As Colombians go to the polls May 30th, they will elect a president who will have a historic opportunity to change the lives of millions of Colombians affected in profound and tragic ways by the country’s enduring armed conflict. The Latin America Working Group and partner organizations have sent an open letter to Colombia’s presidential and vice presidential candidates to ask them how they will lead the nation in building a more just and inclusive society that promotes and respects the rights of all its citizens.
Here are some of the questions we included. Click here to take a look at our press release about the letter. Click here if you want to read the complete letter in English o haga clíc aquí para leer la carta en español.
- What will you do to promote progress towards a just and lasting peace? Will your government commit to serious efforts to advance negotiations? What could the United States and the international community do to help expand the possibilities for peace in Colombia? How will you fully involve civil society organizations, churches, local governments and other civic organizations in the construction of peace?
- What will you do to strengthen the rule of law so that those who commit grave human rights violations are brought to justice? In particular, what will you do to ensure that crimes allegedly committed by state actors are prosecuted? How will you ensure that all those officials who ordered and implemented illegal surveillance and even more serious abuses are brought to justice? How will you ensure that the well over 2,000 extrajudicial executions allegedly committed by security forces are vigorously investigated and prosecuted in civilian courts, and that such cases are once and for all excluded from military jurisdiction? What will you do to ensure that such crimes are never committed again?
- What will you do to ensure a climate in which human rights defenders can carry out their important work? How will you carry out the recommendations of the National and International Campaign for the Right to Defend Human Rights, which seek to end impunity for violations against human rights defenders, the misuse of state intelligence, systematic stigmatization, and unfounded criminal proceedings, while also structurally improving the protection program?
- What will you do to support the rights of all victims of violence to truth, justice and meaningful reparations? How will you involve victims in the construction of processes to achieve these aims? How will you protect victims from threats as they advocate for these basic rights, including restitution of stolen land and property? How will you ensure that victims of ex-paramilitary leaders extradited to the United States are guaranteed their rights to truth, justice and reparations?
- How will you address the needs of Colombia’s 4 million internally displaced persons? How will you implement the Constitutional Court’s requirements for government action in order to overcome the current state of unconstitutionality? What steps will you take to change the social stigma that exists in Colombian society in relation to internally displaced citizens?
- What actions will you take to protect Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities’ human rights and territorial rights? What steps will you take to reverse the physical and cultural extinction of 32 indigenous groups at risk of disappearing? How will you guarantee that transparent, free and informed previous consultation is applied on development projects in ethnic territories? How will you prevent abuses against ethnic minorities from taking place and guarantee justice in such cases?
- What steps will you take to dismantle paramilitaries and their successor organizations? What will you do to move forward cases involving parapolitics? How will you bolster state institutions to prevent the influence of all illegal armed groups?
True security can only be built on a foundation of rule of law and respect for human rights. Ultimately, it can only be permanently achieved through the construction of a just and lasting peace. These goals have been postponed for too long, at great cost in human life. Now is the time to embrace them.
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