24 June 2014
(New York, USA)

I welcome Colombia’s adoption of a new law on access to justice for victims of sexual violence, in particular in relation to the armed conflict, which was signed by President Santos on 18 June.
The adoption of law 1719 is a major milestone toward ensuring that the status of victims of sexual violence in Colombia is enhanced and that they can receive the redress and justice that they deserve. By explicitly establishing that sexual violence can constitute a crime against humanity and by recognising that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, this law has the potential to galvanize Colombia’s efforts to address impunity for sexual violence. I am encouraged that this law also includes crimes that were previously omitted from the Penal Code, such as enforced sterilization, forced pregnancy and forced nudity, and adds a specific reference to aggravating circumstances when sexual violence is committed as a form of retaliation or intimidation against human rights defenders. I am equally encouraged by the provisions on the protection of survivors, comprehensive reparations, psychosocial support and free medical attention for survivors, as well as by the clarification that sexual violence crimes will not be tried in military courts.
Law 1719 is the result more than two years of consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, including experts from civil society and United Nations entities, including my Office through the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law / Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The adoption of this law comes at a crucial juncture in the history of Colombia and demonstrates the authorities’ commitment to the rule of law and a peaceful future by continuing to confront the crimes of the conflict.
I urge the authorities to guarantee its implementation and take all necessary action to investigate and prosecute all cases of sexual violence perpetrated during the armed conflict and ensure that survivors see justice, in the spirit of this historic law. If successful, Colombia can be an inspiration to the region and the rest of the world. My Office, through the Team of Experts, remains at the disposal of the national authorities to support their efforts to implement the provisions of this law.
For additional information, please contact:
La Neice Collins at / (+1) 212-963-1160 or
Rikke E. Hennum, at / (+1) 212-963-4321.