(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Editorial by José Girón Sierra
IPC Human Rights Observatory Analyst
“Here is the war that many Colombians have not seen, but, in the marginalization of rural areas, live on a daily basis; a country in the midst of an accelerated urbanization process that was not able to see or perhaps chose only to see that which was closest or most appealing. It is for this, that our own violence is one which impacts locally and regionally, but has very little resonance nationally. This can perhaps explain the sensation of the general habituation of conflict and the limited citizen response to mobilize for the end of the war”.
-Taken from a report by The Center for Historic Memory
Amidst an electoral environment in which the electoral appetite hangs the future peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba in suspense – putting even its continuation in a state of uncertainty — the Colombian Government and insurgency approve a letter outlining ten principles to direct discussions and any agreements made in respect to agreed agenda point number five, referring to victims.
The importance of this is nothing small. To go from victims to victimizers is not something that should go undetected. It demands to be properly evaluated. Throughout an armed conflict of over fifty long years, the perpetrators of this war have been able to justify and, in some cases, even negate their responsibility. According to the Center for Historical Memory, their actions have effectively contributed to a confrontation which has involved 85% of the civilian population and only 18% of combatants. Without concerning ourselves with the violent forms in which the war itself has occurred, these figures explain the degradation of the state of warfare agents, as they turned defenseless civilians into war booty for their own political and economic ideology. Disguising their actions as ´´collateral damage´´, both the State and insurgency have adopted a victim position that no one believes and which no human rights violation or international humanitarian law can forgive.
This is why the declaration boarding this theme should not involve the, ´´exchange of impunities´´. Rather, it outlines one of the most decisive points of inflection regarding the sustainability of the process, and could highlight a radical twist in comparison to previous negotiation processes. The road towards reparation and no-repetition will not be possible if the path that leads to truth cannot be seen clearly.
The fifth principle establishes that clarifying the truth indicates: ´´clarifying what happened throughout the length of the conflict, including its multiple causes, origins and effects. This is a fundamental part of satisfying the rights not only of the victims, but of society in general. The reconstruction of trust depends on full clarification and recognizing the truth.”
This principle obligates, for the first time in the history of the armed conflict, that the State and the insurgency reveal themselves in front of the entire society. Most importantly, this includes the families of 220,000 people that have died; 25,000 that have disappeared; more than 6,000,000 people that have been displaced; and 27,000 that have been kidnapped. More than anything else, they want to understand why such cruelty and excessive abuse happened to them. They want to understand why it was that, in the midst of a dispute over interests that were not their own, they were converted into cannon fodder yet never asked to act out on their behalf. When speaking of the State, actors like paramilitary forces are included State forces, as they were allied with a fraction of the power that still today defends the idea that anything goes, and which has made war an end in itself.
One of the most damaging consequences of long-term conflict for habitants of territories surrounded by war is the tri-fold fear-pessimism-distrust phenomenon. This phenomenon fractures the world for those that live surrounded by conflict, annihilating all possibility to work for the common good. It is the scenario of a world which establishes individuality and contributes a deep distrust for those who claim to represent legality — in turn opening a path toward illegality.
If these principles were to be upheld, ones in which victims are recognized as the most relevant actor in the negotiation process, as stated by Government representatives, it would allow for what possibly may be the most important step in being able to break the previously indicated tri-fold dynamic, and instead make room for that which could structure trust-credibility-optimism.
As indicated by John Paul Lederach speaking about the process of negotiating long-term conflict: the water flows down the path toward love; we should not let them resume the path of fear and hate. It is only through this that we will be able to hold on to the dream of a reconciled society.
José Girón Sierra
IPC Human Rights Observatory
June 9, 2014
(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)