Carlos Ruiz Massieu: “The assumption of war crimes by the FARC in Colombia is a historic milestone”

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Mexican diplomat Carlos Ruiz Massieu (Acapulco, 49 years old) believes in the healing power of truth. His experience with the victims of the conflict that confronted the Colombian State with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) between 1960 and 2016, has convinced him that “the delivery of arms” does not heal wounds in the absence of “justice , truth and reparation ”. After 25 years as a diplomat in his country and at the United Nations, Ruiz Massieu has been the head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia since 2019, whose mandate is to ensure that the 2016 peace agreement between the Government and the FARC is fulfilled. . During an interview this Tuesday with MRT at the Casa de América headquarters in Madrid, the UN representative stressed that the pact has entered a “crucial” phase for national reconciliation due to a “historic milestone”: recognition by former leaders of the guerrilla war crimes and against humanity for the kidnapping of 21,000 Colombians. The former leadership of the FARC took up these crimes in April before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the transitional court of justice provided for in the agreement.

Question. What significance does this recognition have when that court does not provide jail sentences?

Answer. We are facing a historical milestone that responds to an expectation of society and the country and satisfies the victims, who claim to know the truth and be recipients of a [petición de] sincere forgiveness. Acceptance of the acts committed is crucial because this peace agreement focuses on the victims obtaining truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition of the crimes.

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P. It’s enough?

R. Each victim processes their pain individually and those who cannot turn the page must also be respected. There are victims who just want to know, to know what happened to their relative in the case of the disappeared. Others need a request for forgiveness and there are other victims who want non-repetition. They do not even aspire to a repair. That call for others not to live what they have lived is the materialization of their generosity: it is no longer for them, it is for their children, for all Colombians. The obligation of those of us who contribute to this process is not only to look back but, above all, that the future in Colombia moves away from what the victims experienced. The justice provided by the Peace Agreement is more restorative than punitive.

P. Detractors of the agreement believe that peace has been exchanged for impunity.

R. The transitional justice of the agreement demolishes the false dilemma that justice must be sacrificed to obtain peace. A peace agreement is reached and a justice is applied that in the long run will be more beneficial for the country because it insists on reconciliation rather than on punitive elements.

P. The government of Iván Duque tried in vain to modify the statute of the peace court.

R. The important thing is that, once the Colombian Congress determined that the law was not modified, the Government respects the work of the court.

P. The JEP raises the “false positives” to 6,400 [civiles asesinados por militares para presentarlos como guerrilleros muertos en combate]. Duque has not recognized the responsibility of the State, although his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, has.

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R. Former President Santos [ministro de Defensa con los Gobiernos de Álvaro Uribe, entre 2002 y 2008, cuando se cometieron la mayor parte de esos asesinatos] He appeared before the Truth Commission, which is not legally binding. The President of the Commission [el sacerdote Francisco de Roux] He also invited former President Uribe, who did not agree to appear before the commission but did agree to meet with Father Roux.

P. Uribe denies his responsibility.

R. That’s how it is.

P. Do the causes of violence persist in Colombia?

R. Common denominators persist in areas where there are high levels of violence: the presence of armed groups, the limited state presence, few development opportunities, and activities such as drug trafficking and illegal mining. In the long term, it is necessary to increase the integral presence of the State as a structural response to security problems. In the short term, we need to continue to protect those who remain under threat.

P. Like the 276 ex-guerrillas killed since 2016, according to the UN, or the 49 human rights defenders killed in three months of 2021?

R. Many ex-combatants have led illegal crop substitution programs [especialmente, la hoja de coca] who are part of the agreement, so they are threatened by drug traffickers. Other times it’s about reckoning. Social leaders and human rights defenders, for their part, challenge the established order and that includes armed groups. In the case of defenders, they are also threatened because they are women. When they are indigenous, they bring together their leadership, being a woman and their condition as indigenous, which also happens with Afro-Colombian populations. The issue of security is the most pressing issue in the implementation of the peace agreement.

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P. What do you think of the UN management of the demonstrations that began on April 28 against the Government?

R. The United Nations and other institutions registered complaints of the disproportionate use of force by the security forces, as well as acts of vandalism by groups that took advantage of a generally peaceful protest to disturb public order. We await investigations that will punish those who have committed these excesses on both sides. The duty of the public force is to protect citizens.

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