13 June 2011
Secretary-General
SG/SM/13634

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, at Signing of Colombia’s Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution

 

Bill, Says ‘Real Transforming Effect on the Ground’ Must Accompany New Law

 


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the signing ceremony for the Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Bill, in Bogota on 10 June:


To achieve peace and reconciliation, a society needs to acknowledge the pain and suffering of victims.  Wrongs must be put right.  Solid foundations must be laid for a just and hopeful future.


It is an honour for me to be here on this historic day as President [Juan Manuel] Santos signs this critical bill, the new Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Law.  President Santos, we commend your Government and your leadership, in particular Interior and Justice Minister [Germán] Vargas Lleras, as well as Congress, civil society organizations and the entire people of Colombia, on this far-reaching measure.


This legislation has the support of the United Nations.  The Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Law is a fundamental step towards resolving the conflict that the Colombian people have endured for so many decades.  In 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution establishing guidelines for States to satisfy the right to remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights and international humanitarian laws.


The Colombian Congress has made an important effort to take this framework into account.  The law focuses on the rights of victims, rather than on how to deal with perpetrators.  It has overcome many obstacles that could have resulted in unacceptable discrimination among victims.  It reinforces the right to remedy for lands seized illegally.  It recognizes the different needs of different victims, for example women, children or displaced persons.  It acknowledges that security goes beyond the presence of military and police.  It requires a broad approach which includes prompt investigation, adequate protection of targeted groups and public information campaigns.


The result is a law that prepares the ground for justice for some 3.5 million displaced people and some 500,000 victims of human rights abuses.  This ambitious, complex piece of legislation has taken Colombia closer to realizing the rights of victims.


But let us not overlook where it can be strengthened.  I urge you to send a powerful message that under no circumstances will human rights violations be tolerated.  No one who has sustained a human rights violation should be excluded from the benefits of the law.  This includes members of illegal armed groups, and especially those who were recruited as children.  Victims are victims.


The effectiveness of the land programme will also depend upon adopting comprehensive protection measures.  The need for protection is particularly acute for judges who will be responsible for taking decisions on land restitution.  Justice, rights and reconciliation will require the cooperation and collaboration of all.


Mr. President, this law stands as your legacy.  But you know that a good law is not enough.  It needs to have a real transforming effect on the ground, in the lives of victims.  The proper and timely implementation of this law will determine whether expectations raised are met.  The United Nations in Colombia stands ready to support your Government and civil society in this challenging task.


It will be important for the Government to maintain close dialogue with victims and their representatives.  The victims of conflict and their representatives have made a fundamental contribution to this endeavour.  Without their continued meaningful participation, there can be no legitimate and effective progress.  It is also essential that they receive the necessary protection for their safety and well-being.  People continue to die, simply for standing up for their rights.  This cannot stand.  This is not acceptable.


The United Nations will do all it can to support the Government and the victims in their efforts to build lasting democracy, peace and reconciliation.  The job has just begun.  You can count on us.  You can count on the United Nations.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record