What's In Blue

Posted Tue 22 Jan 2019

Colombia: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (23 January), the Security Council will receive a briefing from Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the newly-appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. The meeting will be chaired by Miguel Vargas, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, and will also include the participation of the Foreign Ministers of Colombia, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and Indonesia, Retno Marsudi. The discussion is expected to focus on progress in the implementation of the November 2016 Peace Agreement. The recent escalation of violence by the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) armed group is also expected to be discussed.

The 26 December 2018 report of the Secretary-General takes stock of what has been achieved in the implementation of the agreement, but also points out some of the outstanding challenges (S/2018/1159). The security situation in Colombia is likely to feature prominently in the discussion. In addition to the ELN, other armed groups continue to be active, including former members of the FARC-EP, who are frustrated with shortcomings in the peace process and have taken up arms again, and the criminal group Clan del Golfo. Council members may emphasise the need to increase security guarantees for human rights defenders and social leaders, as violence against them has spiked in early 2019, as well as discuss the positive impact that the extension of state presence can have in this regard.

The limited access to economic opportunities for former combatants continues to hamper the reintegration process. The Secretary-General’s report underlines that economic reintegration is clearly lagging behind. The new Colombian administration has now developed its own plan, which is consistent with some of the lessons identified by the UN. These include the need to connect reintegration more directly to regional and local development, to empower local authorities, to link up more systematically with the private sector, and to increase synergies between reintegration and the development programmes with a territorial focus, which were established following the peace agreement. Council members may raise the importance of translating government plans into action and inquire about progress regarding access to land for former combatants. Ruiz Massieu may also brief Council members on the Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATRs) and the monthly stipend that former combatants receive, which are expected to continue until 15 August 2019, and the need to make sure that any decision regarding the ending of support to these mechanisms has to be informed by a clear understanding of the conditions in the TATRs and access to sustainable alternative sources of income.

Regarding legal guarantees, Council members may be interested in hearing more about developments in the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the justice component of the transitional justice system, which continues to be a politically divisive issue. In the report, the Secretary-General notes the mission’s concern with a number of actions regarding the SJP that are adding to the growing sense of legal uncertainty for former FARC-EP members, which is detrimental to the peace process. These include an amendment, which was initially adopted but then defeated in the House of Representatives, that would have given the government the authority to reactivate arrest warrants against former FARC-EP members. Separately, Council members may want to discuss with Ruiz Massieu in consultations the impact of the ongoing proceedings against former FARC-EP leader Seuxis Hernández (aka Jesús Santrich). In June 2018, the US requested his extradition on drug-trafficking charges, and the SJP is expected to rule on the applicability of the no-extradition guarantee included in the peace agreement next month. In his report, the Secretary-General has acknowledged that “the outcome of this case will have important implications for the real and perceived legal guarantees.”

Some Council members may wish to welcome the mission’s achievements regarding gender parity. By the end of last year, 47 percent of civilian staff and 26 percent of international observers were women. The mission has also been one of the first peace operations to develop a youth, peace and security strategy.

As Ruiz Massieu will be briefing the Council for the first time, Council members may be interested in inquiring what they can do, both bilaterally and multilaterally, in support of his work, in particular given the outstanding obstacles and polarisation around the peace process.

The briefing comes after an attack against a police academy in Bogotá on 17 January, which was claimed by the ELN and resulted in at least 21 deaths, also injuring dozens. On 18 January, the Council issued a press statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack” (SC/13671). Except for a three-month bilateral ceasefire agreed to with the government between September 2017 and January 2018, the ELN has persisted with its activities. Talks held in Cuba between the administration of then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN were suspended in August 2018, and the administration of President Iván Duque announced that they would not be resumed until the ELN released kidnap victims and unilaterally ceased to commit verifiable criminal acts. Following the most recent attack, the government of Colombia has requested that Cuba, which has continued to host an ELN delegation, hand over the members of the delegation to the Colombian authorities. The government, which characterises the ELN as a terrorist organisation, has said publicly that it does not consider itself bound by protocols put in place by the Santos administration to provide security guarantees to the ELN delegation in case of a rupture in the talks. Holmes Trujillo is expected to reiterate these messages in his statement to the Council, but it is unclear if they will elicit any reaction in public from Council members.

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