Security Council Visiting Mission to Colombia
Members of the Security Council left this afternoon (11 July) for a visiting mission to Colombia. The 11-14 July mission is co-led by Peru, the July president, and the U.K., Council penholder on Colombia. The overarching purpose of the visit is to demonstrate the Council’s support for the implementation of the 2016 Final Peace Agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the government of Colombia, which put an end to over five decades of violent and bloody civil war. It will be the Council’s second visiting mission to Colombia, demonstrating its ongoing commitment to the peace process. (The first one took place from 3-5 May 2017. For analysis of that visiting mission, please see our 5 and 6 May 2017 Dispatches from the Field.) Members are also eager to deepen their understanding of the current stage of the agreement’s implementation and get a better grasp of the political dynamics in Colombia, which continue to be marked by polarisation.
The Council became involved with Colombia upon receiving a 19 January 2016 letter from the president of Colombia with a request from the government and the FARC-EP to establish a political mission to monitor and verify the laying down of arms and the bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities between the two parties. The Council initially established the UN Mission in Colombia, a political mission to verify these two first elements of the process. Subsequently, in 2017, at the parties’ request, it set up the current UN Verification Mission in Colombia. The mandate of the current mission has two key elements: the verification of the reintegration of FARC-EP members into political, economic and social life and the implementation of personal and collective security and protection measures for former FARC-ED members as well as comprehensive security and protection measures for communities and organisations in conflict-affected areas.
The previous Council visiting mission to Colombia, in early May 2017, took place during the laydown of arms phase of the peace process. The upcoming mission will focus on several complex aspects of the reintegration of former combatants and the issues related to the security of former FARC-ED combatants and social and community leaders in conflict-affected areas. As in 2017, Council members will also use the visit to show support for the peace process and encourage the parties and the different actors in Colombian society to maintain their cooperation in the implementation of the peace agreement.
During the first full day of the visit, Friday (12 July), the delegation will meet in Bogotá with top government officials, including President Ivan Duque; FARC leadership; parliamentarians; and key entities involved in the implementation of the accord. Among that last category, meetings with representatives of the transitional justice system, the design of which had been one of the most controversial elements of the peace agreement, will be of particular importance. Members will be especially eager to learn about the recent political and legal breakthroughs that led to the entry into force on 6 June of the law governing the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), the judicial component of the transitional justice system established by the peace agreement. The delegation will also meet on Friday with representatives of non-governmental organisations and have a working lunch with the UN Country Team.
Through the meetings in Bogotá Council members are likely to seek a better understanding of the different actors’ approaches to the peace process and hear about ongoing challenges, as well as to assess the degree to which the peace process continues to be politically divisive, especially with respect to transitional justice issues.
From the government interlocutors, they are likely to be eager to hear about the process of bringing development and extending the state presence to former conflict areas, indispensable in addressing the root causes of the conflict.
In meetings with the UN Country Team, as well as with representatives of the different civil society groups, they will likely seek to obtain more information about the alarming levels of violence against community leaders, human rights defenders and women leaders, especially in areas formerly under FARC control.
Members will likely want to learn from their interlocutors their perspectives on the most recent developments concerning the politically divisive case of the former FARC-ED leader Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte, also known as Jesús Santrich. He had been chosen for one of the ten congressional seats granted to former FARC-EP members by the peace accord and was supposed to take up his post in July 2018 but was arrested in April 2018 on drug trafficking charges following a federal indictment in the US. He spent over a year in detention and was freed in May due to a decision of the SJP. He was re-arrested that same day based on new evidence, but on 28 May, the State Council upheld Hernández’s status as a member of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court decided that the national investigation against a member of the Congress is under its competence and ordered his release. On 11 June, having been sworn in, Hernández took his seat in the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court, as part of its own investigation, called him to appear at a hearing on 9 July. Hernández went missing upon learning of the summons. After he failed to appear at the 9 July hearing, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant against Hernández. He is believed to be in hiding and possibly out of the country.
On Saturday (13 July), the delegation will travel outside Bogotá to meet with rural community leaders to hear about their concerns and obtain eyewitness accounts of the security situation of social leaders. Concerns are likely to be raised as well about crop substitution programmes aimed at voluntary eradication of illicit crops that have been seen as inadequate by members of rural communities.
The full-day field trip will also include a visit to one of the 24 Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATR), where former FARC-EP members were relocated with their families following the peace accord. The current TATR population is estimated at about 8,000 individuals, of whom roughly 3,500 are former combatants and the rest are family members, including at least 800 children. Council members will most likely be keen to hear the views of TATR inhabitants about the next steps in their reintegration, as TATR mandates—which include some forms of government support, such as health and education services and the provision of monthly allowances—are due to expire in mid-August. Particularly interesting for members will be hearing the ex-combatants’ perspectives on the Government’s four-year National Development Plan, approved on 3 May, that makes provisions for continuing basic monthly allowances to former FARC-EP members in the reintegration process and for facilitating access to land for income-generating activities.