Forced disappearances in Colombia: clearing up the whole truth. Part 2

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By: Sergio Segura / Source: Marcha Noticias / The Dawn News / November 13, 2017


This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Read the first part here.

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Clearing up the truth and the right to demand answers

The creation of the Commission for Truth, Cohabitation and Non-Repetition (CEV) on April 5 by the Presidency of the Republic under Decree 588 of 2017, will play an important role. This mechanism is part of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and No Repetition (SIVJRNR), along with other devices that will be the instrument to achieve three objectives to guarantee the right to the truth along with the right to justice: i) contribute to clearing up what has happened in the last half-century; ii) formal recognition of the victims as well as the perpetrators; y iii) the promotion and execution of plans of non-violent cohabitation in the most affected territories.

To this proposal, different lawyers in the country agree that on the combination of the legal, extrajudicial truth and the individual and collective initiatives, they are the best alternative for a comprehensive explanation. Basically, exemplary punishments for those responsible of grave crimes, added to the citizen initiatives that contribute to the process of reconstruction of memory. For this difficult task, the CEV, made up of eleven people (currently subject to a selection process and citizen oversight) has a deadline of three years to come up with a clarifying report.

However, the oldest institution of the continent could not be worse. The executive branch is immersed in every type of corruption and clientelism networks, which means that a simple judicial reform is not enough, given that the deep changes are needed in the whole political system. Without an effective search for the Truth, there will not be a solid base for the construction of a country in peace that guarantees no repetition of the barbarity done in the more than five decades of conflict. The whole society should demand an honest and expedited justice, since the justice system has exposed links with grave crimes related to the armed conflict and corruption (for example, the ex-president of the Supreme Court of Justice is in prison). To transform this area would open up a key route for what is called post-conflict.

Different state institutions intervene without objection to impede that the signed agreements from Havana advance; amongst these institutions are the Attorney General and Congress. Néstor Humberto Martínez and the senators of the right-wing parties have radicalized the obstacles so that the backbone of the peace talks, or the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), can not begin its task. Additionally, Martinez and the followers of urbismo stand out for not supporting the recently created unit to dismantle paramilitarism. This makes it difficult to lay the foundation so that there can be a serious process of reparations and reaching the truth.

With the experience of demobilization of the paramilitaries ten years ago during the Uribe government it was shown that the judicial truth as the only measure, has serious limitations in terms of gaining a comprehensive understanding of the truth in line with the idea of restorative justice, since the process was based in the generation of sentences, later decisions to the free versions of many paramilitary bosses, the majority who are currently extradited and isolated, without the possibility of contributing to processes of reparation to victims.

Departing from what was previously mentioned, the CEV does not have only punitive objectives (and it can not have them because it is an extrajudicial mechanism), instead, using a reconstruction of the accounts of the past it will generate a report that should have the connections of the different strategies of terror created during the war, so, a Truth that is the most complete as possible, a process that would have to be different than the work done by the Center for Historical Memory for the last six years.

The role of the CEV should be to contribute a documented file of recuperation and conservation of memory and make sure that the right of access to information by the victims is respected. They also should generate some material to reveal the savage and violent acts of the official repression, denounce the human rights violations and take part in the formulation of public policy that pushes forth reforms so that fundamental rights for the most vulnerable sectors of society are guaranteed.

To finish, it would be appropriate to compare a discourse from September 8, 2003 made by the Senator Álvaro Uribe when he served as chief of State, during the ceremony of naming of the commander of the Air Force, this with the goal of not forgetting from where the persecution of human rights defenders comes from: “Collectives of lawyers appeared, they appeared one after the other and more spokespersons for terrorism and traffickers of human rights, they should all take off the marks (…) General Lesmes: you are accepting the command of the Air Force to defeat terrorism. Hopefully the traffickers of human rights won’t stop you…”. This same script was used a couple of days ago on social media when he found out that the researcher Mauricio Archila would be part of the Truth Commission: “the writings of Mauricio Archila, member of CINEP and the Truth Commission are slanderous and apologize for terrorism.”

These words are accompanied by the institutions of the country, without fissures, to the point of configuring a real State policy that remains in tact, whether it be due to the permanence of the structures of violence and impunity that feed these practices or for the silence that accompanies the tragedy of massive forced disappearances in Colombia.


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