United for Colombia issues appeal for peace and justice

Peace and justice for Colombia rally in Sydney on August 3. Photo: Zebedee Parkes.

An international day of action was held on July 26, to protest the killings of social activists in Colombia.

More than 800 social activists have been assassinated since 2016. These include human rights defenders, land reform activists and indigenous leaders.

Furthermore, a large number of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army (FARC–EP) combatants have been murdered, despite agreeing to lay down arms as part of a 2016 peace deal with the government, which ended a five-decades-long civil war.

Australian-based solidarity group United for Colombia held a protest to raise awareness about ongoing human rights violations in Colombia, in Sydney on August 3. They also released the following appeal that same day.

* * *

We, Colombians and Australian residents in solidarity with Colombia, make an urgent appeal to the national and international community, to governments, to social, political and solidarity organisations in Latin America, Australia and the world; and to individuals interested in Colombia’s peace process and in fighting the systematic violation of human rights in the country, to come together in support of the following demands:

• We demand that the Ivan Duque-led government complies with the peace accord, ensures its continuity and implementation, and the prolongation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace as a mechanism for transitional justice, in line with the accord signed by the FARC-EP and the national government of the former president Juan Manuel Santos.

• We call upon President Duque, the Colombian Parliament, and the national and international community to support the peace negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), in good faith and with the aspiration for real and sustainable peace, so the accords come to fruition and Colombia’s more than 50 year-long civil war comes to an end.

• We express our desire for peace, unity and reconciliation so that once and for all we put an end to a decades-long bloodshed that has devastated the country. As Colombians living abroad, we vehemently reject the systemic assassination of and threats against our social leaders, human rights activists, ex-combatants, peasants; and indigenous and afro-descendent peoples; and demand the Colombian people, the government, and in particular, the post-demobilisation groups, to respect life and freedom of expression, as referred to in Articles 11, 13, 16, 20, and 22 of the Colombian Constitution, to ensure the rule of law and democracy.

• We call upon the Colombian Congress and President Duque to take actions for a better reparation policy towards strengthening Colombia’s peace architecture. Therefore, we urge them to support the motion presented to Colombia’s Constitutional Court by Colombian NGO Dejusticia, to declare unconstitutional Article 208 of Law 1448 of 2011 Victims and Land Restitution Law, which limits the validity of the law to 2021; and to extend the validity of the law until 2030.

• We urge the international community, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to take actions in ensuring human rights are fully respected in Colombia. We demand that the Colombian government act firmly to prosecute those responsible for the systematic threatening and killing of social leaders and human rights activists, who fight for the fair restitution of lands to the victims. It is unacceptable that investigations downplay these crimes to “crimes of passion” or “petty crime” where there is a clear pattern of assassinations.

• We demand transparency regarding the massacre of our peoples and the selective assassination of 840 social leaders since May 2016, and that the necessary action be taken to find and sentence those responsible for these crimes

• We are convinced that only when all Colombians come together and take an active role in building peace, will we seek an end to a half a decade-long armed conflict that has left behind millions of victims of confrontations, terror, forced displacement, disappearances, murders, exile and various other forms of violence. Therefore, we demand the commitment of President Duque’s government, of all members of the Colombian Parliament, of the Judicial System and of the Colombian people, in order to achieve national reconciliation and a sustainable peace in Colombia.

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