Criteria For Integral Reparation of Victims

( Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)

The organization National Movement of Victims of State Crimes [Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado] believes that those in Colombia who have suffered during the conflict should be given integral or all-embracing  reparation: that is, the reparation should reflect the completeness of the harm suffered – psychosocial, political, organizational, economic, environmental and cultural. The statement below is issued in advance of a decree promised by the Government on administrative reparations.]

Declaration of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes  before the decree which the Government is preparing on administrative reparations

The National Government is preparing to create a Programme of Reparation by Administrative Means [that is, without the need to go through the Law Courts].  This is welcome.  However, while Government spokespeople have given assurances  that this program will recognize the State’s duty  to compensate victims of violations  of human rights and of humanitarian law – a duty established by  the Constitution and in a number of international treaties – it will not  recognize the direct responsibility of the State in acts of violence.

Our understanding is, though, that in developing any proposal for integral reparation that recognizes  the constitutional rights of the victims truth should be a fundamental principle. This implies, as a first step, recognizing who are responsible for acts of violence.  In the case of Colombia, this is not only the so-called illegal armed participants – guerillas and paramilitaries – but also agents of the State and  political and business leaders. For it is they who, protected by political institutions, have colluded with the paramilitaries in genocide and other crimes against humanity.

All actions of integral reparation require justice and the punishment of those chiefly responsible for the crimes: national and foreign business leaders, politicians, landowners and ranchers.  We are concerned that a program of administrative reparation could become a means of buying the silence of the victims and preventing  any attempt to find those responsible for the crimes.

Although it is important that there should be politicians and organizations dedicated exclusively to achieving  the just demands of integral reparation,we consider that the approaches  made known so far open the way to again ignoring or violating the rights of the victims.  Therefore we are setting out a number of principles that should be adhered to in an initiative of this kind:
1. All initiatives for integral reparation should be designed so that they do not obstruct or discourage the search for truth and justice in national or international courts.
2. Administrative reparation should rest on truth and justice, as inalienable rights of both victims and society. As the agent and instigator of the paramilitary groups, the State has a duty to recognize its responsibility and to act accordingly: it should not confine integral reparation merely to financial compensation but should guarantee justice against those – in politics, in business and in the armed forces – who sponsor the actions of the paramilitaries in their crimes against humanity.

3. Any arrangement for administrative reparation established in the country should rely on the active participation of victims’ organizations and movements. This will ensure not only transparency in the arrangement’s public accountability but also democratic participation in its operation.

4. All reparation programs should offer effective non-repetition guarantees and contain exemplary legal sanctions against anyone who reoffends in criminal acts or attempts to frighten, intimidate, blackmail – or exert any pressure on – victims.

5.Similarly, administrative or judicial reparation should consider means  of political reparation. These would involve restoring rights of participation, civil liberties and the cleaning-up of military and political power.  They would also make it possible for communities and organizations that have suffered from widespread criminal acts to make independent decisions.  In addition, they should consider restoring representative functions to those groups whose elected members have been systematically murderd.

6. Reparation should be made to all victims regardless of whether the crimes against them were committed by agents of the State or by illegal armed groups. The rights of the victims should be absolute,  irrespective of who the perpetrators were. Any reparation that ignored State crimes would be partial and discriminatory.

7. Internal refugees are also victims of armed conflict and of paramilitary strategy. Consequently, they are due integral reparation –  compensation for all harm caused to them, including that arising from  actions or lack of protection by the Colombian state.  The years of being uprooted, the material losses, the psychological and cultural damage – these flowed from the violence that caused their flight. They are the inescapable consequences of the violation of the rights of this sector of our people. This sector should be kept in mind when the various procedures are being established and the level of compensation of victims is being considered.  A program of reparation which did not seek to return the land of those displaced or to compensate them appropriately would be regarded as a joke by the four million victims of this crime in Colombia.  

8. Bearing this in mind, it is essential to include in the planned reparation a reference to the restoration of land and territory.  The land and material goods of the thousands of families who were violently dispossessed – ownership of which is currently registered in the names of paramilitaries or their families or their figureheads or business associates – will have to be returned to the original owners, in good condition and free of debt. If possible, they should be given back in better condition than they were in before the violence,  since in the time during which they were abandoned significant improvements could have been made to them.  

9. The economic and material resources used for the reparation of victims should not come from the national budget or from the taxpayers, since that would entail a major benefit to the perpetrators and a loss to the victims and to Colombian society as a whole.  It should be kept in mind that the paramilitary leaders and those who have profited from their criminal services, as well as enjoying a significant reduction in  their sentences, can count on substantial economic resources, the result of the violent seizure of wealth and territory and illegal activity related to drug trafficking.  Such illegally gained resources, as well as the legal resources held by the paramilitaries and their sponsors, should be used to compensate the victims and should be the target of a genuine program for the elimination of criminal power.  

10. Neither the provision of public services, which is the duty of the State,  nor public  welfare provisions intended to supplement the basic needs of the people
can be included as means of reparation.

11. The mechanisms and procedures set up for reparation should be arranged with the victims.  Goods confiscated from the criminals and their allies, which have been used to increase their fortunes, should be entrusted to an independent organization composed of State representatives and democratically elected  representatives of victims’ movements.

12. Reparations should be of a collective nature and take into account the reasons for the criminal actions in each context and the local effects of these actions.  In each case consideration should be given to the rights violated, and the damage – social, moral, political, economic, and cultural – caused to the collective of which the victims were part.

National Movement of Victims of State Crimes 
Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado]

Bogotá D.C., 29 de enero de 2008.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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