EL TIEMPO, October 2, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Quartered in a compound in Villa de Leyva, the colonial jewel of Boyacá, the eleven members of the Truth Commission on Friday received the news that the Constitutional Court had decided unanimously to extend the life of the Commission until June of 2022, with an extra two months to spread the word and explain their final report.
According to information received by EL TIEMPO, the group spent two weeks in meetings of the full Commission, carefully analyzing the first drafts of the report, which will include explanation of the whole truth about the armed conflict in Colombia, and their recommendations for not repeating it.
The Commission has listened to 26,192 individuals, received 890 reports, conducted 13,821 interviews, and has assembled 527 specific cases.
Initially, the deadline for presenting the document was this coming November 28, but—as the Court recognized—the measures adopted to combat Covid-19 affected the work of the Truth Commission throughout the country. And, as indicated by the victims of the conflict in the suit they filed, requesting that the period be extended, the health restrictions “hindered the delivery of their testimony and, as a result, would have nullified their right to the truth.”
One thing is certain, and that is that in spite of the fact that the Commission has worked almost half of its three years under pandemic-based rules, it has endeavored to collect the large quantity of contextual elements to establish the whole truths of the war, as was recognized this week by the United Nations Secretary-General himself, Antonio Guterres, in his quarterly report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia.
Up to now, the Commission has listened to 26,192 individuals, received 890 reports, conducted 13,821 interviews, and has assembled 527 specific cases.
What will the final report contain?
The next step is for the Commission to recover the spaces lost because of the pandemic, and try to keep that from having a serious effect on the rights of the victims to the whole truth and no repetition.
According to the Truth Commissioners consulted by this paper, the final document will be divided into chapters. Some of them are very well along, but others—like the one with the recommendations—are lagging or not yet begun, partly because of waiting for the completion of the field work and putting together the information necessary to reach definitive conclusions.
The first of those chapters, according to the sources, is called “Narrative”, and creates a time line of the conflict in the country, its history, its origins, foreign influences, and other details. All 11 Commissioners are working on that section; and there you will find, for example, the testimony of the former Presidents with their respective filters. “There are some things that are questionable, as in the case of one of them who claimed that there was no drug trafficking money in his campaign,” said one source.
The second chapter will be the one with the “Findings”, and in that chapter the Commission will set forth what happened with specific events of victimization. There will be clarifications there about the extrajudicial executions (“false positives”) committed by members of the Army, and the recruitment, and murder while in the ranks, of children recruited by the FARC.
There will also be a chapter on the ethnic peoples, dedicated to the victimizations and narratives of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples, and others on subjects like drug trafficking, paramilitarism, guerrilla insurgencies, gender, and land distribution.
EL TIEMPO has learned that during the sessions of reading and analysis of the drafts, there have been substantive commentaries among the Commissioners. “The discussions when the group is together are very profound, because there are differences in focus. That is the added value of this Commission; people who think differently can achieve the complete and diverse narrative,” stated a source within the Commission.
For now, it’s expected that with the seven additional months provided by the Court, the Commission will be able to go back out into the countryside to supplement its efforts. Doing that is so important that it even turned out that the Iván Duque administration was preparing a decree to guarantee the extension of the mandate.
“The next step is for the Commission to recover the spaces lost because of the pandemic, and try to keep that from having a serious effect on the rights of the victims to the whole truth and no repetition,” said Alejandro Jiménez of Dejusticia, one of the organizations behind the lawsuit.
Another thing that remains is to determine the budget that the Commission will have for 2022, because the Court ordered the government and the Congress to make sure that there were enough funds for it to function. “The Executive, assuming that order and given its urgency has given us a deadline, Tuesday, October 5, to make our budget request,” stated a source within the Truth Commission.