International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Colombian Peace Talks: Peace before Justice?

As Colombia and the FARC rebel group meet in Oslo to begin peace talks.  I cannot help but think of the conflict between peace and justice that such talks potentially represent.  The conflict between the FARC and Colombia began in 1964 and has continued despite previous attempts to negotiate a peace.  This conflict has included numerous human rights abuses.  As recently as September of this year, Al Jazeera confirmed that the FARC was still recruiting (often forcibly) children to fight as soldiers in the conflict:  Furthermore, the FARC has used illegal drug trafficking, particularly cocaine, to fund their movement.  The Colombian government’s hands are also dirty, as they have engaged in extrajudicial killings and illegal surveillance in the (recent) past:

So, as peace talks begin, the question arises, how can both peace and justice be secured?  While the FARC will seek amnesty and political integration as part of the settlement, recent polls show that a majority of Colombians oppose any settlement that will give them amnesty for their crimes ( But in order to achieve peace, it would seem that some concessions must to be made and promptly, especially since the current talks have not even instigated a ceasefire.  Thus, settlements like this feel somewhat like a hostage situation.  If you offer no concessions, more people die. But to let the perpetrators go unpunished would be a mockery of justice.  So what do you do? Make promises of amnesty just to have international justice override those invalid agreements later? Perhaps the hope is that justice will never catch up, but to ignore seeking justice is to ignore the sufferings of thousands.


2 responses to “Colombian Peace Talks: Peace before Justice?

  1. kquinteroh October 23, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Having spent a month and a half in Colombia, I was there to see when the intentions of peace talks were first revealed. I find your comparison of the current events in the country to a hostage situation to be unfortunately accurate. Many of the interactions I had had with people revealed a weariness that was perhaps due to the incredible length of the conflict- there are decreasing numbers of people who remember a time before the nation was plagued with armed violence.

    From the first video we watched in class depicting the ICTJ, I remember one of the speakers stating that in Colombia, just like many other conflict zones, one cannot differentiate between society and the victim. Because violent acts have been perpetrated by the government, paramilitaries, and rebel groups, the hopes of achieving justice for the victims has become more difficult. This is further complicated by the profit-driven narcotraficking groups that have funded and supported all different actors and committed more than a few atrocities themselves. In tribunals for Rwanda, one of the major critiques was the lack of indictment for the crimes committed by the government in power, which in turn resulted in resentment of one part of the population for the other. I think to achieve peace Colombia must take steps to validate the experiences of all the victims of this conflict. This would also be demonstrative of the government’s commitment towards ending impunity and demonstrating intolerance for the actions taken in the past.

    This video, also from Al Jazeera, further shows the desire for people to be involved in their own peace building. As a side note, since the video focuses on peace talks with the FARC we are not really exposed to the victims of other perpetrators of violence mentioned before.

  2. mahletyared October 23, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Particularly with the situation in Colombia, I find it essential that dialogue is opened up on all side and that the peace talks in Oslo are transparent to the people. The Colombian people should know what is happening in Oslo and remain informed or they will quickly lose hope that there will be any progress. With the ongoing crimes in Colombia, it is difficult for the people to prioritize peace over justice because they need an end to the conflict before considering how to rebuild a safe and just Colombia.
    The second article from Al Jazeera that was linked in this original post is especially interesting not only because it reveals how corrupt the Colombian government is, but the approach of the United States in releasing aid money, which can either be used corruptly to the government’s discretion or give the United States influence in Colombia. Peace and stabilization is a priority for the people and before they have this, they do not feel an urgency to seek justice against the perpetrators. If they do put the main perpetrators on trial, though, Colombia seems to be in the fortunate position of having an involved population who would testify and be involved in the effort to have justice.

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