Statement by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu for United Nations Security Council Briefing on Colombia
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council:
Thank you for the opportunity to present the latest report of the Secretary-General on Colombia, in the company of Foreign Minister Claudia Blum. I am particularly pleased with today’s participation in this session by Ms. Clemencia Carabalí, whose brave leadership and defence of the rights of Afro-Colombian communities and victims of the armed conflict in Cauca department is an example of the inspiring work of women social leaders around Colombia.
The Secretary-General’s report recognizes the perseverance from both the Government and FARC, as well as multiple other actors, in carrying on with peacebuilding efforts despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic. I commend the parties for their joint work within the National Reintegration Council, and within the tripartite mechanism on transition to legality, whose work has allowed 131 more former combatants to be accredited to the process since the issuance of the Secretary-General's report. The fact that the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Final Agreement (CSIVI) has resumed its sessions, with the participation of the guarantors, is also encouraging. I trust that the constructive dialogue between the Government and FARC will soon lead to agreements on issues related to the handover of FARC-EP assets, including on the deadlines to finalize this process.
Distinguidos Miembros del Consejo,
La inseguridad que enfrentan excombatientes de las FARC-EP, comunidades, defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos, y líderes y lideresas sociales como la Sra. Carabalí, sigue siendo nuestra mayor preocupación, y lamentablemente esta inseguridad ha continuado durante la pandemia. Pese al compromiso y las medidas implementadas por el Gobierno y autoridades del Estado, el número de excombatientes asesinados desde la firma del Acuerdo de Paz sobrepasó los 200, llegando a 210. Sin duda, la violencia contra quienes dejaron las armas en el contexto del Acuerdo, y contra quienes defienden los derechos humanos y los derechos de las comunidades devastadas por el conflicto, sigue siendo la amenaza más grave para la consolidación de paz en Colombia.
In a positive development, authorities have captured several individuals believed to be responsible for some of these killings. This includes the arrest on 6 July of an individual accused of being the intellectual author behind the killing of Alexander Parra, a former FARC-EP combatant and leader of the former territorial area for training and reintegration in Mesetas, Meta. The arrest occurred as part of a joint effort by the Elite Corps of the National Police and the Special Investigations Unit of the Attorney-General’s Office, two bodies created by the Final Peace Agreement.
These arrests are an example of the results that the mechanisms in the Peace Agreement can deliver, and a reminder of the need to provide them with all the support required to effectively carry out their tasks. All relevant actors must support the work of the Special Investigations Unit, especially by executing pending arrest warrants. Moreover, it should be a priority to give the National Protection Unit the necessary financial, technical and human resources so that no more former combatants are killed while awaiting evaluation of their protection requests. Since discussions are going on regarding the rules of procedure of the National Commission on Security Guarantees, I trust that it will be consistent with the commitments established under the Final Peace Agreement, and will soon approve and set in motion the long-awaited public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups and their support networks, who are behind most of the reported violence in the former conflict-affected areas.
After months of uncertainty and mounting security risks from illegal armed groups, operations are underway to transfer the former TATR in Ituango, a municipality where 11 former FARC-EP members and 7 of their relatives have been killed, to a new location in Mutatá, both in Antioquia department. The hopes of dozens of former FARC-EP combatants and their families, who were forced to leave due to the escalating violence, are now placed in this new site. It is essential to ensure that these former combatants receive the necessary protection and support to successfully carry on with their reintegration into civilian life.
Authorities should also take all necessary measures to ensure that surrounding communities and former combatants that stay behind in Ituango will not be forgotten as a result of this transfer. Since the creation of the TATRs, local authorities have always highlighted that they represented an enhanced presence of the State in these long-neglected areas across the country. Indeed, in these territories the presence of the State should not be weakened but rather strengthened.
As the Secretary-General has noted repeatedly, the consolidated and integrated presence of the State institutions is the long-term solution to the violence plaguing Colombia’s rural regions. It was with this belief in mind that the Peace Agreement devised mechanisms such as the development programmes with a territorial focus and the Comprehensive Security and Protection Programme for Communities and Organizations in the Territories. Progress in the implementation of these mechanisms should proceed in an inclusive, participatory and expedited manner. The Peace Agreement also created the National Comprehensive Programme for the Substitution of Illicit Crops, which aims to free communities from the violent grip of illegal armed groups and criminal organizations by providing peasants and communities with a voluntary path to legal livelihoods; its implementation should now focus on ensuring that participating families receive timely assistance to develop productive projects.
Regarding the reintegration process, I welcome the fact that additional collective and individual productive projects have been approved despite the pandemic. At the same time, many former combatants’ productive initiatives have been affected by the pandemic, making it even more urgent to ensure support for their sustainability, including through technical assistance, the allocation of land, and access to markets. It is also important for both Government and FARC to ensure that the benefits of the reintegration process, including access to productive projects, continue to reach all former combatants in the reintegration process.
The pandemic has demonstrated once again the vulnerable situation of roughly two thirds of accredited former combatants who currently reside outside the former territorial areas for training and reintegration. Efforts by all actors, including the National Reintegration Council, to consider the needs of these former combatants, including those conducting their reintegration process collectively, are vital to ensure that they can continue to carry on with their reintegration process amidst increased security challenges.
I also urge both the Government and FARC to foster the leadership of women former combatants in social, economic and political reintegration, and I trust that the National Reintegration Council will prioritize the recommendations of its Technical Working Group on Gender. I also encourage the National Reintegration Council to reactivate its working groups on children and youth, and to consider the proposal of the High-level Forum of Ethnic Peoples to create a working group to address the situation of former combatants of indigenous and Afro-Colombian origin.
Colombia’s model of transitional justice is one of the key innovations of this process. The three components of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition have continued their work during the pandemic to ensure that the rights of victims are upheld. In April, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace issued guidelines on the sanctions that it will impose upon individuals under its jurisdiction and on the “tasks, works or activities with reparatory and restorative content.” The Truth Commission has resumed its “dialogues for non-continuity and non-repetition of the armed conflict” with several sectors of Colombian society, to foster reconciliation and discuss the causes of the continued violence in different regions. And the Unit for the Search of Persons Deemed as Missing is helping to provide healing for the families of persons forcibly disappeared during the conflict.
Support to the System by all actors remains paramount, including by respecting their independence and autonomy, and ensuring adequate financial resources for its operation. I also urge all parties to the conflict to fully contribute to the work of the three components; this will be important in order to fulfill the important expectations of victims and of Colombian society as a whole for truth, justice and reparations.
In recent weeks, Colombians has been appalled by incidents of sexual violence committed by members of the public security forces. These cases, which have been strongly condemned by the President and the Minister of Defense, and are under investigation, are a painful reminder of the horrific acts of sexual and gender-based violence committed by all parties to the conflict. I am also concerned about the increased reports of gender-based violence in the context of the pandemic. I encourage all parties to redouble measures to improve protection and security for women, including women former combatants, social leaders and human rights defenders. Such measures include the prompt implementation of the action plan of the Comprehensive Programme for Safeguards for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, which has been delayed due to the pandemic. Efforts to address cases of domestic and gender-based violence within the former territorial areas for training and reintegration is also of the essence.
Mr. President, Members of the Council:
The Security Council’s voice and its active engagement has been an essential support to the cause of peace in Colombia.
I sincerely hope its Resolution 2532, following on the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, can inspire efforts by all concerned to halt violence and facilitate the pandemic response. There is no justification for continuing to inflict violence upon vulnerable Colombians who are already under tremendous hardship. We have already seen how even temporary cessations of violence can bring relief to suffering communities on the ground.
Indeed, all efforts right now should focus on addressing the effects of the pandemic, protecting the most vulnerable, and ensuring that peacebuilding efforts continue charging forward in the midst of this difficult storm. I encourage Colombians to remain united as they navigate this crisis and to keep their sights and actions set on their common objectives of security, development and genuine and lasting peace.
I thank you Mr. President and Members of the Council.