Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing
"The Colombian Conflict: The Victims’ Search for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Colombia"
LAWG invited four members of the Colombian Victims' Movement to the U.S. to speak directly with policymakers in Washington and New York. The delegation testified in front of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the House of Representatives. Below is the testimony of Luis Javier Correa Suarez, President of SINALTRAINAL Union, the Food and Beverage Union, Colombia.
Honorable Members of Congress:
I respectfully greet you, Members of Congress, and thank you for allowing us to have this meeting to express, as the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, our testimony over the damaging implications of the so-called Justice and Peace Law.
- The process of dialogue between the paramilitary groups and the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez is only a dialogue among friends–it is not a peace accord. These groups continue to assassinate members of the population with impunity.
- It is a way of legalizing this terrorist, drug-dealing group and those who have committed the most atrocious crimes against the unarmed population.
- The Justice and Peace Law is a form of pardoning and forgetting, leaving this group's crimes unpunished and not even telling the truth of who is responsible intellectually and materially or pointing out who benefited directly or indirectly.
- This process has been carried out between the government and the paramilitaries behind the backs of the victims whose rights are not being recognized.
- The government expects the international community to contribute economic assistance for the supposed reparation of victims; but meanwhile, the goods and money possessed by the paramilitaries will not be returned.
- The law not only gives insignificant jail sentences, of up to 8 years, but it leaves open the possibility for even milder sanctions for criminals in future legislation.
- The agreement to demobilize the paramilitaries has not been finalized and already members of the paramilitary groups are campaigning and running for different political offices.
- There is no real demobilization, what is happening is that the paramilitaries have begun to control territories and function legally, intimidating the population, while they continue to commit crimes.
- A special unit of the Attorney General’s Office was created to administer justice but, as a Constitutional Court magistrate has asserted, it is possible that this unit may include judges with sympathy for the paramilitary groups.
- Victims have no participation in these processes. The files and evidence will be handled by the judge. The goal is a process of compensation but not restorative justice.
- There is no guarantee that all the members of the paramilitary groups and those who have committed crimes will ever face a court. There is no record of paramilitary aliases, structure, arms, criminal operations, etc.
- This form of legalization of paramilitaries was already tried out by President Alvaro Uribe Velez in the Urabá region when he was the governor of Antioquia. Now he wants to extend it to a national level in order to strategically change the war against the insurgency. In this way those who will be most affected and repressed are the members of social organizations and ordinary civilians.
- While public discourse is about peace in order to justify this process with the paramilitaries, the drug-trafficking activities that these groups carry out have led to the continuing growth of illegal crop production.
The National Movement of Victims of State Crimes has asked the Constitutional Court to revoke this so-called Justice and Peace Law because it means impunity. We insist upon recognition, we struggle for a political solution to the social and armed conflict in order to reach a real peace accord. We want truth, justice and reparation.
We wish to enlighten the international community so that it understands the reality of this so-called peace process with the paramilitaries.
We want to make it public how these groups, transnational corporations and the government have operated, how they make deals with each other for mutual benefit and in order to apply a certain economic model.
International pressure is necessary so that the Colombian government agrees to a humanitarian accord and works to reduce the suffering of the victims and of the families of the victims of war.
Do not give military aid to Colombia.