"Used to death and kidnapping": Report on Colombia's civil war shows horror

The civil war in Colombia has lasted for more than half a century and has claimed around 220,000 lives.

"Used to death and kidnapping": Report on Colombia's civil war shows horror

The civil war in Colombia has lasted for more than half a century and has claimed around 220,000 lives. In its 515-page report, the Truth Commission lists human rights violations against various groups. There is talk of kidnapping, abuse and mass graves.

Six years after the signing of the peace treaty between the Colombian government and the left-wing guerrilla organization FARC, the truth commission has presented its final report on the crimes committed during the civil war. "These are uncomfortable truths for all of us," said commission chairman Francisco de Roux at the presentation of the report in Bogotá. "We've gotten used to death and kidnapping. But when you acknowledge and accept your responsibility, you go from being part of the problem to being part of the solution."

In ten chapters, human rights violations against various groups such as indigenous people, women, children and homosexuals are described, statements by victims and perpetrators are published and recommendations for a peaceful future are made. For the 515-page report, the Truth Commission conducted more than 27,000 interviews in Colombia and 23 other countries in just under four years. "We were shocked by hearing the victims: the thousands of children who were trafficked into the war, the search for victims, the mass graves, the thousands of women who were abused and humiliated, the farmers who were massacred," said de Roux.

The Truth Commission presented a series of recommendations to incoming President Gustavo Petro. "Truth has a meaning that is not revenge, but dialogue, agreement, coexistence and reconciliation," Petro said. The left-wing politician and former guerrilla takes office on August 7th. "These recommendations will serve to ensure that the armed conflict does not repeat itself."

For 52 years, Colombia suffered from a civil war between left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and the military. 220,000 people lost their lives and millions were displaced. In 2016, the government signed a peace deal with the left-wing FARC guerrillas. However, the reintegration of the former rebels into civilian life is proving difficult. Many have rejoined criminal groups. The smaller guerrilla group ELN is also still fighting against the state. Although the security situation has improved, large areas in rural areas are still controlled by armed gangs.

"The Truth Commission has shed light on the causes of the conflict and revealed its painful reality," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a video message. "Without the truth, reconciliation is not possible. Without reconciliation, the risk of a recurrence remains." The Truth Commission called on the government to consistently implement the peace agreement with the FARC. The commission called on the FARC splinter groups, the ELN rebels and other criminal organizations to lay down their arms. "There is still a conflict between different actors that could re-emerge in another period of total confrontation if serious peace-building steps are not taken," de Roux said.

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