IN LINE WITH THE VISIT TO THE COUNTRY OF PAULA GAVIRIA BETANCUR, CURRENT PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OF COLOMBIA, THE CIPDH INVITED HER TO HOLD A CONFERENCE ON THE ROLE OF VICTIMS IN THE PEACE PROCESS.

In line with the visit to the country of Paula Gaviria Betancur, current Presidential Adviser for Human Rights of Colombia, the CIPDH invited her to hold a conference on the role of victims in the peace process. She was joined by Andrea Pochak, Head of the Directorate General of Human Rights of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Fabián Oddone, member of the Institute of Foreign Service of the Nation and who, until last year, was Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Argentine Embassy in Colombia, and Patricia Tappatá Valdez, Director of the CIPDH, as moderator.

“What seemed to be unthinkable some years ago is now a reality,” said Gaviria Betancur in relation to the Final Peace Agreement signed last August in Havana (after four years of negotiations) between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the People’s Army (FARC-EP).

Gaviria Betancur, with an extensive experience in human rights, created and led for four years the Unit for Comprehensive Support and Reparation to Victims of Armed Conflict. “At that time (in reference to the period between 2000 and 2005), we didn’t realize how big the conflict was and the humanitarian crisis that it would unleash,” said the officer when making reference to the official figures that account for more than eight million victims during the conflict.

Fabián Oddone made reference to another fact: “Today, at the hospital of Bogotá, there are no patients that were victims of the conflict and the military ward is about to be closed. This is how big the success of the peace process was in Colombia,” while stressing the importance of the fact that, for the first time in Colombia, people talk about the concept of “truth”. The agreement set forth the creation of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition to contribute to the fight against impunity by combining judicial mechanisms to allow the investigation and punishment of human rights violations and serious violations of International Humanitarian Law.

Andrea Pochak referred to the contributions made by International Law for a “comprehensive reparation of victims” where States have “the obligation to repair and restore expropriated rights”, not only from an economic viewpoint but also providing all necessary guarantees for non-repetition based on human rights education.

Gaviria explained that, during the four-year run-up before reaching the peace agreement, she had an active participation in the preparation of the bill for the reparation of victims, which was passed in 2011 and which later served as a precedent to write the item on the rights of the victims and to include their testimonies in the final drafting of the peace agreement.

The reparation of the victims, a difficult process that is still in progress in Colombia, represents a deep cultural change. “For us, it was very important to change the idea of the victim in the social imaginary as someone from whom everything has been taken away. Victims are autonomous people that can fight for their rights, they are a key collective actor.” The officer explained how a space for dialogue with the victims was created in Colombia, setting up 1,100 participation tables throughout the Colombian territory and how the basis for the construction of a stable and lasting peace will require “the effective reincorporation of the FARC-EP to the social, economic and political life of the country.”.

MEETING WITH CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

During the second day session, the Colombian Presidential Adviser met with representatives of the civil society who showed an increasing interest in the agreement reached. The change of scenario that could occur in the upcoming presidential elections in the country, on 27 May, was a recurring concern among the various organizations that were present.

The imminent election raises a question about the development of the agreement and the consistency of the peace reached in the light of a possible change of government led by the Uribe candidate Iván Duque from the Democratic Centre, who is ahead in the polls.

“The international binding characteristic of the agreement together with an active human rights education is the challenge that lies ahead,” said the officer.

The following persons participated in the meeting as representatives of civil society organizations: Gastón Chillier (CELS), Luis Fondebrider (EAAF), María Alejandra Pavicich and Gabriela Porras (Memoria Abierta), Carolina Varsky (Office of Crimes Against Humanity of the Public Prosecutor’s Office), Mariana Herrera Piñera and Luciana Guglielmo (National Bank of Genetic Data), Mariano Fridman (Truth and Justice Program of the Secretariat of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism), Diana Ortiz (Network of Colombian Victims for Peace), Mauricio Viloria (Argentine Commission for Refugees and Migrants), Martín Sigal and Liliana Ronconi (Human Rights Center of the Law School, UBA) and Daniel Tarnopolsky (representative of the human rights organizations gathered in the Ente Espacio Memoria, former ESMA).

Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, 27 April 2018