Colombians for Peace Call for Ceasefire

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 24 January 2012

High profile civil society group ‘Colombians for Peace’ has written to the three main parties to the Colombian conflict to request that they all agree to a 90-day ceasefire in the near future. The letters, addressed to the Commanders of the FARC and of the ELN, as well as to President Santos, underline the damage being done to Colombian society by the ongoing conflict and call on them to ensure that the forces under their command abide by international humanitarian law.

In their letter to President Santos, Colombians for Peace congratulate him on his recent statements on peace, regarding them as “a sign that you recognise the growing clamour for peace in sectors of Colombian society and in the international community.” Their letter also states that “placing military decisions above dialogue disguises the grave and ever more calamitous social and economic situation of the country” and request that the government sign up to the 90 day extendible ceasefire, while also adopting measures to observe the human rights and humanitarian rights of guerrilla prisoners and “prisoners of conscience.” A ceasefire would be “the right framework to begin a rapprochement aimed at dialogue and a humanitarian agreement.” The letter also renews the offer to act as facilitators for the release of the remaining prisoners being held in captivity by the FARC.

In their very similar letter to the FARC, Colombians for Peace recognise the guerrillas’ recent goodwill gestures – the willingness to release their last prisoners and the successive messages reiterating their willingness to dialogue with the Colombian government. The letter also states that Colombians for Peace recognise that the four military prisoners recently killed during a botched rescue attempt by the armed forces, had been set for release by the guerrillas. According to Colombians for Peace “the failure shows the gravity of the militarisation of the conflict.” Finally, the group calls on the FARC to respect international humanitarian law, and punish those that violate it, as well as requesting that they too consider a “ceasefire or truce” of 90 days that could be extended further.

The letter to the ELN expresses similar sentiments, stating that “we appreciate and trust your [...] message of 26th of December in which you reiterate your willingness to search for dialogue” as a way of resolving the Colombian “social and armed conflict.” The letter calls on the ELN to respect international humanitarian law and to also consider a 90-day extendible ceasefire.

In recent days the FARC have destroyed a Colombian radar station in the South-Western department of Cauca in a 12 hour siege, killing one policeman and injuring others. Further attacks in the North East of the country killed two soldiers and injured seven. In another attack guerrillas destroyed an oil pipeline near the Venezuelan border. Meanwhile, on January 15th 2 indigenous men were assassinated by paramilitaries in Caldas, and on 17th of January an oil workers’ union leader was killed alongside his wife. On January 9th army troops killed another peasant trade unionist in Sumapaz. This demonstrates not only that the war is far from over, but also that the social violence is part and parcel of the war itself and will not end until there is peace in Colombia.

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