Human Rights Groups Criticize Peace Agreement Between FARC Rebels and Colombian Government

It’s a peace agreement that has been 52 years in the making: The Colombian government and FARC guerrillas are closer than ever to finalizing plans to halt fighting on both sides and begin to move forward. However, the agreement itself has a number of human rights activists worried, saying it gives impunity to top commanders who carried out crimes against humanity.

The peace talks have been ongoing for over three years, sometimes stalling and then restarting. However, in June of this year the two sides finally shook on the deal, which included disarmament by the FARC. It’s a move that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos described as, “Turning this long page in our history.”

Yet Human Rights Watch came out this week calling it a “dirty deal.” That’s because of the agreement’s leniency towards top members of the militant group. Lower rung “foot soldiers” would receive a blanket amnesty from the Colombian government. However commanders would be given a chance to confess their crimes. With a full confession, the agreement says, they will only be subject to sanctions and a sort of “community service” that would help victims of the FARC.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the executive director of the Americas division with Human Rights Watch says that these punishments seem, “shockingly disproportionate to the gravity of these terrible crimes against children.” He also goes onto say that the agreement “includes a misleading definition of ‘command responsibility’ – a key principle of international humanitarian law – that could be used to allow FARC commanders to escape responsibility for atrocities committed by troops under their control.”

HRW also states that the agreement lets the Colombian government off the hook when it comes to the “false-positive” killings that took place between 2003-2008. This is when members of the army killed as many as 3,000 innocent civilians, in an attempt to bolster the numbers of “fighters” they supposedly killed. Vivanco says, “The web of loopholes and ambiguities in the agreement could guarantee that many of those responsible for false-positive killings, ranging from low-ranking soldiers to generals, will escape justice.”

There is real worry that the losers in this agreement will be the victims and families of those killed, raped and tortured by both the Colombian government troops and the FARC guerrillas.

The atrocities of the long and bloody war are well-known. Displacing around six million people, and killing over 200,000 – it was marked by the use of child soldiers, rape, forced abortions and heavy support from the drug trade. Guerrillas were known for forcing children to kill their own parents, or killing the family members of those who tried to leave the jungle camps.

Yet despite the atrocities, many in Colombia support the peace agreement. The agreement is likely to go for plebiscite – or referendum – in the upcoming months as the details are finalized. New polls show that around 67.5 percent of the population would vote yes for the peace deal.

This sort of reaction is not unprecedented. In Uganda the widely supported Amnesty Act allowed 13,000 former LRA soldiers to return home – applying to all but Joseph Kony and his top commanders. In Rwanda, after the genocide special courts were set up which allowed for justice and reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi groups using traditional courts.

However, there are concerns that the Colombian peace agreement is not only giving a free pass to the top commanders but isn’t giving a voice to the communities most affected by their bloodshed.

And as the finalization and implementation of the peace agreement draws closer, many are holding their breath, wondering whether or not this will truly end the nearly five decades of violence in Colombia.

Photo Credit: Germán Cabrejo/Wikimedia

22 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Muff-Anne York-Haley
Muff-Anne York-Haleyabout a year ago

Why don't these countries just stop voting in corrupt governments!

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohnabout a year ago

Noted

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Anne Moran
Anne Mabout a year ago

Can an ''animal'' really change his stripes ?? - It would be nice if all Colombians could live in peace; it's not much to ask for,, is it ?? - Good luck with this... xo

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william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago

thanks

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Vivianne Mosca-Clark
Vivianne Mosca-Clarkabout a year ago

No wounder they wanttot sign this mess....how can anyone live under those conditions? This is so sad.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie Fabout a year ago

Thank you

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Sofia E.
Sofia Eabout a year ago

What's the alternative? If this amnesty didn't extend to the top commanders they wouldn't accept the agreement and the war and atrocities will go on. Maybe time can bring a little peace to those who were tortured or had their loved ones killed, it will be a long process and it can never take away the pain, just make it more bearable.

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antelaabout a year ago

noted

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Pablo B.
.about a year ago

After 52 years of atrocities by all sides involved: FARC, the paramilitaries, the Colombian government, parastatals, parapolice, drug trafficking, US interventionism with Plan Colombia and military bases in Colombia to make this country a South American Israel .. . who are those who financially support these peace groups? With this peace plan, Plan Colombia is fallen. For a start of peace, after 5 decades of dismemberment, is welcome. Everything is perfectible with time and goodwill and trust between the parties involved.

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