Press Release

IACHR Asks Colombia to Step Up its Efforts to Comprehensively Implement the Final Peace Agreement

July 31, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—in compliance with its commitment to monitoring the implementation of the Final Agreement to End the Armed Conflict and Build a Stable and Lasting Peace, signed by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC–EP, by their Spanish acronym)—calls on the State to step up its efforts to implement this Agreement, in order to ensure compliance with it and to continue to promote the consolidation of peace in Colombia.

In the context of its periodic evaluation of the situation of human rights in Colombia, the IACHR has been monitoring State efforts since the Agreement was signed, in 2016. The Commission has focused on progress made and persisting challenges, in the understanding that the implementation of the Agreement requires compliance with the Colombian State’s relevant international obligations. The Commission notes that, three years after the Agreement was signed, significant progress has been made toward its implementation. However, the IACHR also notes major challenges that remain for the implementation of commitments made in the Agreement, particularly in the face of violence that persists especially in parts of the country where armed groups are fighting for territorial control.

In particular, the IACHR has seen progress on Point 1 of the Agreement, concerning comprehensive rural reform. The continued implementation of development programs with a territorial focus in specific areas is one example. The State informed the IACHR of efforts to draft a Single Roadmap that would enable coordination of various planning instruments to establish the timeline for public action in the 170 municipalities worst affected by violence. The Commission calls on the State to further implement comprehensive rural reform. Lack of access to land has been one of the main structural causes of violence in Colombia, and rural reform is a valuable opportunity to enable fairer access to this right.

Concerning political participation, detailed in Point 2 of the Agreement, the Commission counts among recent progress the participation of the FARC political party in local elections in 2019 and the fact that FARC are currently active in nine of their ten seats in the Colombian Congress. At the same time, the Commission notes several challenges, including continued violence against candidates and former members of FARC–EP, the failure to change the rules on social protests, and delays in the creation of 16 Special Transitory Electoral Districts for Peace in the House of Representatives.

The IACHR is also concerned about the challenges met by Point 3 of the Agreement, concerning the end of armed conflict. The Commission has stressed that violence in Colombia is an extremely complex phenomenon and can therefore not be blamed on a single element. Instead, it is a consequence of the combination of many factors and structural causes. Still, the IACHR notes with concern that violence has concentrated in several parts of the country, especially those that have historically been affected by internal armed conflict, and has mainly targeted social leaders.

According to information provided by the State, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace had identified by June 2020 a total of 13,511 former fighters, 12,773 of whom were in the process of rejoining society. However, the IACHR notes with concern that 77 former fighters were murdered during 2019 and that, during 2020 so far, civil society organizations have recorded at least 20 murders of individuals who were in the process of rejoining society in this context. The Commission stresses that one of the most relevant aspects to build solid, lasting peace is an effective reintegration of former FARC–EP fighters into economic, social, and political life in Colombia. This requires that the State provide all security safeguards necessary to protect the lives and integrity of individuals in that position. The State reported on various measures taken to improve the security of former fighters, especially the issuance of 65 early warnings to prevent damage and to detect risks for former fighters, along with the implementation of 260 protection schemes (220 for individuals, 13 for groups, 26 for the former Territorial Training and Reintegration Sites, and one for the headquarters of an organization).

The IACHR also stresses its heightened concern about the murders of human rights defenders and social leaders, that have remained at alarming levels. The Commission notes the efforts made by the State to address this problem, through the Early Warning System of the Ombudsperson’s Office and through the Cross-Sector Committee for Rapid Responses to Early Warnings. Concerning investigation and prosecution, the IACHR knows of progress made in the Special Investigation Unit of the Office of the Colombian Attorney General, and in the National Police’s Elite Corps. The State reported that the Office of the Attorney General had managed to solve 56% of all homicides of defenders. Amid persisting violence, the Commission urges the State to improve prevention strategies and to adopt protection measures that are comprehensive, culturally appropriate, and specialized, in order to guarantee that defenders can carry out their tasks free from all forms of violence. In this context, the IACHR notes State plans to adopt a Comprehensive Public Policy on Safeguards for Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders. The Commission stresses its commitment and availability to provide the technical support needed to implement such a policy, and will monitor State efforts on this matter.

Several challenges have also been identified in efforts to solve the problem with illegal drugs, held in Point 4 of the Agreement, particularly concerning the implementation of the Comprehensive National Program to Replace Illegal Crops (PNIS, by its Spanish acronym). The IACHR is concerned that many of the social leaders murdered since the Peace Agreement was signed were allegedly involved in PNIS implementation. It is essential for the State to provide security safeguards to anyone who takes part in this Program, especially given the risks they face due to the presence of illegal armed groups in some of the areas where the PNIS operates. Civil society organizations informed the IACHR of measures that are being adopted by the State and violate the content of the Agreement, such as forced eradication measures and an alleged neglect of peasants who take part in the Program. Still, the Commission notes that State investment in the PNIS, worth 217.7 million US dollars, is set to benefit a total of 99,097 families involved in the Program.

The IACHR has further observed major progress in the mechanisms that make up the Integrated System of Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Non-Recurrence (SIVJRNR, by its Spanish acronym) and has been informed that, by July 2020, more than 29,000 court decisions had been made by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP, by its Spanish acronym). Since the beginning of its operations, the JEP has received at least 279 reports with relevant information concerning events and behavior during the conflict. The Commission notes the fact that the deadline for civil society organizations to file reports before the JEP has been extended until March 15, 2021. The IACHR also notes progress made in victim identification and stresses the adoption of an ethnic focus when identifying individuals affected by armed conflict. The Commission also welcomes the creation of the Ethnic and Racial Committee within the JEP, to promote dialogue with community-based justice systems.

The Committee for Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Recurrence (CEV, by its Spanish acronym) also showed progress, including the collection of at least 10,755 statements—at least 5,243 of them in individual interviews with victims of armed conflict and their families—through various instruments and institutions that may enable the solution of several cases. In particular, the IACHR notes the efforts made by the CEV to implement a cross-sectional gender perspective, as well as to ensure that women and LGBTI persons get involved and that their voices are heard. The Unit to Search for Individuals Who Are Considered Missing (UBPD, by its Spanish acronym) launched the National Search Plan, set to work as a roadmap for humanitarian search actions along with the 12 Regional Search Plans that have been developed so far. The IACHR notes that, according to the available reports, the UBPD has received at least 5,389 requests for it to search for missing persons.

Concerning the Ethnic Chapter, held in Point 6.2 of the Agreement, the Commission notes that indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are suffering the rekindling of violence in their territories. Similarly, civil society organizations informed the IACHR that, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual consultation procedures were being adopted that failed to comply with the applicable standards for free, prior, and informed consultation. The IACHR stresses that, in line with inter-American standards, consultation processes in this field must be consensual and must not coerce participant communities. In this context, the State informed the Commission of its Peace with Legality policy. This policy seeks to expand effective State presence in the most vulnerable areas to work with communities that are victims of violence, as well as with authorities at various levels and with the international community.

The IACHR remains convinced that consolidating peace is essential for the exercise and protection of human rights. The Commission and the Colombian State signed on February 22, 2018 a cooperation agreement to implement and disseminate international human rights instruments. In that document, the parties agreed on the need to pool together their efforts to improve the implementation and dissemination of international human rights instruments. The parties also agreed that it is important for the IACHR to provide technical assistance during the process of implementing Colombia’s Peace Agreement, so that implementation reflects inter-American human rights standards.

Amid new challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the IACHR urges the State to continue to take all measures necessary to ensure an appropriate implementation of all programs linked to the Peace Agreement. The Commission further urges the State to promote victim involvement and adopt ethnic and other differentiated perspectives in this process. The Commission stresses that, in keeping with its mandate, its mechanism for technical cooperation and assistance is available to provide both the Colombian State and Colombian society with the tools they need to solve the challenges they have identified to implement the Peace Agreement, in the State’s efforts to comply with its international obligations and to effectively tackle the hurdles faced by victims of human rights violations in Colombia. 

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 185/20