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SC/14252
14 July 2020
8749th Meeting (AM)

Increased Attacks against Community Leaders, Human Rights Defenders Pose Gravest Threat to Colombia Peace Process, Special Representative Warns Security Council

Attacks against community leaders, human rights defenders, former combatants and women — along with the COVID-19 pandemic that is exacerbating them — are the gravest threats now facing Colombia’s five-year-old peace process, the United Nations senior official in the country told the Security Council today.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the Council via videoconference as its 15 members convened in person for the first time since the pandemic’s onset in March.  Spotlighting the perseverance of the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) political party in pressing forward with peacebuilding despite challenges posed by COVID-19, he said ex-combatants once associated with the latter’s now-defunct militia — known as the FARC-EP, or People’s Army — face particular threats, especially in Colombia’s remote rural areas.

“As the Secretary-General has noted repeatedly, the consolidated and integrated presence of State institutions is the long-term solution to the violence plaguing Colombia’s rural regions,” he said.  He highlighted recent progress, noting that arrests of those responsible for attacks have increased.  Urging the Government to execute all pending arrest warrants, he also called for more development projects with a territorial focus.  Meanwhile, many of the country’s crop substitution programmes — which provide communities, including ex-combatants, with a path towards legal livelihoods — have been negatively affected by COVID-19.  More must be done to ensure their sustainability.

Turning to Colombia’s transitional justice process, he recalled that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace recently issued guidelines on sanctions it plans to impose on individuals who acknowledge responsibility for crimes committed during the conflict.  Attacks against human rights defenders and local community leaders are on the rise, as are cases of gender-based violence and domestic violence in the context of the pandemic.  The Comprehensive Programme for Safeguards for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders — whose implementation was delayed due to COVID-19 — must be promptly set in motion.  “There is no justification for continuing to inflict violence upon vulnerable Colombians who are already under tremendous hardship,” he stressed.

Also briefing via videoconference was Clemencia Carabalí Rodallega, an ethnic and territorial rights defender with the non-governmental organization Municipal Association of Women.  Noting that she is a survivor of a recent attack, she described the situation as part of a long history of ethnocide committed in Colombia since the first Spanish invasion more than 500 years ago.  Every day, Colombians wake up to the news that another black or indigenous person has been threatened, attacked or killed.  Emphasizing that those conditions have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, she cited recent examples of assassinations of female political candidates and indigenous leaders.

Describing those murders as a humanitarian crisis, she said many territories across Colombia are seeing a reconfiguration of illegal armed groups previously controlled by the FARC-EP.  Tensions are also rising as elites seek to extract more natural resources, and those who suffer most are ethnic communities, youth, women and girls.  Underlining the importance of the international community’s support — and inviting the Council to visit and “put yourselves in our shoes” — she also issued a list of protection-related demands to the national Government.  “Despite the peace agreement signed in 2016, there is still no real stable and durable peace for the people of Colombia,” she said.

As Council members took the floor, many praised Colombia’s unwavering efforts to advance its peace process — even against the backdrop of a major international health crisis.  However, some expressed grave concern about continued violence, including increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence being committed amid the pandemic, and echoed the Secretary-General’s 23 March call for a global ceasefire.  Several speakers spotlighted the sanctions soon to be imposed by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, noting that such elements of the advancing peace process should be weighed as the Council considers the mandate renewal of the United Nations Verification Mission on 25 September.

The representative of the United Kingdom was among those speakers who welcomed significant progress made since the signing of the 2016 peace agreement.  Critically, transitional justice institutions have adapted to COVID-19 by moving to the virtual space, and the Government has put in place measures to prevent virus outbreaks.  However, he joined other speakers in voicing concern about the high number of killings and threats against ex-combatants, human rights defenders, women leaders and those from indigenous and African communities.  The Government must devote additional resources to protection requests and respond to such “early warning” signs, he emphasized.

China’s representative pointed out that the follow-up mechanisms to Colombia’s peace agreement are functioning effectively and progress is being made.  Calling for an approach that ensures a proper balance between security and development — including efforts to tackle the root causes of conflict — he cited recent security challenges as well as attacks on community leaders and the continued recruitment of children.  In that context, the international community should help the Government “curb the breeding ground for crime” in Colombia, he said.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also speaking for Niger, South Africa and Tunisia, said that, as COVID-19 tests the tenacity of Governments and peoples, countries emerging from conflict face additional challenges.  The United Nations must continue to provide support.  Colombians in particular should remain “enterprising and prudent” in overcoming new challenges, she said, welcoming the inclusion of FARC-EP in processes to devise regional and local development plans.  She agreed that the “senseless” killings of former combatants, human rights defenders and Afro-Colombian leaders must end, calling on the National Commission on Security Guarantees to convene regularly and on the Government to better address violent killings.

France’s delegate underscored the importance of reintegrating former combatants into the health system.  COVID-19 did not slow the pace of killings of human rights defenders and social leaders, which demonstrates that criminals are using the pandemic to expand their territorial control.  He drew attention to the many refugees fleeing neighbouring Venezuela as another critical issue facing Colombia, while welcoming progress on rural reforms and illicit crop substitution.  In addition, he said the United Nations Verification Mission should contribute to the legitimacy of the country’s transitional justice process.

Striking a similar tone, the Dominican Republic joined several other speakers in advocating for the addition of a Mission mandate related to monitoring and verifying compliance with the soon-to-be-imposed transitional justice sanctions.  Demanding an end to violence by armed groups and the investigation and prosecution of all attacks, he went on to call for more services that support the victims of violence.  All of Colombia’s stakeholders should actively contribute to the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, he added.

Claudia Blum, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, underlined her country’s commitment to the 2016 peace agreement as well as a range of measures to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  More broadly, the Government continues to approve and implement projects in the municipalities most affected by poverty and violence, with 186 projects — worth $423 million — funded by oil and mining royalties.  Agreeing that the safety and protection of former combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders and communities remains the greatest challenge, she outlined her Government’s efforts to strengthen prevention, individual and collective protection and support for both investigations and prosecutions.

Also participating were the representatives of the United States, Indonesia, Belgium, Viet Nam, the Russian Federation, Estonia and Germany.

The meeting began at 10:36 a.m. and ended at 12:21 p.m.

Briefings

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the Council via videoconference and introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2020/603).  Among other things, he said it highlights the perseverance of the Government, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia group (FARC) and other actors in carrying on with peacebuilding efforts despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the report was issued, he said, the work of the tripartite mechanism on transition to legality accredited 131 more former combatants and the Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Final Agreement resumed its sessions.  However, insecurity facing community leaders, human rights defenders and former members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) remains the greatest challenge to advancing the peace process.  He recalled that, in a positive development, authorities arrested an individual believed to be the intellectual author of the killing of Alexander Parra, a former FARC-EP combatant and leader of a former territorial area for training and reintegration.  Such arrests are an example of the results the peace agreement can deliver, as well as a reminder of the need to provide its mechanisms with support.

In that vein, he urged the Government to execute its pending arrest warrants and prioritize the resourcing of the National Protection Unit in order to ensure that no more former combatants are killed while awaiting evaluation of their protection requests.  Meanwhile, he expressed hope that the long-awaited policy to dismantle illegal armed groups and their support networks who are behind the violence in the former conflict-affected areas will soon be approved and set in motion.  “As the Secretary-General has noted repeatedly, the consolidated and integrated presence of State institutions is the long-term solution to the violence plaguing Colombia’s rural regions,” he said, calling for the further implementation of development programmes with a territorial focus and the Comprehensive Security and Protection Programme for Communities and Organizations in the Territories.

Turning to programmes for the substitution of illegal crops — which provide communities with a voluntary path towards legal livelihoods — he said their implementation should now focus on ensuring that participating families receive timely assistance to develop productive projects.  Many former combatants’ crop projects have been negatively affected by COVID-19, making it even more urgent to ensure support for their sustainability.  He urged the Government and FARC to foster the leadership of women former combatants, while encouraging the National Reintegration Council to reactivate its working groups on children and youth.  The latter should also consider a recent proposal to create a working group on the situation of former combatants of indigenous and Afro-Colombian origin.

He underscored the centrality of Colombia’s transitional justice model to the peace process, noting that the three components of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition have continued their work during the pandemic.  In April, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace issued guidelines on the sanctions that it will impose upon individuals under its jurisdiction and on the “tasks, works or activities with reparatory and restorative content”.  Calling for support to that system by all actors, he went on to note that reported cases of gender-based violence have been on the rise in the context of the pandemic.  Colombians were also appalled by incidents of sexual violence committed by members of the public security forces, which were condemned by the President and the Minister of Defence and are now under investigation.

“I encourage all parties to redouble measures to improve protection and security for women, including women former combatants, social leaders and human rights defenders,” he said.  Those include the prompt implementation of the action plan of the Comprehensive Programme for Safeguards for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, which was delayed due to the pandemic.  Describing the Council’s support as crucial, he said all efforts now should seek to combat the pandemic, protect the most vulnerable and push forward the peace agreement’s implementation.  He also echoed the Secretary-General’s 23 March call for a global ceasefire amid COVID-19, concluding:  “There is no justification for continuing to inflict violence upon vulnerable Colombians who are already under tremendous hardship.”

CLEMENCIA CARABALÍ RODALLEGA, of the non-governmental organization Municipal Association of Women, also briefed the Council via videoconference, recalling that she — and many others working to defend community ethnic and territorial rights in Colombia — have been forced to survive attacks by armed groups.  “Since the Spanish invasion 528 years ago, which led to the enslavement, dispossession and death of the peoples of our America […] ethnocide in Colombia has not stopped,” she said.  Every day, Colombians wake up to the news that another black or indigenous person has been threatened, attacked or killed.  Those conditions have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spotlighting several examples, she cited the 2019 assassinations of Karina García, a candidate for mayor in the Suárez municipality, and Cristina Bautista, governor of the Nasa indigenous community.  On 5 July, Paola del Carmen Mena Ortiz, a member of an Afro-Colombian Community Council in Cañón del Micay, was killed and dismembered.  She described such murders as a humanitarian crisis resulting from persistent armed conflict, the absence of the State and then the National Government’s militaristic intervention.  Many territories across Colombia are seeing a reconfiguration of illegal armed groups previously controlled by the FARC-EP, and tensions are rising as elites seek to extract natural resources, plant illegal crops and carry out illicit mining.

“Despite the peace agreement signed in 2016, there is still no real stable and durable peace for the people of Colombia,” she said, stressing that those who suffer most are the civilian population, ethnic communities, youth, girls and women.  Underlining the importance of the international community’s support, she expressed gratitude for the United Nations Verification Mission, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and other partners who have helped to lay the foundation for women’s empowerment and their inclusion in the peace agreement.

Emphasizing that Colombia already enjoys a robust legal and policy framework, she called on President Iván Duque to implement existing normative frameworks, particularly the Comprehensive Programme of Safeguards for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders.  He should also ensure compliance with the peace agreement’s Ethnic Chapter and its provisions on gender; investigate and prosecute violators of human rights, as well as ethnic and territorial rights; and implement collective protection measures with differential gender and ethnic approaches.  She also urged the international community to compel those active in Colombia to sign onto a humanitarian agreement protecting people and to visit the affected territories “to put yourselves in our shoes”.

Statements

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) described significant progress made since 2016, noting that transitional justice institutions had adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by moving to the virtual space and expressing hope that they will continue to receive the resources needed to do their work.  Implementation of development programmes with a territorial focus continues to advance and he encouraged the Government to ensure the participation of local communities in such efforts.  Efforts by the Agreement’s mechanisms to help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in and around areas for training and reintegration are essential, given the economic impact of COVID-19 on former combatants.  He expressed hope that Colombia will assist them so that reintegration remains on track.

He also expressed great concern about the high number of killings and threats against ex-combatants, human rights defenders, women leaders and those from indigenous and African communities — and alarm that such violence is the greatest threat to the peace process.  Colombia must devote additional resources to respond to protection requests and there must be a prompt Government response to the Ombudsman’s early warnings.  Noting that the National Commission on Security Guarantees has not met since January, he said more work is needed to bring perpetrators of these attacks to justice.  Three territories have working groups to follow up on these attacks and he expressed hope that this initiative will be expanded across the country.  He encouraged all parties to create the conditions necessary for a cessation of hostilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, lamenting that progress remains slow in giving former combatants access to land, which affects their access to housing at a time when they face hardship due to the pandemic.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking also for Niger, South Africa and Tunisia, underscored the importance of the 2016 agreement as the only viable solution for Colombia.  As COVID-19 tests the tenacity of Governments and peoples, countries emerging from conflict face additional challenges.  She encouraged the United Nations to continue providing support.  Urging all parties to continue implementing the 2016 Final Agreement, she encouraged Colombians in particular to remain “enterprising and prudent” in overcoming new challenges.  Welcoming the inclusion of FARC-EP in processes to devise regional and local development plans, she said COVID-19 is delaying implementation of the peace agreement and urged all parties to address lingering challenges.

She expressed concern about the “senseless” killings of former combatants, human rights defenders and Afro-Colombian leaders, calling on the National Commission on Security Guarantees to regularly convene and on authorities to both strengthen institutions and enhance coordination to address violent killings.  Security protections for former FARC-EP combatants and their families must be applied, as they are crucial for ensuring their reintegration into society, and efforts for the long-term reintegration of all former combatants bolstered.  She similarly called on all armed groups to cease hostilities, expressing regret that the unilateral ceasefire ended and encouraging full compliance with resolution 2532 (2020).  She called on parties to resolve issues concerning allocation of land, in particular, to former combatants residing outside areas for training and reintegration.  She welcomed efforts to ensure victims are prioritized in the peace process and more broadly encouraged the Government to emphasize the importance of the reconciliation process.

KELLY CRAFT (United States) said the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened an already complex security and health situation in Colombia, especially for women, girls and other vulnerable people — including some 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees.  On 1 July, the United States announced the donation and delivery of 200 ventilators, which supplements its other financial support.  Recalling her own travels to Colombia in 2019, she underlined the need to end acts of violence against human rights defenders and civil society leaders “as our highest priority”.  There can be zero tolerance for such human rights abuses, she stressed, calling for all violations to be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.  Work must also continue to combat the activities of illegal armed groups, including those involved in the illegal drug trade, she said, also spotlighting the need for accountability and meaningful justice for victims.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) joined other speakers in praising the commitment of Colombia’s stakeholders to implement the Peace Agreement.  Citing a range of positive strides — including in economic and social reintegration — he said challenges also remain, such as in the illicit crop substitution programme, access to housing and the protection of former combatants.  He voiced particular concern about violence committed against the latter, as well as against human rights defenders and social leaders, calling for the implementation of an action plan and road map designed to ensure their safety.  Those responsible for such crimes must be held accountable.  He also expressed concern about the increasing presence of illegal armed groups, calling on them to refrain from violence.  In addition, all actors should avoid reopening discussions on possible changes to the Peace Agreement.  “Instead, let us continue to build on the positive momentum,” he said, expressing confidence that the country will overcome its current challenges — including those now posed by COVID-19.

ANTOINE IGNACE MICHON (France) said the success of the peace agreement depends on the implementation of all its chapters in an integrated manner.  He underscored the importance of reintegrating former combatants into the health system, noting more broadly that COVID-19 did not slow the pace of killings of human rights defenders and social leaders — demonstrating that criminals are using the pandemic to expand their territorial control.  He called for their prosecution and progress by the National Commission on Security Guarantees, stressing that the Verification Mission must contribute to the legitimacy of the transitional justice process.  He welcomed Government measures related to illicit crop substitution and rural reforms, pointing to the presence of internally displaced people and refugees from Venezuela as another issue that affects the economy.  “These people should not be pushed aside,” he asserted, hailing Colombia’s response.  He expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s appeal for a comprehensive ceasefire will foster peace in Colombia.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) acknowledged Colombia’s response to COVID-19 and assurances by all parties that they will implement the peace agreement.  He expressed grave concern about the high and unabated violence against human rights defenders, social leaders and ex-combatants, including from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, stressing that rights defenders are calling for collective protection measures.  He urged the National Commission on Security Guarantees to meet regularly, along with civil society, to disband illegal armed groups.  He welcomed that productive projects for former combatants are linked to territorial development programmes, as land access remains a problem in ensuring the sustained nature of the reintegration process.  Identifying the recruitment and use of children by illegal armed groups as a grave concern, he said the National Reintegration Council should restart its working group on children, and likewise expressed alarm over reports of sexual abuse by armed forces against minors.  Belgium is awaiting inquiries into these matters and closely following the transitional process.  Belgium also would favour the Mission playing a role in verifying compliance with sanctions imposed by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) joined others in expressing concern about challenges in implementing the Peace Agreement, including the adverse impacts of COVID-19.  Welcoming efforts by the Government to combat the pandemic — as well as the consideration of draft bills and institutional reforms — he said that process “will be a long one” but should focus on the needs of the most vulnerable people.  He condemned all attacks against human rights defenders, civil society leaders and others, recalling the Secretary-General’s 23 March appeal for a global ceasefire amid the pandemic.  Efforts should be redoubled to improve security in rural areas.  Taking note of progress in pushing forward various economic and social reintegration projects, he said more efforts are needed to help former combatants to re-stabilize their lives.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) welcomed preventive measures put in place by the Government of Colombia and the FARC group to combat COVID-19, while encouraging the parties to work with a constructive spirit to implement the Peace Agreement despite challenges posed by the pandemic.  Condemning recent threats and murders of women human rights defenders, community leaders and former combatants, he said all such acts must be duly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.  The Government should make full use of its existing mechanisms to ensure their safety — including comprehensive guidelines to improve safeguards for human rights defenders — and more services for the victims of violence.  All stakeholders should actively contribute to the country’s Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition.  He went on to advocate for the addition of a new mandate for the United Nations Verification Mission related to verifying compliance with transitional justice sanctions and called for an end to all acts of violence being committed by the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) and other armed groups.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) underscored the need for urgent progress in Colombia from agrarian reform, to the political and economic reintegration of former combatants.  “The peace process should not be put on hold,” he said.  Dialogue among political parties must be resuscitated to ensure an understanding of the reform process, among other issues.  He welcomed Colombia’s commitment to the Final Agreement and supported calls for its provisions to be fully implemented.  The Agreement was acknowledged by the Council as the basis for settling the conflict.  “We hope all political forces in Colombia will display national responsibility and focus on implementing the Agreement,” he said, expressing regret that the unilateral ceasefire was not taken up by the Government.  He called on Bogota, with Havana and Oslo, to ensure that security guarantee protocols are abided, recalling that when Cuba hosted parties, it did so as an international mediator.  The Russian Federation will continue to support the peace process, provided that the Government uphold its commitment to the Final Peace Agreement.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), stressing that Colombians must have equal access to education and health care, welcomed efforts to combat COVID-19 and establish a working group in the National Reintegration Council.  He urged all armed groups to cease hostilities during this crucial period, emphasizing that the killing of human rights defenders, ex-combatants and others has nonetheless persisted and calling for immediate action to be taken.  The creation of the Special Investigation Unit within the Prosecutor General’s Office is a welcome development.  He expressed concern about the increase in sexual and gender-based violence since the pandemic began, and about violence against indigenous groups.  The Government must protect rights defenders and prosecute perpetrators of violations, he said, underscoring that victims and their families have the right to justice, truth and reparations.  It also must guarantee the independent functioning of all transitional justice mechanisms.  Condemning the recruitment of children by armed groups, a practice which must end, he encouraged the National Commission on Security Guarantees to meet regularly.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said that while follow-up mechanisms to Colombia’s Peace Agreement are functioning effectively and progress is being made, some challenges remain.  Calling for an approach that ensures proper balance and synergy between the two pillars of security and development — including efforts to tackle the root causes of conflict — he encouraged the Government to push forward with inclusive sustainable development, especially in rural areas.  Citing recent fragilities in the security situation in some parts of the country, as well as attacks on community leaders and the continued recruitment of children, he said the international community should help the Government “curb the breeding ground for crime” in Colombia.  China — while fully respecting Colombia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity — is making a range of contributions to the country’s overall development and has donated personal protective equipment, medication and other items to help it combat the spread of COVID-19.

CHRISTOPHE HEUSGEN (Germany), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, expressing deep concern about the high death toll among Colombia’s human rights defenders and community leaders.  Supporting the possible addition of a new mandate for the United Nations Verification Mission related to verifying compliance with transitional justice sanctions, he went on to note that the situation of Colombia’s women and girls has worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic with a marked increase in sexual and gender-based violence.  It is crucial that State authority be extended to remote and conflict-affected areas in order to create a safe, stable environment for all Colombians, he stressed.

CLAUDIA BLUM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, stressed that since the onset of COVID-19, detailed various measures had been taken to safeguard public health, provide support for the most vulnerable and ensure jobs.  Committed to complying with the 2016 agreement, the Government has not “held back any of the areas of work”.  The National Reincorporation Council has met regularly.  The Commission for Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement held six meetings during the reporting period, and measures to mitigate COVID-19 have been adopted by all agencies implementing the peace and legality policy.  In the former 24 territorial areas for training and reintegration, protocols are in place to prevent contagion and ensure referrals to health centres, in close coordination with local authorities.

More broadly, she said the Government continues to approve and implement projects in 170 municipalities most affected by poverty and violence, where development plans with a territorial approach are carried out.  Stabilization efforts are funded by the national budget, and complemented by other public and private funding, and international support.  In regions where development plans are being implemented, 186 projects worth $423 million are being funded by oil and mining royalties.  The Government is engaging with 100,000 families who have expressed a willingness to abandon coca cultivation, and it is devoting important resources to 1.8 million Venezuelan citizens forced to abandon their country.

Reintegrating former combatants will be decisive in preventing new cycles of violence, she assured.  Beneficiaries of productive projects put in place to support ex-combatants since the start of the year have increased 71 per cent versus the same period in 2019.  Former territorial areas for training and reintegration are operating normally and the food supply has been extended even though the legal status of these areas has long expired.  Monthly allowances are rewarded to ex-combatants residing inside and outside these areas.  Digital connectivity has been strengthened and the Agency for Territorial Renovation has met virtually to reinforce the relationship between central and regional authorities.

She went on to stress that the safety and protection of former combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders and communities remains the greatest challenge.  The Government has articulated actions by 15 agencies to strengthen prevention, individual and collective protection, and support for investigation and prosecution — all in the context of demonstrating zero tolerance for any irregular conduct by State agents.  Through close coordination with local authorities and the Verification Mission, former combatants were relocated from Ituango to Mutatá, and protection measures requested by female ex-combatants were approved.

As of 8 July, she said the Attorney General’s office has advanced the investigation of 146 of 294 crimes registered against ex-combatants since the signing of the agreement.  “It is clear that the attacks are related to the complexity of the environment and threat posed by organized armed groups involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining,” she asserted.  The criminals include non-incorporated FARC members, ELN terrorists and other groups.  Recalling the exponential growth of illicit crops which occurred between 2013 and 2017, she said “we are now taking the toll for the silence kept during that period,” amid new threats to local communities, social leaders and rights defenders.  Underscoring the Government’s strong commitment to promoting crop substitution options, she said that in 2019 Colombia reduced coca production areas by 9 per cent.

“The Agreement’s implementation is a two-way process,” she said, requiring commitment by the State and the FARC political party.  She urged the Verification Mission to demand that FARC provide information on drug traffickers, locations of missing persons, the delivery of assets for victim reparations, the recruitment of children by dissident groups and the locations of land mines.

Turning to the transitional justice system, she said the Government continues to provide funding for all its mechanisms.  “There will not be any reduction in that budget,” she clarified.  “The success of the transitional justice depends largely on the satisfaction of the rights of the victims, in particular justice, truth and reparation.”  Under the Agreement, sanctions and restorative actions have been defined, according to the collaboration and acknowledgement degree by those subject to the jurisdiction.  The Government has initiated an inter-institutional coordination process to design a system that will address this need, once the Special Jurisdiction begins delivering its sanctions.

Regarding the unilateral ceasefire announced by ELN on 29 March, and request for a bilateral ceasefire, she said ELN’s alleged willingness for peace must result in the release of all kidnapped persons and an end to all criminal actions.  “The ELN failed to deliver on its March announcement and there is no signal that it will deliver on this new announcement” she said.  Authorities will not renounce their commitment to protect citizens from threats posed by this group.  “The Government is firmly committed to building peace with legality,” she assured, adding that United Nations support is essential for advancing the stabilization and development of territories most affected by violence and poverty.

For information media. Not an official record.