Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefed the ambassadors on the latest developments under the agreement that ended five decades of fighting between the government and the United Nations. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP).
The peace process is entering “a critical phase”, he said.
A complex and noble task
“It is increasingly clear that the determination and work of all involved in this complex and noble task has paid off despite the many challenges that persist,” he said, speaking in Spanish.
Mr. Ruiz Massieu reported on recent advances in the field of transitional justice.
In April, seven high-level former FARC-EP combatants formally accepted responsibility for kidnappings committed during the conflict. Last week, 11 army officers and one civilian were charged with assassinations and enforced disappearances presented as deaths in action.
In addition, thousands of bodies of missing persons have been found, in part thanks to information provided by former guerrillas, former paramilitaries and state agents, while a truth commission served as a forum for dialogue between the victims and those who harmed them.
“All these events, which until recently would have been unthinkable in Colombia, are now possible thanks to the peace agreement”, declared Mr. Ruiz Massieu.
Protect local leaders
Switching to English, the UN envoy stressed the need for joint state and civil society initiatives to protect social leaders and human rights defenders in communities affected by recurrent violence.
He recently met women leaders working for peace in the Montes de María region, in the north of the country.
“I was particularly moved by their testimonies of how illegal armed actors try to silence their voices, the voices of communities, by not only using physical violence, but also by resorting to emotional violence, threats and to personal attacks which prevent them and their families from fully exercising their rights and leading a normal and peaceful life, ”he said.
Mr. Ruiz Massieu also expressed concern about the violence and stigmatization against former FARC-EP combatants and members of the Comunes political party, formed following the demobilization of the group.
“The persistence of violence and insecurity highlights the urgent need for enhanced prevention and protection measures, as well as additional and stronger measures to dismantle illegal organizations, bring perpetrators to justice, as well as expand state institutions, public services and development opportunities as quickly as possible to communities affected by conflict, ”he said.
As a new electoral cycle approaches, Mr. Ruiz Massieu encouraged all parties to remain committed to the peace agreement and to continue to focus on dialogue to resolve their differences.
“It is precisely for this purpose that the peace process has made it possible to broaden the democratic spaces and the guarantees of participation”, he declared.