On Friday, April 12, 2019 the UN Security Council held a session on the current UN Verification Mission in Colombia. Closed consultations followed the briefing.
The session began with an adoption of the agenda, and a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia outlining the current status of the Colombia peace process over the last 90 days. Calling Colombia’s peace agreement historic for ending decades of conflict, Mr. Massieu assured the council that this agreement is an example to the world that a negotiated peace is possible, and that peace must be forged together. He reported that many elements of this peace agreement were evident during his visit in the mountains of central Colombia, where he saw the reintegration of former combatants in a territorial area.
Mr. Massieu also addressed the need for disbursement of funds, a gender sensitive approach to implementation of the peace process, and timely decisions made on the access to land. Areas of the country previously inaccessible have now growing economies, including services by former combatants with the mission is continuing to facilitate this. During his recent visit to Tumaco, Afro-Colombian residents of the area informed him of the threat against them by criminal elements including groups involved in illicit economies. Mr. Massieu stressed that importance of accounting for the solutions by and challenges of the communities facing risk and violence on the ground so that the peace accord implementation is tailored to local dynamics.
Echoing the Special Representative’s sentiments regarding the peace process, the Security Council congratulated Colombia for achieving a significant peace agreement and being an inspiration for peace in the region and the world.
Over half of the Member States (UK, US, Peru, Belgium, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait and Germany) underlined their concerns about the violence facing particular groups in the country. They encouraged the Colombian government to take concrete action throughout the country to ensure the safety and security of all Colombians, most especially human rights defenders, women human rights defenders, journalists, and social and political leaders who have been more directly targeted with violence by groups competing for territory and other commodities. Certain Member States, such as the US and Belgium, more emphatically called on the government to expand its reach and authority into all rural areas to limit the influence of FARC-EP and encouraged the government to support HRDs.
In his report (S/2019/265), Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu brought to the Council's attention the growing division on one highly critical element of the peace agreement, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which is a judicial mechanism created as a critical part of the 2016 Peace Accord, and intended to ensure the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of crimes committed during the over fifty-year armed conflict in the country. In particular, this special mechanism is meant to address the most egregious of crimes and violations committed by members of the FARC-EP and the government armed forces, such as “crimes against humanity, genocide, serious war crimes, hostage taking and other serious deprivation of liberty such as the kidnapping of civilians, torture, extra-judicial executions, forced disappearance, violent sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual violence, forced displacement, and the recruitment of minors”1
Citing transitional justice as the cornerstone to peace, assembled Member States repeatedly called for the implementation of the Statutory Law which provides the legal framework for the JEP, and which had been passed through the Colombian Congress in 2017 and its constitutionality approved by the Constitutional Court. Despite voicing commitment to peace, in March 2019, President Ivan Duque chose not to sign the law, objecting to six areas of the plan and calling for the JEP to be revised further. This request was turned down this past Monday, with little information on what the next step is going to be from the Duque government. The areas he focused on included reparation for victims, extradition rules, and level of action against war crimes, among others.2
Most of the Member States in the UNSC underlined the critical importance of passing the necessary legislation to create a legal framework for the JEP, and for the JEP to be immediately implemented in the country to ensure there is no backsliding by former conflict actors, thereby detrimentally weakening the peace process. In the December 2018 report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (S/2018/1159), there were over 13,000 petitions by individuals to come under the jurisdiction of the JEP, with multiple reports by organizations on enforced disappearances, other kidnappings, and crimes committed by the armed forces and the FARC-EP members.3 However, without a clear legal framework, these efforts could lead to nothing but resentment for a broken process on part of the Colombian people.
CIASE Executive Director Rosa Emilia Salamanca briefed the UN Security Council on the situation of Colombia and underlined the critical gaps and key areas for implementation of the peace agreement. Ms. Salamanca recognized that investing in people, such reintegration of ex-combatants, is important as a matter of security, prevention of new conflict and progress in reconciliation. She urged the Security Council and assembled representatives of the Colombian government, that the implementation of a gender approach in the reintegration of ex-combatants must be hastened along with provision of financial and technical resources, ensuring that ex-combatant women can live with their families free of violence.
Ms. Salamanca warned against losing “support for democratic institutions, respect for the division of powers that has been, despite the historical difficulties in Colombia, a treasure that we can not lose”. To reduce mistrust and fear throughout the country and guarantee a sustainable peace, there must be confidence in institutional structures. This includes ensuring that the JEP is functioning for those who want to tell the truth and for the victims.
The full statement delivered by Ms. Salamanca is available below.