Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to express my most sincere gratitude for your invitation to attend the ceremony of the signing of the peace accord between your government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. I deeply regret that I will not be able to attend.
It would have been a great honor to be present at an event that is so important for the future of Colombia. The signing of the accord should close the tragic and bloody chapter of the armed conflict with the FARC and open a historic opportunity to advance the protection of fundamental rights in Colombia.
As you are aware, Human Rights Watch has had —and continues to have— serious reservations regarding the justice component of the peace accord and the extension of legal benefits to members of the armed forces responsible for atrocities.
For that reason, I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to use the implementing legislation —which will be introduced in Congress after the approval of the national plebiscite in October— to address the shortcomings of the justice agreement that was reached last December. We hope that the Colombian Constitutional Court, which has played a key role in protecting human rights in the past, will also seek to fix the main shortcomings of the justice deal.
For example, we believe that it is of the outmost importance that the implementing legislation amends the definition of command responsibility included in the agreement to ensure that it is consistent with the definition established under international law, and that it fixes the numerous ambiguities that may allow inadequate sanctions for confessed criminals. Naturally, Human Rights Watch will continue to advocate for meaningful punishment, including deprivation of liberty, for those responsible for atrocities committed during the Colombian armed conflict.
It is also important that the implementing legislation establishes that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity are not allowed to run or hold public office until they have served their sentences under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
We also have concerns regarding the Special Agreement reached on August 19, 2016 —particularly with regards to the draft version of the amnesty law. We believe that inconsistent and ambiguous language in the bill could lead to unacceptable limitations on accountability for abuses. We will be sending a letter to your peace delegation detailing these shortcomings, with the hope that they can be fixed by the Commission of Implementation or during the legislative debate of the bill.
Mr. President, our criticism of the agreement reflects our deep desire that peace in the country is grounded in the rights of victims, a desire shared by Colombia and the international community.
José Miguel Vivanco
Human Rights Watch
Dr. Humberto de la Calle, Government chief peace negotiator