Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | April 18, 2015

Including the Male Gender Perspective in Post-Conflict Projects.

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“When I left for the army, I remember that my aunts, my uncles and my mother said, Go because over there you will become a man, over there you will become a worthy man.”

“When I was five years old, I had hair down to here (signals his neck), and I remember people sometimes greeted me, saying, Ay, what a beautiful girl! And I would say, What girl? Then, next, I am at my desk, in school, at the beginning of first grade, my hair mauled, wearing a proper shirt for school, and here is the photo of the castrated boy, whose hair was shaved, because they figured I was already the little man.”

“When people speak to you about war and you are a young man of 15 or 18 years old, you think that here is something you cannot do anything about, that the only option is to deal with it and suck it up.”

Such are some of the commentaries gathered by la Casa Museo de la Memoria in Medellín and the University of Antioquia, which highlight the importance of including the male gender perspective in projects that will help take Colombian society from war to a post-conflict scenario.

Many men join the government’s army or illegal armed groups for economic reasons, due to unemployment and the expectations that, as males, society assigned them to provide for their families.

Many demobilized former paramilitaries have expressed that membership in the paramilitaries facilitated their liaisons with the prettiest women, as well as their ability to dress well, carry a weapon, and be seen as males with power.

Forced displacement robs men of their social position as they witness their wives, and the women around them, better able to adapt to life in cities, getting jobs, and providing for their families.

There have been 800 cases reported to the National Union of Victims in which men were victims of sexual violence. It is likely the figure is higher. Many men in war situations are castrated, sexually mutilated, forced to have incestious relations, and forced into sexual slavery.

A follow-up on the story of the fifty-four under-age Colombian girls who were reportedly sexually assaulted by American troops and contractors stationed in Colombia, serving under Plan Colombia, between 2003 and 2007.

Now, U.S. army criminal investigators plan to probe allegations with officials in Colombia.

Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, said “Special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are currently coordinating with Colombian authorities and will initiate an investigation into any credible allegations of sexual assault or criminal acts committed by U.S. soldiers while in that country.”

The abuses allegedly happened in military bases in Colombia, in Melgar and Tolemaida.

Colombian prosecutors could not make arrests because of immunity agreements made between the U.S. and Colombia.

 

Olga Lucía Castillo says her daughter was drugged, kidnapped and sexually abused by U.S. military personnel, who have received absolute impunity due to Colombia-U.S. bilateral agreements.

Olga Lucía Castillo says her daughter was sexually assaulted by U.S. military personnel, who have received absolute impunity due to Colombia-U.S. bilateral agreements.

This week, the U.S. media repeatedly told the story of the Drug Enforcement Administration agents who had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia. Ten DEA agents admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days.

But the media did not do justice to the story of fifty-four under-age Colombian girls who were sexually assaulted by American troops and contractors stationed in Colombia, serving under Plan Colombia, between 2003 and 2007, according to a new report by the Historical Commission of the Conflict and its Victims.

The abuses allegedly happened in military bases in Melgar and Tolemaida.

Colombian prosecutors could not make arrests because of immunity agreements made between the U.S. and Colombia.

‘There exists abundant information about the sexual violence, in absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials,’ scholar Renan Vega said.

In once case, on August 26, 2007, two American military personnel — allegedly U.S. sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz — drugged the 12-year-old daughter of Olga Lucía Castillo, kidnapped her, and drove her from a nightclub in Melgar, Tolima, to the nearby military base. The victim said she had stopped at the nightclub to use the bathroom.

Coen and Ruiz reportedly filmed the abuse and sold the films as pornographic material. They were flown out of Colombia.

Meanwhile, the victim’s family received multiple death threats, and has repeatedly been forced to flee and resettle in different cities.

The documentary, embedded below, by Hollman Morris and Juan Jose Lozano, is worth watching, especially now as forms of transitional justice come to the table in the peace talks with the FARC.

The documentary traces the demobilization and disarmament of the AUC, las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia or the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the paramilitaries.

The documentary examines the Justice and Peace Law, passed in 2005, with the intention to provide truth, reparations, and a measure of justice to victims of the AUC and the continuing armed conflict.

For much of the 1990s, the AUC, another drug-financed illegally armed group, were responsible for massacres and disappearances of anyone suspected of collaborating with the FARC, and forced recruitment of minors. Under the Justice and Peace Law, the paramilitaries were supposed to demobilize and confess their crimes, and allow families to uncover the truth of what happened to their loved ones.

Family members came to the hearings, asking for any information, showing photos, and painfully re-living the trauma of what happened. They begged for bodies to bury properly, for closure.

Yet, as the documentary highlights, the government of Alvaro Uribe extradited to the United States the leaders, or intellectual authors, before they had a chance to fully confess their crimes. They were extradited to face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Commander Ever Veloza, alias Commander “HH,” told a hearing (minute 55:00) that the banana and sugar industry, and cattle ranchers benefitted from the paramilitaries. He said the paramilitaries would arrive in areas where they received logistical support (minute 55:44). He implicated local politicians and businesspeople. Then, before victims could finish hearing the entire truth, Commander “HH” was also extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges.

In the documentary, Gustavo Gallon of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, says (minute 22:00) that of 3600 people presented as having committed grave crimes against humanity, only 600 people have satisfied the requirements of the Justice and Peace Law, as set by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

** WARNING: VERY DISTURBING GRAPHIC IMAGES IN THE DOCUMENTARY. **

 

Related:

Paramilitaries massacred 60 people in cattle-raising town in 2000.

Colombia’s transitional law likely to end in impunity for many victimizers. 

Gang of former paramilitaries threaten peace activists.

Skepticism around criminal gangs voluntarily disarming.

Demobilizations Were a Charade.

A New Heinous Chapter in Colombia’s History: Children of the Disappeared Victims of Paramilitaries.

 

 

Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | March 7, 2015

FARC leaders said they are Christians.

American Preacher Russell Martin Stendal.

American Preacher Russell Martin Stendal.

 

According to the World Watch Monitor, an American preacher estimated that 10 per cent of the members of the FARC are Christians.

Preacher Russell Martin Stendal is the operator of Colombia for Christ, a ministry based in Bogotá, which set up a radio station, Garita Radio, with the intention of teaching FARC members about Christianity.

Stendal is a missionary from Minneapolis. In 1983, he was held hostage by the FARC for five months. Back then, Colombian authorities alleged that he was posing as a missionary and installing mobile devices “to transmit propaganda about terrorist activities.”

Authorities found it suspicious that Stendal could come and go from FARC territory without repercussions. They alleged he brought the FARC provisions.

Stendal said he received approval from the late FARC leader Monoy Jojo for the broadcasts.

FARC commander Ivan Marquez told the World Watch Monitor in a Q&A in 2013 that FARC leaders Jesús Santrich, Yuri Camargo and Noel Perez are Christians.

Ivan Marquez is second-in-command of the FARC’s secretariat, while Santrich serves as his right hand man. Camargo is a former commander of the FARC’s 52nd Front, and Perez is the current deputy commander of the group’s 26th Front.

The four men, together with 25 other commanders of the FARC, are currently in Havana for the negotiations with the Colombian government.

The FARC’s Marxist-Leninist beliefs reject religion.

Watch, below, a movie, “La Montaña,” based on Stendal’s missionary work. In the movie, Stendal’s character says, “If you believe God exists, it means you have to submit to judgment when you die.”

In the 2013 interview with the World Watch Monitor, FARC Commander Santrich said, “Yes. We’re willing to face reality with honest, ethical people who have neither a slant nor bad intentions. If they show that we’ve made mistakes, we’re willing to own up to that. But not through accusations by a Colombian judicial system, for example, that’s corrupt, broken down, and widely discredited. There should be transparent, truthful mechanisms for war crimes of the guerrillas and their counterparts to be brought to the light.”

 

 

Related:

ICC’s eyes on Colombia’s Transitional Justice.

FARC insist they are a political organization, so FARC obliged to respect International Humanitarian Law.

Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | February 28, 2015

Colombia’s Attorney General Ordoñez is doing his job.

Colombia's Attorney General Ordoñez

Colombia’s Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez has been vocal about the outcome of the peace negotiations between the Santos government and the FARC. This week, Ordoñez travelled to Miami, Washington and New York.

Ordoñez told CNN (my translation from Spanish): “I have been clear about various topics. First, the topic of justice. The office of the attorney general considers there cannot be impunity. We all want peace. In Colombia, there are no enemies of peace. One thing is to want peace, and another is to negotiate it, or concede to peace, without any conditions. The office of the attorney general has said yes to peace, we want there to be a successful peace, but not with the absence of imprisonment for those responsible for grave crimes against humanity, for crimes of war, for genocide, for grave human rights violations. They must be punished with imprisonment. Of course, there can be reduced imprisonment, substantially reduced, that is allowed by transitional justice, but what transitional justice does not allow is absolute impunity because we have international obligations, because we have signed the Rome Treaty. .. In our own internal laws, there exists imprisonment — our laws do not admit impunity. The office of the attorney general must forewarn because there are too many signs that the FARC have been requiring impunity.”

(See: FARC insist they are a political organization, so FARC obliged to respect International Humanitarian Law.)

Ordoñez also questioned what is the prescribed abandonment of arms?

He questioned documents in which the FARC “would be preserving wealth acquired through drug trafficking, illegal mining, kidnappings and extortion.”

And how will victims be compensated? Ordoñez believes the FARC should compensate victims “with money obtained from illicit activities.”

Ordoñez expressed concern about the government’s proposal to consider drug trafficking a political crime. He said Colombia’s constitutional court has placed limits on what is a political crime, and to re-open the debate is to disregard Colombia’s constitutional court and Colombia’s justice system.

(See: Accepting drug trafficking as a political crime is a grand money laundering scheme.)

Ordoñez said it was his job to point all this out; and being that it is his responsibility does not mean he is an enemy of peace.

In turn, the FARC compared Ordoñez to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.

The FARC said Ordoñez “has petty interests, implants hatred and rouses war, which is fuel for perpetuating national bleeding.”

 

 

 

Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | February 19, 2015

ICC looking to address sexual and gender-based crimes

The office of Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, launched the Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes. It aims to strengthen the Office’s capacity to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of sexual and gender-based crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction in a systematic and comprehensive manner, and to enhance the integration of a gender perspective and expertise in all aspects of operations.

“It is my duty as ICC Prosecutor to challenge the culture of impunity that allows sexual and gender-based crimes against girls and women, boys and men, in conflict and peace-time, to persist,” said Prosecutor Bensouda.

The Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes also highlights the commitment to hold the perpetrators of such crimes accountable, and in the process, to send a strong message that the culture of impunity for such crimes will be met with the full force of the law.

The ICC works with local authorities, and the ICC interferes when local jurisdiction fails to investigate and prosecute such crimes. Bensouda’s Office is conducting preliminary examinations in Colombia.

(See: Shocking to hear FARC and President Santos speak of ICC in same vein.)

Watch Bensouda discuss the work of the ICC:

 

Bensouda said: “We have seen that war crimes — rape and other — and sexual- and gender-based crimes — are used — is used as weapons of war. It is used as weapons to repress, to humiliate, to destroy the social fabric in society. And I think it is high time that we give it the attention that it deserves. And this is why I thought that it is crucially important that for my office we have a policy that provides transparency, that provides clarity on what we intend to do.”

A report from Amnesty International in Colombia titled, “This is what we demand, Justice!” details cases of sexual crimes against women and young girls in which security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups “exploit girls as sexual slaves in order to seek vengeance.” They are often treated as “war trophies” who have to be silenced and punished. In many cases, sexual violence forces families to abandon their land and become internal refugees.

(See: Women as war trophies: Impunity and sexual violence and Women are most vulnerable among displaced.)

Currently, the ICC has charged seventeen individuals with sexual and gender-based crimes. They constitute about 70 percent of cases before the chambers of the ICC.

The ICC found former African warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of using children as young as nine as bodyguards, sex slaves and fighters.

(See: ICC verdict of Congolese leader found guilty of using child soldiers sends message to Colombia’s child abusers.)

Besouda believes there is an overlap in both the conscription of minors and the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes.

One of the challenges of sexual and gender-based crimes is the underreporting, or the non-reporting. The ICC is looking for new ways, for alternative forms of evidence to be able to bring forth to the judges; such as forensic or hospital reports, where they exist.

The ICC is also trying to see what are the best ways to approach people, or approach victims and be able to speak to them in a manner that will not expose them, in a manner that they will not suffer afterwards from stigmatization or re-traumatization.

Bensouda said, “ .. Because we all know that in most of societies once you are seen or known as a victim of — of rape, instead of being looked at as a victim you are probably blamed for being raped. You are stigmatized in society, you become an outcast. If you are married, sometimes you are divorced. Your husband would not want you anymore because you are a victim of rape.”

Related:

If Colombian authorities do not address gender violence, ICC will. 

 

 

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Credit: Semana magazine.

Credit: Semana magazine.

Today is International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.

Finally, today, after two and a half years of official negotiations between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, there is a break-through: the FARC have agreed to not recruit children under 17 years of age.

The FARC said their policy was to recruit members between the ages of 15 and 30 years of age, according to what FARC leaders decided in 1982 at the National Conference of guerrillas.

The word “recruitment” needs to be defined.

Long before minors put on guerrilla fatigues, they are, by default, already “recruited.”

At first, children are asked to be informers for the group.

Then, they are made to deliver confidential messages.

To transport sensitive materials.

To guide forces through their terrain.

They are told to loiter in police stations and army bases.

To report back on what is said.

I believe when children perform these activities, they are already recruited.

**

According to the Ministry of Family Welfare, in 15 years, 5,708 minors have been demobilized and rehabilitated.

According to the Ministry of Defense, in 14 years, 4,067 minors have demobilized (2,648 from FARC and 676 from ELN). Seventy percent of them were between 16 and 17 years old when they demobilized.

I believe the numbers are greater; and the ages in which they formed part of the group are younger, much, much younger.

Sixty-five percent of all recruitment happens between the ages of 6 and 14, according to Natalia Springer, a social scientist and expert on child soldiers.

It can take decades of therapy for teen-agers to admit that they grew up in the group.

The stress of life in war can cause a kind of amnesia, and to survive in the armed group, children numb their feelings. It is easier for children to regard, per se, the five or six years in the group as a mere six months. That means a 16 or 17 year-old officially joined, and so put on the fatigues, at the age of 11 or 12.

But long before they are 11 or 12 years old, they are already carrying out the tasks described above.

The armed groups are part of the children’s socialization; an older brother, an uncle, a father may be in the group, and children grow up alongside them. The FARC have existed since 1964, and there are now third or fourth generation combatants. For many, joining the group may be a right of passage, of sorts.

In many parts of Colombia, children see the FARC and other groups walking freely down their streets, Ak-47’s slung over their shoulders, grenades in their pockets.

**

More than 17,000 children have gone missing in Colombia, and it is believed most of them were taken by armed groups, and made into child soldiers. Their families did not see them again until they appeared years later in mass graves or unmarked graves in cemeteries.

Colombia’s Institute of Forensic Medicine has begun trying to identify the remains of children from mass graves, hoping to find answers for some of the families.

The government estimates there remain 40,000 children at risk of being recruited. The most at risk of recruitment are the children of indigenous and rural farmers, many of whom are illiterate.

Related:

International Criminal Court Keeps Eye on Colombia’s Transitional Justice.

Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | February 11, 2015

A chapel now stands where extortions once took place.

The Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal

 

In Quindio department, in the hamlet of El Cedral, almost seven kilometers from Génova, on the highest peak, there stands a chapel. Its walls are in shades of rose, cream, and white. The chapel is dedicated to the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal.

Government soldiers and locals come here to show their devotion to the blessed virgin. Some walk as much as five or six hours to attend mass.

The spot where the chapel now stands was once the stables of FARC leader, Ciro Gómez Rayo, alias ‘Enrique Zúñiga’ who led the FARC’s 50th Front.

On the spot where a statue of the virgin now presides was where Zúñiga once scheduled locals to pay him extortions, in the forms of money, information, and supplies.

The land surrounding the chapel formed part of the FARC leader’s farm, “La Laguna,” where he retreated to rest. He was killed in combat in 2010.

In 2012, the army regained control of the area, and the chapel was built. It took nearly a year to complete and it was inaugurated in April 2014.

 

 

Former president Andres Pastrana with Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Former president Andres Pastrana, seen here with Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

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January 26, 2015.

Yesterday, the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro did not allow former Colombian president Andres Pastrana and former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera to visit opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in jail.

Lopez is being held in a military prison in the outskirts of Caracas. He gave himself up during an opposition march eleven months ago after having an arrest warrant issued against him.

Maduro accused Pastrana and Piñera of taking part in a coup plot against him.

Pastrana urged former Colombian president Ernesto Samper Pizano, the head of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, to condemn the human rights violations of Maduro’s government.

**

A look back at the ongoing human rights violations since a year ago:

What’s going on in Venezuela? By guest blogger Rubens Yanes.

As Venezuela’s violence intensifies, social media continues to inform.

**

Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the head of Colombia’s opposition party, Centro Democratico, expressed their support for Pastrana’s efforts.

President Santos remains silent on the subject.

On Saturday, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas for the first time in months to complain about the worsening economic crisis.

They banged empty pots, in reference to the shortage of many staple foods, like milk, chicken, beef, sugar, coffee, and flour.

To maintain order in supermarket queues, the Maduro government has deployed armed National Guard troops to the streets. It also ordered the use of fingerprint machines in certain stores to control how much individual shoppers can buy, and it has prosecuted shopkeepers and suppliers accused of hoarding and price manipulation.

The price of food and basic necessities has increased by 7.2 percent from November to December 2014. To afford basic living expenses, a Venezuelan needs to earn six times the minimum wage.

Inflation is running at about 60 percent, and the economy is teetering on the brink of recession.

Venezuela is one of the world’s largest oil exporters. The generous social programs of Hugo Chavez and Maduro were largely financed through oil revenue.

Now, with the plunge in the price of oil, Maduro’s economic policy seems to be “God will provide,” as he said in his recent State of the Union speech.

Aiming to secure the support of disenchanted Chavistas, Maduro still promised a 15 percent increase in salaries, and additional funds for some of the social aid government programs. He also said the government will inject more money to complete Caracas’ newest subway line, currently under construction.

Copyright Edgamer Toro @edgamertoro Leopoldo Lopez gave himself up during an opposition march eleven months ago.

Copyright Edgamer Toro
@edgamertoro
Leopoldo Lopez gave himself up during an opposition march eleven months ago.

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