Colombia – ongoing challenges to the implementation of the Peace Accord

The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) held a Parliamentary Roundtable, in conjunction with ABColombia and CIASE, on 27 February 2019, to discuss progress on the Colombian Peace Process.

We would like to thank Patrick Grady MP for chairing this event.

The speakers were:

  • Rosa Emilia Salamanca (RES) – Colombian Human Rights Defender and Director, Corporation for Research, Social and Economic Action (CIASE);
  • Louise Winstanley (LW) – Programme and Advocacy Manager, ABColombia;
  • Elizabeth Santander (ES) – Family member of a victim of forced disappearance.

The main points raised were:

  • The Colombian Peace Process has been ground-breaking, featuring inclusion, a gender perspective from the women’s movement, and transitional justice. It has brought change to Colombia, in terms of truth-seeking, and ideas of human rights, democracy and participation. (RES)
  • There are, however, many problems with its implementation, with the Government questioning many parts of it that remain contentious. The situation in Venezuela, and its impacts on Colombia, has been used to deprioritise the Accord’s implementation. (RES)
  • International support is needed to ensure the President passes a law to implement the Accord’s provisions on transitional justice, to move forward. (RES)
  • The UK Government’s role is important, including as the penholder on Colombia in the UN Security Council. It has helped to get UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs into the country, who has made related recommendations which should be monitored by the UN Verification Mission and the Security Council. (LW)
  • According to the National Centre of Historical Memory, there have been much higher rates of forced disappearances in Colombia compared with other situations in Latin America: according to official figures, there are 86,000 victims. (ES)
  • The international community must ensure the Colombian Government provides sufficient funds for search units to find the disappeared. At the moment the Government does not appear to have the political will to secure the necessary budget: they now only have 30%. (ES)
  • Colombian Government needs to comply with the Accord and put the disappeared victims and their families at the centre of the peace process, particularly in order to guarantee the right to truth, justice and non-repetition. (ES)
  • Though killings generally have decreased, sexual violence continues, and rural women remain largely silent about these crimes. Prohibition of amnesties for sexual violence committed by the FARC and the military is essential for change, as is public recognition of the crime, which will hopefully occur during the transformative justice process. (LW)
  • Killings of HRDs are soaring: 172 were killed in 2018. International attention is needed, and the Special Rapporteur must keep up the pressure. The UK on the UN SC has raised HRDs but must be more forceful and ensure relevant concerns are incorporated across UN mechanisms. In the main, the killings are politically driven and involve new paramilitary structures; there is also a criminal element, involving trafficking and the mafia. (LW)
  • Rural development is needed to tackle inequality and to undercut the coca industry. The UK could take the lead on ensuring the Accord’s implementation is properly monitored and civil society participation formally structured. (LW)
  • The issue of sexual violence in Colombia should be prioritised at the UK Government’s international conference on Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in November. Colombia should not just be portrayed as success story. (LW)
  • The Accord is trapped between two economies: the extraction economy, which results in land grabbing and the displacement of people, and the illegal economy, e.g., coca production and illegal mining. (LW)
  • The ELN issue remains very important and negotiations with them need to move forward. (LW)

The PHRG will continue to support Colombian HRDs, who continue to be at considerable risk, and all those working for the full implementation of the Colombian peace accord, including by raising their concerns and protection needs with relevant interlocuters.

Further to this Roundtable, EDM 2232 – INCLUSIVE PEACE AND PROTECTION OF DEFENDERS IN COLOMBIA – has been tabled, and we would urge MPs to add their signature, to show their support for Colombians working for the full implementation of the Colombian peace accord and on human rights more generally.