Colombian Peace Process Essay Example

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    History
  • Document type:
    Article
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
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    2652

Colombia Peace Process

Introduction

Following a significant progress towards reconciliation as well as enduring peace through Victims and Land Restitution Law enactment, the government of Colombia on September 2012, announced the start of peace talks with country’s guerrilla movement known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) (Maldonado 268). Still, the news was not surprising to many because on July 31st 2012, Legal Framework for Peace (LFP), a constitutional amendment had been passed by the Colombian Congress. Basically, LFP was designed exclusively so as to expedite peace talks through offering the transitional justice mechanisms’ legal foundations. The LFP as mentioned by Portilla (228) offered amnesty for individuals indicted of international crimes. Whereas justice for peace is traded by the amnesty, the LFP sought to secure peace and justice together. Different from the amnesty, the LFP under international law was legal since it guarantees truth discovery, mercy for perpetrators, international crimes’ prosecution, a fair hearing the person criminal responsibility adjudication, compensation for victims, and ensure such crimes will not be repeated. Under this framework, the victims will actively take part in the legal proceedings, which will result in forgiveness and reconciliation. The article intends to examine the scope as well as meaning of the Legal Framework for Peace and how it facilitates the negotiation for political settlement and peace commitment in Colombia.

Discussion

According to Blume (21), agrarian reform issues as well as socio-economic inequalities have been the main cause of Colombian decades-long conflict. As compared to development in other sectors, agricultural sector lack any positive growth, especially in the rural areas and there is no government presence in most parts of the country. Besides that, most people have been condemned to poverty. Fortunately, the on-going efforts to bring about ‘territorial peace’ understand the regional inequalities and emphasise the essence of combating inequality as well as supporting local development. For peace to prevail, the Colombian government have to invest heavily on services’ provision, especially on the country’s poorest regions by making the most of its engagement with the international actors as well as ensure there is socio-economic growth so as to reduce the existing gap between the periphery and centre. In 1964, the FARC materialised after the radical liberals upon opposing the formation of the National Front in 1958 decided to join the communist party members so as to create the Marxist rebel group. The organization wanted to espouse the Cold War ideology to the local political and social context with the intention of addressing unequal land distribution, bring to an end the Colombian inflexible and hierarchical socio-economic structure and replace it with a socialist model. For the five decades of internal armed conflict, almost three decades have been used for negotiating peace. Currently, there is more confidence and optimism amongst the Colombian people, the government, as well as the international community that peace will eventually prevail. The present peace process that was initiated through a series of private talks prior to moving into official negotiations in Oslo and Havana is not similar to the earlier peace efforts. Even though the conflict has over the decades transformed and the present conditions positively offer negotiation ripeness, the peace talks design that have been adopted shows a likelihood of success. For instance, Havana peace process is completely different from the earlier peace processes since the current president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos has made sure that he does not repeat the past mistakes, but rather lead the country toward an enduring peace.

The Congress approved the constitution amendment through the Framework (the Legal Framework for Peace) so as to incorporate the FARC-EP into a transitional justice programme with the intention of expediting negotiations. In spite of the disapprovals towards this amendment provoked, Isa (2) posits that the Framework sought to ensure a lasting political solution for the internal armed conflict, which has distressed Colombia for more than five decades and also to ensure the rights of the victims is guaranteed. According to the Framework, the instruments of transitional justice must protect the rights of the victims to reparation, justice and truth. Foremost, the Framework creates the differentiated treatment principle, particularly for the various armed groups that operate illegally an internal armed conflict have taken part in the internal armed conflict. This indicates that guerrillas and paramilitary groups are naturally different because the former have the right to status of political offenders and therefore, can access particular privileges as stipulated in the framework save for cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Besides that, gross violations of human rights carried out by actors within the government were incorporated as issues of international and national standards associated with reparation, truth and justice that had to be applied. As a consequence, particular subdivisions of the armed forces together with the Uribe camp viewed this as an absolute betrayal. According to Isa (3), the Framework begins by emphasising the duties of the government in investigating as well as punishing perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Besides that, the Framework calls for extrajudicial mechanisms to illuminate the truth as well as make sure reparation of the victims. Therefore, it supports the creation of a truth commission, which if offered the right powers and tools can help illuminate the whole truth concerning human violations that was committed by different actors during the internal armed conflict in Colombia. Integral to the Framework are the selection as well as prioritisation principles, which have been defined as essential to the tools of transitional justice.

Therefore, it is the attorney-general’s responsibility to create the prioritisation criteria for initiate criminal proceedings, specifically to outline the type of conducts that must be prosecuted. On the other hand, the Congress by statutory law should determine the criteria for selection, which will enable the efforts to be directed towards the investigation of crimes, particularly those committed systematically such as genocide, crimes against humanity or war-related crimes. Arguably, this is considered as the most contentious aspect of LFP, because to make sure human rights and peace is enjoyed by the Colombian society particular offences are refrained from prosecution in addition to particular members of criminal armed groups so as to concentrate to individuals who are ‘most responsible’. The Framework specifies that the cases’ representativity and seriousness will be considered determination of the selection criteria. The Framework gives the Congress power to determine the appropriate cases to suspend sentences as well as apply alternative sentences, extrajudicial penalties and other ways of imposing and executing punishments. The court’s criminal proceedings can as well be waived conditionally by the Congress. Possessing such sentencing possibilities seek to facilitate negotiations with the guerrillas. The Framework provisions underline that such measures depend on certain conditions, which includes surrendering the arms, accepting liability, assisting in clarification of the truth as well as offering inclusive reparation to the victims, freeing minors as well releasing hostages. According to Maldonado (270), the Colombia peace process is facing a lot of challenges, but the key challenge is securing peace and at the same time ensuring the rights of the victims is protected. For this reason, the Legal Framework for Peace seeks to prevent impunity for war-related crimes by facilitating negotiations as well as offering the victims guarantees. The prioritisation and selection principles as specified in the Framework are used to start criminal proceedings, specifically to determine the situations as well as criteria to prioritise some offences over others. Isa (2) suggests that this should be the minimum threshold demanded by the FARC Secretariat and Colombian state.

As mentioned earlier, the Framework supports the creation of the truth commission so as to help in investigating war-related crimes that were committed by different actors in Colombia; in consequence, this leaves the government with crucial instruments, which facilitates the espousal of flexible approach perpetrators of the war crimes. The Framework offers Colombia an historic opportunity to realise a priceless peace, which will be stable and long-lasting. Currently, the right to truth, justice and reparation to victims is posing an exceedingly noteworthy legal and ethical limit on the government’s leeway during peace negotiation with different armed actors. Adoption of the Legal Framework for Peace as mentioned by Beittel (18) is a commendable effort in attempt to balance realisation of peace as well as reconciliation in contrast to the rights of the victims. The Framework’s principle of selection as mentioned earlier has been opposed by many pundits because it allows some of the offences committed during the internal armed conflict not to be punished or prosecuted. Isa (6) argues that perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes both in armed groups and within the state must be investigated and prosecuted. With regard to criminal punishment, different forms of sentencing benefits have been introduced by the Framework, which may be allowed if persons being demobilised successfully assist in securing peace as well as ensuring rights to reparation and truth for the victims. Therefore, the the criteria of proportionality as well as necessity have to be observed carefully adhered to make certain that the sentencing benefits and the principle of selection does not promote impunity.

The Colombia peace process between FARC and the Colombian government according to Portilla (194) provides a chance for analysing the forgiveness law legitimacy under the international law as well as exhibit how this law may well service the dual objectives of justice as well as peace. In order to enhance the start of such peace talks, the Framework was created. According to Portilla (194), ending the Colombian conflict was a crucial move toward a country that is more democratic, just and peaceful. Still, a stable future can be constructed by first acknowledging the past. Since the start of the conflict, more than 220,000 people have lost their lives and over five million people have been displaced. Various actors have committed countless serious crimes, which includes extrajudicial executions, massacres, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, violence and torture. Crisis Group (2) asserts that unmasking the networks and perpetrators, ensuring the most responsible both in the FARC and state are punished, offering the victims sufficient reparations as well as implementing social and political regime under which there will be no repeat of such atrocities are all crucial steps that can bring about lasting peace in Colombia. Even though the peace process has taken decades, the adoption of the Framework brings hope for people of Colombia. Crisis Group (2) suggests that both the state and FARC have to decide on the roadmap that will facilitate transition to peace. Considering the FARC have carried out thousands of killings, abductions, child combatants, landmine fatalities as well as other doings that led to large number of victims. Besides that, group’s negotiators and leaders seem to deny this, and often argue that they are also the victims. FARC negotiators have also argued that their victims should be offered reparations and their dignity should be restored. Pundits as cited by Isacson (6) argue that when FARC shows humility in the public and apologise to its victims, then the Colombia peace process will achieve a significant milestone. Advocates of human rights have emphasised that the current regime is inclined to utilise the legal framework for peace so as to offer the involved military officials immunity for the cases of extrajudicial killings committed on civilians by the state armed forces, especially when the current president was the country’s defence minister between 2006 and 2009. As mentioned above, for peace amnesty trades justice, obstructs criminal investigation, infringes international law, truth is compromised, denies the victims reparation, and increases the likelihood of repetition.

The negotiators inHavana must decide on the frameworks of an administratively, politically and legally feasible transitional justice system that can uphold the rights of the victims. This will require the most responsible individuals in the Colombian internal armed conflict to be prosecuted. As suggested by the Framework, a truth commission that is independent and strong should be instituted and victims should be given reparation that goes afar the financial compensation. Imperatively, the state should ensure measures have been adopted to guarantee non-repetition. Imperatively, the prospects of getting enduring peace has materialised considering that the peace talks have gained momentum, and different actors have accepted responsibility for various crimes committed. The absence of transitional justice has left critics doubt that the parties involved will allow prosecutions after acknowledging their responsibilities. Peace can prevail in Colombia if the negotiators are willing to pay the political costs. According to Blume (29), no peace agreement in a democracy is immune to political as well as legal challenges, but an agreement that does not clearly respect the rights of the victims may be rooted in political and social polarisation resulting in drawn-out legal inquiry as well as enduring legislative conflicts. On the other hand, an all-inclusive transitional justice agreement may promote a virtuous cycle of steady anticipations concerning its legal feasibility, and result in a reliable reconciliation path that serves the interests of both the FARC and the state. Basically, transitional justice is a crucial step toward a long-lasting peace in Colombia. Even though, the suggestion that FARC should partake in parliamentary elections and also change into a political party is disturbing to many, Summers (231) believes that this can be a revolutionary condition for peace and political transition in Colombia. Still, there is optimism that the on-going talks will yield a peace deal, with Blume (29) arguing that time has come for both parties to find a lasting political solution. The peace talks between the FARC and the state may remedy the shortcomings of the previous peace talks. The talks have been somewhat successful because some roles have been assigned to the international actors with the intention of facilitating these talks, which includes Cuba and Norway support role as the talks’ guarantors as well as Chile and Venezuela ‘accompanying’ role. The earlier peace talks between the FARC as well as the Colombian government lacked the crucial role of the international mediators.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the legal framework for peace enacted in 2012, principally offered amnesty for individual indicted of war crimes. Still, the Colombian Congress as mentioned in the article may utilise framework to bring about peace by offering the FARC and government officials such as armed forces immunity for the crimes they committed during the internal armed conflict. Even though the Framework trades justice for peace, the most responsible people should be prosecuted so that both peace and justice is achieved collectively. Still, the by compiling with the international standards on human rights the Colombian has taken an active role to promote equality through national legislation. Through the Framework, the societies that seek to overcome the nightmares of the conflict can eventually achieve justice and peace. The Colombia peace talks are facing numerous constraints and challenges, which have to some extent limited the scope of their outcome. Such include the public support level as well as the outcome of the general elections and the vagueness of the command unity in the FARC camp.

Work Cited

Beittel, June S. Peace Talks in Colombia. Congressional Research Service. Washington DC: CRS, 2015.

Blume, Maia. Addressing Inequality in Post-Conflict Colombia. Field Study. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, 2015.

Crisis Group. Transitional Justice and Colombia’s Peace Talks. Latin America Report. Brussels, Belgium: International Crisis Group, 2013.

Isa, Felipe Gómez. Justice, truth and reparation in the Colombian peace process. Noref Report. Oslo: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, 2013.

Isacson, Adam. Ending 50 Years of Conflict The Challenges Ahead and the U.S. Role in Colombia. Washington DC: Washington Office on Latin America, 2014.

Maldonado, Silvia Delgado. «Political Participation: An Implied Condition For Enduring Peace In Colombia.» Int. Law: Rev. Colomb. Derecho Int 23 (2013): 267-318.

Portilla, Juan Carlos. «A Forgiveness Law: The Path to Solve the Peace Versus Justice Dilemma.» Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice 32.5 (2015): 193-228.

Summers, Nicole. «Colombia’s Victims’ Law: Transitional Justice in a Time of Violent Conflict?» Harvard Human Rights Journal 25 (2012): 219-235.