Peace with FARC guerrillas could spark another killing spree
The tantalizing prospect of a peace accord which would end a half a century of conflict with Colombia’s largest guerrilla army could – once again – lead to a killing spree of human and labour rights activists.
While Colombia’s national government negotiates with the FARC leaders in Havana, Cuba, organizations are searching for ways to prevent another bloodbath, like the one that one that swept through the left-wing Union Patriotica when the guerrillas attempted in the 1980s to achieve through politics what had eluded them with guns, crude bombs and kidnappings.Thousands of Union Patriotica candidates, members and supporters – including two presidential candidates – were assassinated after the party was formed as part of peace negotiations with the national government.Participating in the political process brought former guerrillas and their supporters into the open where paramilitaries as well as corrupt police and military could hunt down their ideological enemies.
Now an international group of jurists – lawyers and judges – has come up with a series of recommendations of how Colombia can attempt to break the cycle of violence against union leaders, human rights workers and leaders of the millions of internal refugees.
The UK-based Colombian Caravana recognized in its recently published 2013 report that people with a lot to lose will keep killing as long as there is little chance of conviction.
“An almost permanent state of impunity exists for many crimes in Colombia,” the report stated. For many serious crimes it found the level of impunity was an astonishing 97 per cent.
“The Caravana detected an underlying lack of political will to resolve this problem, despite many public statements and private assurances to the contrary.”
Not only were lawyers, especially those who represent victims or displaced persons, subject to calculated attacks, but their attackers seldom drew police attention.
A report into violent attacks against lawyers found “the majority of the 4,400 cases recorded by the local (prosecutors) have not even been investigated.”
The group’s recommendations include:
•That all murders and threats against lawyers and human rights defenders be investigated promptly and independently.
• That the government create a national, independent prosecutor to investigate murders and threats against lawyers and human rights workers.
• That the Colombian government demonstrate what measures it has taken to combat impunity.
• And, that Colombia publish reports on the state of investigations into all such murders, attacks and threats suffered by lawyers and human rights defenders.
And possibly, a peace accord with guerrillas will not once again result in a killing spree of human rights workers, lawyers and leftists in general.
For more information please see: http://www.colombiancaravana.org.uk/our-work/reports/