FARC Peace Delegation comments on agreement on victims

The following is a message from the FARC-EP [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army] Peace Delegation to the Colombian people on the closing of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Partial Agreement on Victims. Translation by Michael Otto.

Havana, Cuba, site of the peace talks, Dec. 15

Allow us to begin by recalling the words of Gabriel García Márquez in accepting the Nobel prize in 1982: “The immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness. … To oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.”

We have come full of satisfaction to communicate to Colombia and the world the good news of the final closure of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Partial Agreement on Victims, whose dynamic powers — if obstacles don’t stand in the way of common sense — could get us closer to the higher purpose of our reconciliation.

But we cannot forget that the conflict’s origin predates the date of the FARC’s creation. Our founding is a consequence of the violence of the dominant power bloc and the phenomena of social inequality that gave birth to and made clear the necessity to resort to the right of rebellion.

The work of the Historical Commission of the Conflict and its Victims highlighted the unquestionable responsibility of the state for more than 70 years of internal conflict. Its findings have been preparing the understanding that the responsibility for what happened, from the point of view of the unlawful conduct, individual or collective, of the various actors, could and should be evident beyond stigmatizing only one of the parties to the conflict as the exclusive perpetrator.

In no other way could we talk of the collective responsibility that concerns all parties to the armed conflict. Neither could the national society and the world understand that the first duty of all is the recovery and sometimes, the very creation of a strong and durable social fabric, on which is formulated the promise, also collective, of the “never again.”

All of the above was aimed at indicating that restorative justice was the best way to achieve the recovery of social morale, decontaminate political conducts and sow the seeds for the possibility of a general welfare. We are not interested in applauding the imprisonment of our adversaries in the protracted war. We’re not going to feel solace after watching the gates close on an army or police officer, or a high-level functionary of the state or a financier of the violence who emerged from private enterprise. We prefer to work with them on the base of coexistence agreements, rebuilding society and the homeland in Special Zones of Peace in which the commitment is with the Colombia of the future, without forgetting the past, so as to never return to it, with the intention of satisfying the rights of the victims and the affected communities in general.

Exploring the vast area of the history of peace accords in the world, we find that the current process that is underway in Havana is unique in that it has agreed upon a comprehensive system that gathers and connects all the elements that international law notes as inalienable rights of victims: the rights to truth, justice, reparation and nonrepetition.

The final goal of the aforementioned system is to enforce the rights of victims that have lived through political, social and armed conflict, because, beyond combating impunity, it offers the maximum Justice possible to definitively conclude a long armed conflict.

Faced with the evidence of the crisis of the innate monopoly of the Colombian state, as subject of the right to punish or impose penalties, it was necessary then to propose an autonomous judicial mechanism that would satisfy the commitments made by Colombia in the matter of international criminal law to establish the responsibilities of combatants and noncombatants and the multiple agents of the state, linked directly or indirectly to the internal conflict.

The agreement places the right to the truth at the apex of the designated system, and establishes effective tools to establish the truth about what happened during the conflict. Without truth, no reconciliation is possible. Truth must mark the only path to rebuild the Colombian society after years of fratricidal confrontation, a path charted on a model of restorative justice and a full guarantee of all human rights through the achievement and consolidation of peace. Peace is the binding law of all human rights and without peace these rights can be enjoyed only by the privileged minorities.

During discussion of item 5 of the agenda, the FARC-EP endorsed and put on the table the claims of victims’ and human rights organizations, trying to correct deficiencies encountered in a discussion that had failed to give an active and leading role to the victims of the conflict and to human rights defenders, limiting their participation to the organization of some meetings in Colombia in which there was no possibility of dialog with the members of the negotiating table.

Regarding the agreement on Special Jurisdiction for Peace, during the months when this was built in the Judicial Commission, we presented to the social organizations, defenders of human rights, victims and peasants, political organizations and social and opinion leaders of our country, the principles and proposals that we believed should be included in the text of the agreement. We hope we have been able to properly explain our visions and criteria for the construction of the model of justice for peace that requires Colombia to put this long war behind us once and for all. Above all we hope that we have been able to faithfully gather the opinions and contributions of all those with whom we had constantly consulted. Our greatest wish is that all the groups who have suffered in the long armed conflict identify with a unique agreement in the history of peace processes and also consider it as their own, as it is the result of their efforts.

This is the first peace agreement in Colombia that has not closed with a general amnesty for all those involved in the conflict, but with the creation of a special jurisdiction for peace with the power to know about all the violations of rights and above all, the parties responsible for those.

Victims and their organizations will play a crucial role in the smooth running of the system as it was created, and thus can correct the asymmetry that state organs have shown when it comes to prosecution of crimes committed during the conflict, favoring the impunity of agents of the state and its paramilitary allies, as has been stated over and over again by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in its reports on Colombia.

For the first time in a peace accord, victims’ organizations will be able to submit testimony with accusations before the established jurisdiction, which will have to attend to the same, and victims must be heard before sanctions are imposed on those who are recognized as responsible.

It should be clear that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace created shall have the authority to know the responsibilities of all those involved directly or indirectly in the conflict, combatants and noncombatants, state agents, guerrillas, politicians, civilians who have financed, promoted or organized paramilitary groups, and paramilitaries who have enjoyed impunity. Those who until now, historically, had been shielded by impunity for serious crimes against Colombian men and women, must appear before the country and assume their responsibilities.

Peace requires reconciliation and reconciliation requires normalization of political and social life in Colombia. Those who have exercised the supreme right of rebellion against injustice will be pardoned for political offenses committed and related to these. But also those who have been unjustly condemned as rebels without so being, or simply for exercising their legitimate right to social protest, or have committed crimes of poverty, must be pardoned, or those procedures in which they are being accused by the state must end. And it is so, because there has not been any purpose other than the pursuit of justice and the wellbeing of society that has compelled them to revolt, dissent or protest, demanding respect for the legitimate rights of the Colombian people. It is only fair to recognize this.

There will not be any immunity for the officials in charge or high dignitaries of the government or state, because this is not possible under international law, and because it would be unacceptable to the conscience of the Colombian people. In a country where the republic has been ruled by political forces and not by military juntas, the chain of command of the state ends in the highest institutions of government, and as such it is fair that this be established and recognized, so that the civil power can never again shield itself in the military forces in order to avoid assuming its responsibilities in harming the victims.

The measures and programs regarding reparations for victims and restitution of damage have been expressly agreed to by the parties for introduction into and considered as an essential component of the integrated system.

Such measures must overcome the shortcomings of the current legal framework on reparations. They should guarantee that those who as a result of the conflict have suffered situations of social exclusion due to economic marginalization are ensured a future without discrimination. It is especially important to ensure the recovery of their land for all peasants who suffered the theft of their lands as well as inhuman violence perpetrated by those who were enriched by the conflict while simultaneously impoverishing the majority of the Colombian people. All parties involved in the conflict assume the obligation to repair the damage caused in response to the reality of the victimization. Repairs will be done with personal and collective work, with actions, with political decisions and material contributions. And it is the state, the new inclusive state that is supposed to emerge from the peace agreement, which assumes the specific obligation to ensure that all those who were victimized receive reparations.

The FARC-EP has noted with concern that in almost all previous peace agreements in Colombia and elsewhere in the world, beyond the fulfillment of agreed upon measures for the normalization of the political situation and the reincorporation into civilian life of the rebels, the agreements where economic and social development efforts of the new country emerging from the end of armed conflict are contemplated, have been systematically set aside and never met. Therefore, we work tirelessly and will continue so that the result of this process will be fully implemented. Hence, for the first time in a peace agreement, the parties have incorporated sanctions and measures of restorative justice– achievable by those who recognize the truth and their responsibilities for crimes not subject to amnesty — implementing the accords reached in the different points of the agenda for talks to the extent that they entail benefits for the communities and economic and social development of the country.

Until now, Colombia has suffered throughout its republican history, misery, inequality, lack of democracy and mourning; but hope has not died. Therefore we close our message with the unforgettable Gabriel García Márquez, by saying that, “Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”