The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] released a report [text, DOC] Thursday raising concerns over peace efforts in Colombia. According to the report, 127 activists were killed in 2016, including human rights leaders and members of leftist political organizations. The violence has raised concerns that the Colombian government is failing to implement key elements of a peace accord [JURIST report] brokered between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [official website, in Spanish]. In the report, the OHCHR “observed the relationship between violence and coca, marihuana and poppy growing zones, drug trafficking and illegal mining activities. … Such violence increased as FARC initiated demobilisation.” UN representative Todd Howland reiterated [NYT report] the importance of sustaining the peace efforts at a panel on Thursday, saying, “[t]here is a pattern here relative to where the killings are occurring. It is a really important moment to consolidate the implementation of the accords.” This sentiment is reflected in 15 recommendations included in the OHCHR report, including calls to hold government officials who fail to implement peace accords accountable. In response to accusations of government acquiescence to the violence, Colombia Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said [La Semana report, in Spanish] that there is “no evidence” to tie the activists’ deaths to paramilitary conduct.
The Colombian Senate on Monday approved [JURIST report] a transitional justice structure that will attempt to bring reparations to the more than 8 million victims of the decades-long conflict between the Colombia government and FARC. The transitional justice system is part of a November 2016 deal between the FARC and the Colombia government to end a conflict [JURIST report] that raged for more than 50 years and claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people. In October Colombian voters rejected [JURIST report] an earlier peace deal attempt by a razor thin margin. Negotiations between the FARC and Colombia government lasted for more than four years, with the UN and US acting [JURIST report] as chief intermediaries.