no one seems to do anything about this. This situation poses a challenge and a risk in the peace building process. There is potential for peace but it is under threat because of these attacks.
Olga then discussed transitional justice aspects of the Colombian peace process. The rights of victims (to truth, justice, reparations and the right to non-repetition) were central in the negotiations. But a number of challenges framed the process. Victims are not a homogenous group, they are individuals and have different experiences, needs and expectations. Compared to other conflicts in the world there is a high number of victims, around 7.5 million people as well as a high number of massacres; around 2 thousand. And the conflict is still on-going.
In the light of this a model adapted to the Colombian context was necessary. In the 5th point of the peace agreement the victims´ rights and needs are stipulated. Victims have to have access to the right to truth, justice, legal remedy as well as a stable and lasting peace. A system consisting of four components was set up to deal with this aspect: a truth commission, a unit responsible for the disappeared, non-repetition and a jurisdiction for peace. Olga started off by commenting the truth commission. The aim of it is to explain the root cause of the conflict as well as the collective responsibility of the various actors. It focuses in particular on the victims’ rights to the truth – who benefitted from the conflict, its impact and who did what, both on an individual and societal level. The right to truth has an important healing aspect to it.
The unit for the disappeared offers a humanitarian and legal aspect including families´ rights to find out what happened to their loved ones. The special jurisdiction for peace´s role is to examine who took part and committed the human rights and international humanitarian rights violations. The unit is sub-divided into four areas: responsibility, definition of the legal situation, legal investigations and a peace tribunal. All of these are supported by a secretariat.
The peace agreement states that each component shall be financially and administratively independent.Olga then commented that this all sounds very good but there are a number of challenges within these components. She outlined some of them and started off by commenting the notion of the centrality of the victims – what does this actually mean? What real participation of victims will there be? Regarding the legislation aspect – victims do not participate in these processes. In particular regarding issues of reconciliation; as the victims per definition are the ones violated they ought to play a part in the framework of the legislation. Concerning the jurisdiction for peace component the victims have a possibility to put forward reports but this requires a high technical competence which the Attorney General’s office – trained for preparing these type of reports – should be better equipped to undertake. Victims should be offered other ways of influencing this component rather than just compile reports. Finally regarding the truth commission – the system is supposed to be an integral one but it is not clear how victims will participate in the commission. It is also not established yet whether the people who approach the commission are exempt from the obligation to denounce which is an existing legal obligation in Colombia.
Another concern is human rights violations committed outside or un-connected to the armed conflict, how will they be dealt with? Regarding the violations committed within the conflict a problem is that they are all treated as equal. As perpetrators have access to a privileged treatment, as seen for example with state agents, this affects the rights of human rights defenders. Agents including police and military personnel have a series of advantages within the agreement. It offers enough of an incentive for these agents to talk about the violations they have committed within the framework of the Special Jurisdiction but many have been released without proper investigations of their crimes.
There are cases where military personnel who have been condemned or prosecuted for extrajudicial executions, the so called “false positives”, or massacres have regained their freedom – without an analysis of whether these actions occurred in relation or not to the armed conflict. Olga finished by saying that these are just some examples of the challenges of the implementation of the peace agreement, there are several others.
The final comment from Olga related to a question from the audience regarding the role of the international community, and in particular Sweden’s role in the component regarding the disappeared. Olga replied that Sweden has a special responsibility in the search for the disappeared as stated in the peace agreement. This involves follow-up and verification, ensuring that the victims´ voices are taken into account. She also commented that as it is often civil society organisations that have access to the most remote areas it is important to continue to support Colombian civil society organisations and not only support state initiatives. The international community is important for the monitoring, verification and support to both the implementation of the peace agreement and the current negotiations with the ELN. In 2018 there will be presidential elections in Colombia and there are groups that do not favour neither the agreement with the FARC nor the negotiations with the ELN and have stated that these will be revoked if they gain power. But it is important that the ELN negotiations continue and get finalised. The humanitarian situation for example in the area of Chocó is acute and international monitoring and action on that is very important.
International support is of the essence and this is why the campaign Peace and Life is so important. It promotes solidarity between peoples and emphasises that a threat to a Colombia human rights defender is a threat to all human rights defenders.