Myths and realities about the Colombian peace process

Some opponents of the peace process between the government of Colombia and insurgents have been circulating false versions about the talks underway in Havana and unbelievable myths about its actual scope. We will clarify the main legends right now.

• First, the country is being handed over at Havana.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The dialogues have been conducted strictly adhering to the items previously agreed to in August 2012. Both parties found these items to be sufficient to end the conflict and to open, without weapons, a broad transformation stage with full guarantees for the movement that may arise from the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and enter into the political arena.

The usual statements voiced by the FARC by means of which they reveal the most disparate political positions should not be confused with what takes place at the dialogue table.

• Second, a reduction of the military forces and a limitation of their status as a consequence of the end of the conflict is forthcoming.

Absolutely false. The structure and operation of the military forces was specifically excluded from the dialogues. While the dialogues are taking place, the armed forces will continue to operate fully. If an agreement is reached, they will continue fulfilling their constitutional mandate within a context of peace.

• Third, the comprehensive rural reform affects private property.

The agreements seek to ensure that the largest number of people living in the countryside without land or with insufficient land may have access thereto, through the creation of a Land Fund, accompanied by training and assistance to make the properties viable.

The Land Fund will be composed mainly of proper lands recovered by the state that have been illegally acquired by drug traffickers and other criminals. Legal landowners have nothing to fear.

• Fourth, the dialogues are clandestine, behind the country’s back.

The world’s and Colombia’s experience indicate that in order for these dialogues to be fruitful a certain level of confidentiality is needed. Negotiating over the microphones is the best way to frustrate the process.

However, both parties have agreed that a final agreement must be submitted for its endorsement by all the citizens, following a period of open discussion. Nothing will be done behind the country’s back.

• Fifth, there will be impunity for those responsible for crimes against humanity.

The Legal Framework for Peace contemplates the general limits of a comprehensive transitional justice strategy that will necessarily have to be consistent with the international obligations of Colombia.

Its comprehensive nature refers to, on the one hand, achieving a coherent application of a series of different judicial and extrajudicial measures aimed at satisfying the rights of the victims to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition; and on the other hand, enabling the sustainable reintegration of former combatants into civilian life.

All efforts exerted by the government in order to bring the conflict to an end shall conclude in a comprehensive strengthening of justice and the rule of law in the entire national territory, which is the true guarantee of non-repetition.

The legal treatment of those who have taken part in severe human-rights violations during the transition phase is dependent on their willingness to recognize their responsibility, face their victims and actively participate in the reconstruction of truth and the reparation of the victims.

In contexts such as Colombia’s, where we have to confront a legacy of severe and systemic human rights violations, a serious strategy to fight against impunity presumes acknowledging the limits of the criminal process and multiplying efforts through different kinds of mechanisms.

The true fight against impunity is focused on unveiling what actually happened and why; on acknowledging the victims and providing them with comprehensive and prompt reparations; and on attributing the responsibility to those primarily responsible for international crimes.

Criticism is welcome. Ultimately, though, the Colombian people will be the ones who decide the course.

In the meantime, a loyal effort is needed in order for the discussions to be based on actual facts rather than on myths and legends spread against the truth and actual nature of the peace process.

Humberto de la Calle is head of the Colombian government delegation at the peace talks.

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