Colombia: Reactions to peace/justice deal rejection

Civil society is calling for continued negotiations to end Colombia’s decades-long conflict following the rejection by referendum of President Santos’ peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Justice for perpetrators of atrocities during the civil war remains one of the main sticking points in the negotiations – an issue at the center of the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s continuing preliminary examination in the country.

Humanas, the Colombian Center for Human Rights and Gender Justice, released a statement outlining their will to keep hope alive, motivated by those they have worked with and believe in peace:

“When seeing and recognizing each other today, trying to revitalize our dreams and hopes, in spite of the result of October 2, we want to continue with conviction and commitment in spite of the result of October 2 because we think about women victims in the most remote corners of the great capitals who believed that ending this war was possible.

For those we have spoken with, with whom we shared and built, the ones we heard saying with conviction that forgiving and thinking of new alternatives was an option, those who want the calm of peace at home and out of it and reject the downfall of war.”

While Amnesty International deemed the referendum a missed opportunity for lasting peace in Colombia, it noted the need for any peace agreement to represent those victims groups most affected by the conflict.

“Today will go down in history as the day Colombia turned its back to what could have been an end to a 50-year long conflict that devastated millions of lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“Human rights abuses continue in Colombians’ everyday lives, and have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups, particularly Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities, as well as people defending human rights, including community leaders, trade unionists and land rights activists. Any peace agreement will only be effective in the long term if it is implemented in very close consultation with the groups most affected by this bloody conflict for decades,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general at Amnesty International


Human Rights Watch welcomed President Santos’ decision to continue negotiations with the rebel group and suggested that a new peace agreement be drafted.

“The government should persuade the FARC leadership to pursue a new deal. Potential new negotiations should address the serious shortcomings in the so-called victims’ agreement, which opened the door to impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch.

In a separate letter sent to Mr. Santos, Vivanco addressed Human Rights Watch’s specific concerns regarding the original peace deal.

“We believe that the justice component of the original agreement contained fundamental flaws that would have severely undercut the right to justice of countless victims of grave abuses and made it far more difficult for Colombia to build a lasting peace.  Among our chief concerns was the fact that these flaws would have allowed not only members of the FARC but also members of the Colombian armed forces to escape meaningful punishment for egregious atrocities.”

Meanwhile, International Crisis Group reports that:

“The opposition has laid down demands for a “new” peace agreement. It insists that FARC concentrate its forces as a requisite to continue negotiation; any adjustment to the constitution be dropped; the special jurisdiction for transitional justice be scrapped; there be blanket amnesties for all who have not committed crimes against humanity; those who have committed such crimes be sentenced to jail terms and deemed permanently ineligible for political office; but also that there be special judicial treatment for members of the Armed Forces convicted of those crimes.”

The International Federation for Human Rights took stock of the award of the Nobel peace prize to President Santos, in relation to both prior and future efforts to end impunity for grave crimes committed over the course of the civil war in Colombia.

“This award is also for young people who demonstrate massively against the ignominy and barbarism of war and in support of indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, peasants, human rights defenders, women, children and the poor population that has suffered from war. This award is the recognition of what has been done, but also of the peace that everyone must still build in Colombia,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, president of the International Federation of Human rights. 

Further reading:

Humanas colombia: En Humanas mantenemos viva la esperanza

Amnesty International: Human rights in Colombia in 10 numbers

Justice in Conflict: Peace and Justice in Colombia – A JiC Symposium 

New York Times: Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, Is Awarded Nobel Piece Prize

Justice Info Net: Colombia did not vote ‘no’ in its peace referendum – what the statistics reveal

International Crisis Group: Reassembling Colombia’s Rejected Peace Deal