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 Marleny Orjuela, Executive Director of ASFAMIPAZ, the Association of Police and Soldiers Held Captive and Freed by the Guerrillas.
Honorable Members of Congress:
To the honorable members of the U.S. Congress who have listened to our testimony, our greetings and gratitude in the name of the Association of Families of Police and Soldiers Held Captive and Freed by the Guerrillas in Colombia, “ASFAMIPAZ.”
In Colombia, 34 of our sons and family members (police and military officials and lower-level officers) have been held by the guerrillas of the FARC-EP for up to 7 or 8 years. Because of the armed conflict in Colombia, which has lasted more than 40 years, our loved ones were serving in the frontlines of the war when they were captured and now the Colombian government has left them to their own resort. The government lacks the political will to carry through a humanitarian agreement with the guerrillas so that those who are kidnapped are able to return to their homes.
Our family-members and sons have been held captive in the Colombian mountains and jungles for longer than the duration of World War II. Even though they are the ones who are being held captive, their families also suffer in every one of their homes. However, hope does not fade in any of our homes. We still believe that, with all of your help, the government will agree to sign a humanitarian agreement with the FARC-EP that will liberate our 34 sons and family-members, the 3 U.S. citizens that have been held captive for 32 months, the 22 politicians that have been kidnapped for more than 4 and 5 years, and many other people who are currently being held captive in Colombia.
In 2001 the mothers and families that today belong to ASFAMIPAZ were successful in lobbying for a humanitarian agreement between the guerrillas and the government of Andrés Pastrana. Through this agreement 55 policemen and sick soldiers were to be freed in exchange for 14 imprisoned guerrilla members. In the end, the guerrillas returned 304 additional policemen and soldiers.
We ask you today for all your support and solidarity so that the Colombian government shows political will and carries out a new humanitarian agreement. Our families do not accept rescue missions by force because they jeopardize the lives we are trying to save. A humanitarian agreement would show the world that saving lives and letting human rights prevail is more important than legal technicalities and political rivalry caused by war.
We are clear about the fact that in Colombia kidnappings have not been reduced. For the last 3 years between 6 and 7 people have been kidnapped daily.
We need your support so that the victims of the war in Colombia can obtain truth, justice and reparations from the Colombian government. We have to end impunity so that crimes do not remain unpunished, which is what is currently happening with most human rights violations in Colombia. Impunity is the rule particularly in the cases of the detained and disappeared. We believe that the families of those who have been detained and disappeared have an even greater suffering than ours because everyday they await the arrival of their loved ones who NEVER arrive. They don’t know where they are, or what happened to them; it is an indefinite mourning. The Families of the Detained and Disappeared, along with many other victims groups, have formed the national Movement of Victims of State Violence to fight for truth, justice and reparations and against impunity.
Honorable members of Congress, in the name of the Association of Families of Police and Soldiers Held Captive and Freed by the Guerrillas in Colombia I thank you for your attention. I hope that my testimony, along with the testimony of the members of the national Movement of Victims of State Crimes, will motivate you to increase your support for peace initiatives in Colombia and for a humanitarian agreement.