On June 7 — in very suspicious timing, just eight days prior to presidential elections — the peace negotiators appointed by the president-candidate Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC negotiators in Havana issued a declaration that says they will now address the rights of victims in the next phase of talks.
In the declaration, both sides critically acknowledged their responsibility in human rights abuses and violations, and announced their commitment to creating a “commission to establish the facts.”
The “victims of human rights abuses” have the right to the truth, justice, compensation, and the guarantee that such violations will never happen again, says the document.
The question remains: What justice are they referring to?
The document says, “The rights of the victims of the conflict are not negotiable; it is about finding common agreement about how to satisfy them in the best way within the the frame of the end of the conflict.”
The announcement to create a truth commission to address victims does not change the fact that the transitional laws the Santos government and the FARC have agreed to will end in the impunity of human rights violators.
“Within the the frame of the end of the conflict” means impunity and FARC negotiators being gifted seats in congress, as part of any final agreement.
The 10-point plan offers no guarantee to bring to justice those who displaced, tortured, killed, abducted, disappeared or raped millions of Colombians over the past five decades.
At Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo was asked about the roles of transitional justice and the International Criminal Court.
Jaramillo responded: “The question remains, what about punishment? .. That remains to be seen .. it depends very much on what happens, and how willing FARC is to take serious victims rights. … We do think that it is possible to address victim rights .. over larger effort, over guaranteeing everyone’s rights, especially in those conflict areas, then you have a more rounded view of what ideal justice is.”
Of international law, Santos said, “the right of Colombia, and all nations, to seek peace must be respected. We ask that you continue to accompany us, but respecting our decisions and our way to make peace.”
Santos’s way to make peace is to give impunity to human rights violators, and a vote for Santos is a vote for this impunity.
“The government must ensure that those responsible for crimes under international law do not simply get away with it. Victims have a right to see justice served in ordinary civilian courts. It will be a challenge, but it is the only way to ensure a lasting and effective peace in Colombia,” said Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International.
It is so clear to see that undermining victims’ rights in the peace process will lead to further violence.
Since the announced 10-point plan does not serve justice in addressing victims’ rights, one cannot help thinking this is one more way Santos uses the peace process for his campaigning purposes.
We saw another campaign gimmick in yesterday’s announcement — with five days to go until elections — that the ELN is ready to talk to Santos-appointed negotiators.
Another campaign gimmick was Santos’s announcement on an agreement on illegal drugs — a week before the first-round of presidential elections.
It is madness to witness President Santos appropriating “peace” as only something he can do. In his campaign branding, he does everything short of trademarking the word “peace.” Colombians see through this. It is hard not to see the desperation.
If the FARC really were committed to peace, it would not matter who is living at Casa de Nariño. If the FARC want peace, they would show their commitment and stop recruiting children, to begin with. If the FARC want peace, they would stop planting land mines near schools and in fields were kids have to walk through to get to school. If the FARC want peace, FARC commanders would stop using little girls as sexual slaves.
And if the ELN are ready for peace, they, too, will seek contact with whoever occupies Palacio de Nariño.
Why do Santos’s supporters think peace will only come with Santos as president?
Clara Lopez, who ran as the candidate for the Alternative Democratic Pole, said, Santos “has wanted to appropriate as his re-election flag what should be a policy of State. … This is a subject that they have wanted to turn into (something) electoral.”