November 30, 2016
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The Columbian government has ratified a new peace accord with the Farc rebel group. The agreement was approved unanimously by both the House and the Senate of the Columbian Congress, just over a month after the peace accord was originally rejected. The peace accord calls for the Farc rebels to lay down their weapons and stop the violence. This accord comes after five decades of fighting and the death of more than 260,000 people. The Farc will now begin the transitioning process into a political party as a new means of creating change without violence. This peace accord is highly supported by current Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos; however, many people, including former President Alvaro Uribe, deeply oppose the agreement, claiming it is too lenient on Farc leaders. This agreement marks a major milestone for Columbia in achieving peace after five decades, but many still question how effective the peace accord will be.
December 18, 2012
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This op-ed, written at the onset of the Colombian peace talks this past October by the prominent Latin American writer, Carlos Alberto Montaner, reflects a particularly skeptic point of view in respect to the negotiations that I think is worth noting. Montaner’s first point is that the FARC have strayed far from their political ends and today resemble a drug cartel more than “violent revolutionary organizations.” Thus, Montaner hypothesizes that more than policy change or peace, the guerrilla group’s motivation for participating in these peace talks is to acquire a legitimate spot on the Colombian government from which they can handle the drug business with much more power.
Although Montaner’s point might seem far fetched, he does very well in questioning what the FARC’s motivations are when coming to the negotiation table. Has the organization been weakened to the point where negotiation seems like a viable option? What has changed? It could be that the group was incredibly weakened during Alvaro Uribe’s presidency, coupled with the fact that the former president was reluctant to any peace process that included impunity for the guerrilla group.
But has the organization really been weakened, or has it just translated its operations to neighboring Venezuela? Also, what does it mean that the negotiations are being held in Cuba? How can a country that has been under a totalitarian regime for the past 50 years, whose leaders have not themselves been held accountable for decades (to its own citizens or to the international community) be a legitimate guarantor for these peace negotiations?
November 18, 2012
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Last week saw the unfolding of two seemingly unrelated—yet intrinsically linked—events in the field of international justice: First, the commencement of formal peace negotiations between the Colombian government and leadership of the FARC guerillas; and second, the opening of the ICC’s eleventh Session of the Assembly of States Parties. While approximately 4,800 miles separate Havana from The Hague, the topics of discussion at ICC facilities in the Netherlands will have some bearing on the talks taking place in Cuba.
As asserted by Paul Seils, vice president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, this preliminary step towards ceasing violence and embracing peace in Colombia brings to light the multifaceted nature of the long-standing conflict—and the immense challenges that will accompany such a process. That being said, a successful transition to a state of relative peace in Colombia could have far-reaching positive implications for Latin America as a whole. Nevertheless, attempting to resolve such a structurally embedded conflict (in terms of the many strata of Colombian government and society that are involved, openly or otherwise) calls attention to the ever-present tension between peace and justice. Seils makes note of the unique definition of peace in the case of Colombia—the centerpiece of which is “establishing a credible state where the rule of law applies to all”—and this further tangles the web of attempting to attain peace while providing justice (both of which as a means of stability for the war-ravaged nation). How can stability and faith in the rule of law be restored without some sort of judicial proceedings? At the same time, however, how will the threat of prosecution (on the international and/or the domestic level)—for those on all sides of conflict—factor into (and perhaps hinder) peace negotiations?
Meanwhile, this tension between peace and justice is on the agenda for discussion at the ICC’s Session of the Assembly of States Parties. It will be interesting to see what stance relatively new Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda takes (especially in comparison to that of her predecessor, the somewhat controversial Luis Moreno-Ocampo) and how that will affect the situation in Colombia and similar situations elsewhere in the world. While justice in Colombia, for example, may very well be pursued (if pursued at all) through means other than the ICC, her opinion (as a leading figure in the field of international justice) and actions as a result of that will most likely come to have bearings on the pursuit of transitional justice in all forums.