By Rodrigo Uprimny*, EL ESPECTADOR, November 6, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The administration’s “total peace” strategy makes sense, and it collects the aspirations of broad sectors that put an end to the armed conflict and to the violence that still persists. However, this strategy suffers from ambiguity and lack of definition that’s worrisome beyond the abstract idea. It’s difficult to controvert, but it could turn into a mere slogan that says Colombia wants “total peace”.
The idea of “total peace” makes sense because, in spite of the enormous benefits brought by the Final Agreement with the now-defunct FARC (AFP), there are still armed actors in Colombia that are causing enormous suffering, and whose capabilities and territorial presence increased during the Duque administration, which failed in its security strategy.
Thus, the International Committee of the Red Cross has concluded that there are six armed conflicts continuing within this country, along with other types of violence with serious humanitarian consequences. It’s worth it to try to demobilize those actors, which is what “total peace” is trying to do, with the understanding that the government will not renounce the use of force to achieve security in the whole countryside, in case the negotiations fail.
In addition, the administration has made some important clarifications. Especially, regarding the reform of Statute 418, known as the Public Order Law, the administration has specified the two paths toward “total peace”. One is political negotiation that would have to lead to a peace agreement that includes certain social reforms for the armed actors that are politically motivated, like the ELN. The other path, called “approach or conversation”, is with criminal organizations that are having high impact but don’t have political motivation, like the Clan del Golfo. This would not bring social reforms, but rather mechanisms for their dismantling and submission to the criminal justice system.
These clarifications, along with the re-establishment of the dialog with the ELN and the announcement by the Peace Commissioner that there is significant progress with other armed groups, are good news. However, the ambiguities of “total peace” are still enormous on certain key points. I will mention only one: What are the concrete mechanisms for submission to the criminal justice system by the organizations that are purely criminal?
These matters are complicated, and they need to be clarified; promptly, I hope. But there is one, not minor at all, that requires a clear government position from the very beginning. That is the one about the relationship between “total peace” and the standards for justice and victims’ rights that was established in the Final Peace Agreement (AFP).
The administrated has indicated that “total peace” will respect the victims’ rights and that there will be justice, which is what is stated in the reform of Statute 418. That is fundamental: a peace without justice and without considering the victims is not sustainable now. But it’s still very abstract, as we have in effect a Peace Agreement that has specified standards for justice in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
These standards of justice are the fruit of very difficult efforts in the negotiation with the FARC; they have been accepted by the international community, but with difficulty after the allegations that the Peace Agreement allowed impunity after atrocities. The standards in the Agreement, along with establishing conditions for obtaining the criminal benefits, are thus the very minimum of justice and respect for the victims’ rights that have to be honored, even in a Peace Agreement.
Therefore, many of us are convinced that we can’t go back from these standards that are integral to the Agreement, not only because that would be an injustice to the victims of the ELN and of other armed groups, but also, in addition, because any agreement that draws back from those standards would be very weak, not just at the legal level, but also at the political level.
*Researcher at Dejusticia and Prefessor at the National University