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Colombia News Brief for August 24 to September 16, 2016

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Welcome to LAWG’s Colombia News Brief, a compilation of the last week’s top articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, human rights, and more in Colombia. Throughout the summer months, dependent on the capacity of LAWG, the Colombia News Brief will be sent out either weekly or bi-weekly.

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farc camp - Colombia Reports


Peace Process

•   FARC Leaders Touring Colombia to Beg Forgiveness for War Crimes
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 12, 2016

“Top commanders of Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC are touring the country to meet with victims and beg forgiveness for war crimes committed by the guerrillas.”

•   Colombian Rebels, Government Push Moves Ahead of Vote
Virginia M. Bouvier, United States Institute of Peace, September 9, 2016
“Colombian rebel troops are heading to decommissioning centers and minors are set to leave guerrilla ranks on Sept. 10, as the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) begin implementing their peace accord ahead of an Oct. 2 plebiscite on the deal… Plans for electoral reform and reintegrating FARC fighters into civilian life are also underway.”

•   Colombia’s Milestone in World Peace
Steven Pinker & President Juan Manuel Santos, New York Times, August 26, 2016
“Waging peace can be almost as difficult as waging war, and for Colombia, the remaining challenges are considerable…. The agreement does not yet embrace a smaller rebel group known as the National Liberation Army, though negotiations are in progress. There must also be investments in rural governance and infrastructure to deal with violence, poverty and corruption.”

•   Colombia’s Remarkable Peace Process
Editorial Board, New York Times, August 26, 2016
“The pact calls for sweeping structural reforms and social investments that have the potential to transform the country into a more prosperous and equitable society. They include comprehensive agrarian reform, which would narrow the gap between Colombia’s booming urban centers and the historically impoverished and neglected countryside.”

•   Uribe Challenges Santos to Public Debate on Colombia Peace Deal
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 15, 2016
“Former President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday challenged his successor, current President Juan Manuel Santos, to a public debate about the vices and virtues of a pending peace deal with the FARC.”

•   Colombia’s Ex-President Asks Trump and Clinton to Oppose Peace
teleSUR, September 8, 2016
“Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe published on Thursday a letter he sent to U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton criticizing the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, urging them to join him in opposition.”            

•   Colombia Peace Commissioner on Marathon Tour to Explain Deal
teleSUR, September 14, 2016
“Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo is on a mission to explain the peace agreement… Traveling thousands of miles a week to spell out the facts and dispel the myths surrounding the historic deal.”

•   Ecuador AG Hails Peace in Colombia, Warns of Possible Regional Consequences
Fox News Latino, September 14, 2016
“Ecuador’s attorney general, Galo Chiriboga, on Wednesday hailed the upcoming signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas, calling it a benefit for the region that, however, also could bring negative consequences.”

•   Are FARC Militias a Wild Card in Colombia Peace Process?
Antje Dieterich, InSight Crime, September 15, 2016
“The general who negotiated disarmament with Colombia’s FARC said questions about the rebel army’s militias have created uncertainty about how many people will demobilize under the country’s newly minted peace agreement.”

•   Colombia: paz a la sombra de los escuadrones de la muerte
Dan Kovalik, El Huffington Post, 5 de septiembre de 2016
“Mientras el Gobierno de Colombia y los rebeldes de las FARC se acercan a un acuerdo de paz -y aunque ya han firmado un alto el fuego bilateral que se mantiene en líneas generales-, Colombia sigue siendo el país del hemisferio occidental que más violaciones de los derechos humanos comete.”

•   Colombia Update: The Campaigns For and Against Peace
Holly K. Sonneland, Americas Society / Council of the Americas, September 1, 2016
“Dueling surveys in August showed a sharply divided public and vacillating support for a final agreement, putting the viability of the entire peace process in jeopardy.”

•   Violence Continues in Colombia as Peace Accords Advance
The Nation, Greg Grandin, September 15, 2016
“The country’s long civil war may soon end—but not without triggering a violent backlash from the narco-elite and the paramilitary groups they command.”

•   Dos victimas de El Nogal explican su voto por el sí
Semana, 15 de septiembre de 2016
“Jairo Iván Ramírez y Bertha Lucía Fries, dos de las 200 personas que salieron heridas del atentado del club El Nogal de Bogotá el 7 febrero de 2003, revelaron por primera vez su posición sobre el acuerdo de paz con las FARC y sobre el plebiscito del próximo 2 de octubre.”

•   Eastern Colombia Shuts Down as ELN Steps Up Pressure on Santos
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 12, 2016
“While peace talks with Colombia’s second largest rebel group seem to be as stuck as ever, the ELN shut down the east of the country.”


Peace Accord Implementation

•   UN Approves Colombia Peace Mission
Associated Press, New York Times, September 13, 2016
“The Security Council on Tuesday approved the deployment of a U.N. political mission to monitor a cease-fire between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC…. Diplomats say the mission should be in place when the two parties sign a formal peace agreement on Sept. 26 in Cartagena and when the deal goes to a national referendum on Oct. 2.”

•   Venezuela ofrece 100 observadores para la misión de la ONU en Colombia
El Espectador, 13 de septiembre de 2016

“Venezuela reiteró su disposición a participar en la misión de la ONU en Colombia y ofreció al menos cien observadores para apoyar la aplicación de los acuerdos de paz entre el Gobierno y las Farc.”

•   Colombia: UN official welcomes start of reintegration of children from FARC-EP on Saturday
UN News Centre, September 8, 2016

“A senior United Nations official today welcomed the announcement by the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) that they will begin the separation and reintegration of all children under the age of 18 associated with the FARC-EP on Saturday”

•   UN-supported Historic Training to Monitor Ceasefire Between Government and FARC-EP Starts in Colombia
UN News Centre, August 31, 2016

“Instructors from the Government, FARC-EP and the UN Mission in Colombia are training 80 men and women who will form part of the tripartite verification and monitoring mechanism at national and regional levels, according to a news release from the UN Mission.”

•   Colombian Rebels Trade Guns for Shovels Ahead of Peace Meeting
Julia Symmes Cobb & Nelson Bocanegra, Reuters, September 13, 2016

“Hundreds of FARC rebels are converging on a camp in southern Colombia to pour cement, shore up dirt roads and set up communications ahead of the group’s congress this week, where delegates will ratify a peace deal to end 52 years of war.”

•   Colombia Begins Clearing Out Land Mines as Part of Peace Deal
teleSUR, September 14, 2016

“The Colombian government announced on Wednesday that it has begun clearing mines located in 48 municipalities in the country that were placed there during five decades of internal conflict.”

•   FARC Commanders Prepare for First Post-Conflict Congress
Richard Emblin, The City Paper Bogota, September 15, 2016

“On Monday night, the FARC’s leader Rodrigo Londoño, alias “Timochenko,” arrived in La Macarena where he will join 16 of his front commanders in order to explain the final peace accord to be signed, September 26, between him and President Juan Manuel Santos in Cartagena.”

•   Can Colombia’s FARC Leave The Weapons Behind and Turn to Politics?
Sophie Haspeslagh, Open Democracy, September 16, 2016

“So, now that a deal has been struck, how will the FARC be able to make the transition from a guerrilla movement in arms to a political and social movement?”


Civil Society Statements on Peace

•   Colombia Peace Accord Offers Opportunity for Sustainable Peace
Latin America Working Group, August 25, 2016

“This long-awaited accord ends the longest-running armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere and offers the opportunity to implement a sustainable peace. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG), an advocacy organization that has worked closely with Colombian civil society and victims’ groups since 1998, welcomes this historic step.”

•   El dialogo intereclesial por la paz, DiPaZ, Celebra con gozo y esperanza el logro del acuerdo final, integral y definitivo entre el gobierno nacional y las FARC
 DiPaZ, 24 de agosto de 2016

“Valoramos el compromiso y la persistencia de las delegaciones del gobierno colombiano y las FARC-EP por alcanzar un acuerdo que de fin a la confrontación armada.”

•   ACSN Celebrates Inclusion of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Rights in Final Colombia Peace Accord
Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, August 26, 2016

“On August 24, history was made when the parties to Colombia’s brutal more than 50 year internal armed conflict announced that they had reached a final peace accord. We congratulate the parties to the conflict for persevering and ending the conflict.”

•   Negotiators Reach Final Agreement After Four Years But More Steps Remain
Washington Office on Latin America, August 24, 2016

“The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a research and advocacy organization that has been closely following Colombia’s peace process since its inception congratulates both sides’ negotiators for four years of hard, disciplined work, with more than 50 rounds of formal talks.”

•   PBI Celebrates the Signing of the Final Agreement
Peace Brigades International, August 25, 2016

“PBI Colombia greets the signature of the peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with great enthusiasm, and congratulates Colombian civil society, victims and human rights organisations for the tireless work they have done for decades to build peace in Colombia, searching for a negotiated end to the armed conflict and for their numerous contributions to the peace agreement.”

•   A Yes Vote in the Plebiscite on the Final Peace Accords in Colombia Will Strengthen the Conditions Necessary to Guarantee the Rights of Ethnic Groups
Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights, September 16, 2016

“The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights expresses its support for the ethnic organizations and communities that have been publically promoting educational activities to rally all Colombians in support the YES vote.”

•   Declaration of the IPC on the Havana Accords Between the Government and the FARC-EP
Presbyterian Church of Colombia, September 5, 2016
“Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia encourages the Colombian people to maintain hope… Likewise, we raise our prophetic voice to demand a serious commitment on the part of the signatory parties to fulfill the Havana accords… As an act of faith, the Synod Council of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, gathered in Barranquilla on September 5, 2016, unanimously agreed to endorse the YES vote…”

•   Comunicado de prensa
Fundación Nydia Erika Bautista para los derechos humanos, 6 de septiembre de 2016
“La Fundación denuncia ante el Comité sobre Desapariciones Forzadas de la ONU y la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos pidiendo ejercer vigilancia especial a los procesos judiciales donde está involucrado Garzón Garzon, evaluar la actuación de la Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos por su negligencia, al dejar vencer los términos legales y no refutar la petición de libertad en este grave caso de derechos humanos.”


Human Rights

•   The Secret History of Colombia’s Paramilitaries and the U.S. War on Drugs
Deborah Sontag, New York Times, September 10, 2016

“It happened in a dead-of-night extradition that stunned Colombia, where the men stood accused of atrocities in a transitional justice process that was abruptly interrupted. In the whoosh of a jet, and at the behest of the Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, the United States-led war on drugs seized priority over Colombia’s efforts to confront crimes against humanity that had scarred a generation… If the intention really was to achieve silence and impunity, it was obtained to a high degree. Only now, after so many years, are we starting to see results.”

•   Owner of Land Where FARC is Set to Demobilize Assassinated
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 8, 2016

“The owner of a plot of land in southwest Colombia that was designated to host a concentration camp for demobilizing and disarming FARC guerrillas has been assassinated, her family told media Wednesday….The victim was an active member of several labor and land rights organizations.”

•   Submission to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances in Advance of its Review on Colombia
Human Rights Watch, September 7, 2016

“Human Rights Watch is concerned that the victims’ agreement – which will influence the prosecution of state agents involved in abuses – violates Colombia’s obligations under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (“the Convention”) and will further compound impunity for enforced disappearances committed in the country.”

•   Colombia’s Human Rights Defenders Are Dying for Peace
Mimi Yagoub, InSight Crime, September 9, 2016

“Multiple recent assassinations of Colombian human rights defenders are adding to concerns that criminal organizations are attempting to eliminate potential civilian adversaries, a trend that could disrupt the successful implementation of a peace deal with the country’s main guerrilla group.”

•   Ejecuciones extrajudiciales en Colombia 2015 – continuidad y encubrimiento
Observatorio de Derechos Humanos y Derecho Humanitario & Coordinación Colombia/ Europa /Estados Unidos, agosto de 2016

“Las ejecuciones extrajudiciales, sea en su modalidad de muertes de civiles a manos de agentes estatales por uso indebido o excesivo de la fuerza o en la modalidad de “falsos positivos”, afectaron durante el año 2015 a por lo menos a 65 víctimas.”

•   Top Court Says State Responsible for 1999 Killing of Top Colombia Satirist
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, September 15, 2016

“Colombia’s top administrative court on Wednesday ruled that the state was responsible for the 1999 murder of Jaime Garzon, one of the most popular political satirists at the time.”

•   Gunmen Attack Another Labor Leader in Colombia
teleSUR, September 15, 2016

“Members of a workers’ union in Colombia denounced Thursday an attack against a leading labor organizer and called for protection for those who defend labor rights and who have been stigmatized during the country’s long-running internal armed conflict.”

•   ¿Este es el fin?
Programa Somos Defensores, junio de 2016

“A las puertas de firmar un acuerdo de paz en Colombia, los índices de asesinatos y agresiones contra defensores de derechos humanos siguen subiendo en contraste con el descenso acelerado de las acciones violentas derivadas del conflicto.”

*The Colombia News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Latin America Working Group.