European report criticises Colombian government over peace process and paramilitarism

The International Verification Commission of Human Rights in Colombia has criticised the Colombian government in a report which finds that only 18.5 per cent of the terms contained in the November 2016 peace agreement has been implemented. The commission is comprised of representatives of political parties from several European countries who visited Colombia in March 2017.

The report said that only four of 40 laws or reforms contained in the agreement had so far been processed, such as the amnsety law for FARC political prisoners. Only five per cent of the agreement’s first point on comprehensive rural reform and 19 per cent of point two on political participation has been implemented, even though the FARC has fully complied with the ceasefire.

Regarding the FARC’s recent suspension of electoral campaigning following a string of violent disturbances, Joaquín Sánchez, who coordinated the report, said that ‘the absence of guarantees’ was a situation ‘reminiscent of the Patriotic Union, which was practically exterminated by paramilitary groups’.

Euro MP Javier Couso, of Spain’s Left Unity party, said that ‘the European Union has a very important role to accompany this peace process and it must demand the Colombian government to dismantle paramilitarism’ as ‘there are sectors which are making it possible to derail the peace process’.

There is a lack of political will on the part of the government to break up paramilitary networks, as stipulated in the agreement. ‘It will be difficult to establish peace if there is no firm will to end these structures that threaten the process and are related with illegal extractive mining and drugs trafficking’, said the report.

It also criticised the Colombian government for denying the existence of paramilitarism in the country, citing recent cases of paramilitary violence against the San José de Apartadó peace community in Antioquia and in territories vacated by the FARC’s demobilisation as a guerrilla force. ‘Despite this, the government maintains an attitude of denial of the paramilitary phenomenon, qualifying these groups as “criminal bands” or “organised armed groups”, without confronting the problem of their real dimensions’. Over 170 social leaders were murdered in 2017, whileat least 29 have been killed so far in 2018, with the majority of killings bearing paramilitary hallmarks.

International support for the peace process has also weakened as global focus moves away from Colombia towards other troubled regions, said the report: ‘The Commission considers that it is necessary to have greater control of the international community over the actions of European companies and other countries that have interests in Colombia and that, too often, become generators of violence and looting. European governments must take responsibility for these actions and exercise a task of observing the social and environmental consequences of the activities of their respective companies’.

Download the report here in Spanish.