By Dina Gómez Correal, COLOMBIA TRUTH COMMISSION, May 31, 2021
translated by Eunice Gibson, volunteer CSN translator
The truth is a fundamental right of the victims. It’s important because it contributes to dignifying those who have suffered violence directly, and their families and close friends, and it contributes to the processes for transmutation of the pain. In addition, the truth has a collective value. A society cannot build itself on lies and on the permanent denial of what took place, because that would feed the weak foundations above which it was built.
In spite of the fact that there is a Peace Agreement with constitutional weight, in which the government must take responsibility for its position of guarantor, and for the failure to carry out its obligations with respect to human rights and International Humanitarian Law, we now face one more chapter in a long tradition of failures, added to a dramatic resurgence of violence and of denialism by the government that tries to cover up responsibilities, in order to perpetuate the structural impunity.
There are several examples of this denialism. Just to name two: the new direction of the National Center for Historical Memory (CNMH), and the relativization and denial of the realities that have already been proved, such as the extrajudicial executions. The victims of violence by the government, in contrast, have been staking their hopes, decidedly, for years on building the peace. They have placed this supreme good above any individual interest. At the same time, they believe that there will not be peace unless the truth is made known about what happened. To do that, it’s vital to know how the government’s violence was set up; what motivations led to the processes of elimination and extermination of the victims, and what social processes and groups they were part of, who gave the orders (political actors, officials, the military, third parties, and business sectors) and why, what individual and collective benefits came out of that violence; and how and who contributed to seeing to it that that violence remains in impunity.
Confronting the denialism of the government itself means putting the victims’ voices at the center and respecting their dignity, punishing any kind of re-victimization, and establishing the conditions for the investigation of the whole truth. That implies access to classified files and compliance with the conditions of the Integrated System of Truth, Justice, Reparation, and No Repetition (SIVJRNR) by government officials in their contribution to the whole truth. In order for the truth to result in no repetition, there must be urgent reforms to the Armed Forces, the ESMAD dismantled, public policies that contribute to the profound transformation of the government machinery, overcoming impunity, and ceasing the violations of human rights by the Armed Forces against the civilian population, like what is going on in the midst of the current demonstrations.
After the enormous effort implied by the signing of the Peace Agreement, denialism doesn’t contribute to the building of a transformational peace. On the contrary, it deepens wounds, attacks the willingness of the victims to re-live their pain, installs a narrative that distorts what really happened, and fractures in advance the construction of a future in which the government is a guarantor and not violator of people’s rights. When a time of violence that has produced so much pain and distrust keeps on being supported by sectors of the administration and the national government, it’s impossible to advance toward a democratic co-existence. Given that the government machinery has lost its legitimacy, a good number of the citizens are demanding the truth and some structural changes. Refusing to do that restricts the victims’ right to the truth, and the right of the citizens to enjoy a society that is morally entrenched in the No Violence and the Never Again.