Colombia: The Commission on Historical Truth has released its final report. Here are 5 key takeaways

The commission’s final report marks the culmination of hours of interviews with victims, gunmen and civil servants involved in the armed struggle between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The commission was created in 2016 as part of a historic peace agreement between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The 800-page report sheds light on human rights violations and criminal events that took place in Colombia during a 52-year armed conflict that killed up to 220,000 people and displaced up to 5 million people.

It also contains recommendations on how the country can move forward even as fighting continues despite the 2016 peace deal.

There is an “endless” list of victims

According to the commission, it remains unclear how many people died in the conflict, which has affected all aspects of Colombian society. A conservative estimate, according to the National Center for Historical Remembrance, is that more than 260,000 civilians have died as a result of the violence.

If you read aloud the names of all the victims of the conflict, it would take more than 17 years to list them all, Father Francisco de Ru, head of the Truth Commission, said Tuesday.

“The list is endless… the pain is huge,” he said.

The Commission also found that the vast majority of the victims of the conflict were civilians, and it is estimated that in the last 30 years of conflict alone, up to 34,000 children were forcibly recruited by the guerrillas.

The Truth Commission building in Bogota is covered with 540 meters of cloth woven by men and women belonging to the Seamstresses of Memory.

While Tuesday’s focus was on the final 800-page report with findings and recommendations, the 11-member commission also published nine additional volumes detailing historical events, testimonies, and transcripts of more than 14,000 interviews from 2016 to 2020.

The military should focus on human rights

The commission stated that the Colombian armed forces violated human rights and waged a criminal war throughout the conflict. Now they are calling on the armed forces for sweeping reform, arguing that “a security-based approach does not provide security.”

De Roo called on the authorities to reorient the military towards human rights and international law, and called for the creation of a civilian police force. (In Colombia, the police are part of the Ministry of Defense, and police officers are often trained and work with military units.)

Rethink the War on Drugs

The Commission recommends that the government reverse its war on drugs. The report states that the drug trade is so prevalent in Colombian society that it should be seen as a political entity and not as an object of repressive measures.

He calls for an end to the practice of aerial fumigation to control rural coca crops due to the negative impact it has on health, food security and the environment.

And while successive Colombian governments have celebrated the extradition of powerful drug traffickers, the commission advises that so many requests for victims’ rights be stopped. Instead, they advise that drug traffickers be tried in Colombia.

The outgoing president of Colombia was absent

While the work of the commission was praised internationally, in particular by the US ambassador to Colombia, the event on Tuesday was conspicuously absent from incumbent President Ivan Duque, who was abroad.

In 2016, Duque campaigned against the peace agreement that led to the creation of the Truth Commission, and although he swore to uphold the agreement when he became president, security deteriorated under his supervision.

Duque’s party, the Democratic Center whose leader Álvaro Uribe presided over one of the bloodiest phases of the armed conflict, released a statement on Tuesday saying: versions around the events that took place during the war.

In the meantime, President-elect Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla who was elected this month as the country’s first left-wing leader in Colombian history, was present. He received the final report from the hands of Roux on behalf of the Colombian people. Its opening will take place in August.

The report is not legally binding

Although the commission’s report represents the most comprehensive investigation into human rights violations and criminal acts that took place during the armed conflict, it has no legal force.

As part of the 2016 peace agreement, a special Peace Tribunal is tasked with investigating and sentencing gunmen from both the armed forces and the guerrillas.

The role of the Truth Commission was to provide recommendations to prevent a recurrence of such a conflict.