Colombia’s victims of conflict ‘a priority’ for the state

Posted on Apr 9 2014 - 7:19am by Rico
An estimated 220,000 people have been killed in Colombia's 50-year-long armed conflict

An estimated 220,000 people have been killed in Colombia’s 50-year-long armed conflict

Colombia says providing reparations for the victims of its armed conflict is “a priority” as the country marks the National Day of Memory and Solidarity.

The government body in charge of reparations – the Unit for Attention and Reparation of Victims – says it has compensated more than 360,000 people.

Director Paula Gaviria tells the BBC the victims are “at the centre” of the government’s peace plan.

She says there are more than six million registered victims in total.

Referring to the much derided demobilisation in 2005 of Colombia’s righting paramilitaries – many of whom went on to join criminal gangs and continued terrorising the local population – Ms Gaviria says Colombia has learned from past mistakes that the victims have to have a voice in any peace process.

No truce

The government is currently holding peace talks with Colombia’s largest left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), and has agreed to enter into talks with the second largest group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

It has, however, refused to enter into a truce with either group and confrontations between the security forces and the rebels continue even as talks with the Farc are under way in Havana, Cuba.

Ms Gaviria tells the BBC during a visit to London that Colombia is unique in starting the process of victim reparation while the conflict is still raging.

Created as part of the Victims’ Law passed by the Colombian Congress in 2011, the unit aims to compensate victims of the country’s long-running civil conflict and return land to millions of displaced people.

Some farmers who lost their properties under pressure from rebels or paramilitaries have been able to return

Some farmers who lost their properties under pressure from rebels or paramilitaries have been able to return

Of the 6.2 million registered victims, more than five million are internally displaced.

While the state aims to return as many of them who so wish to their places of origin, this has not always been possible.

Colombia tops the list of internally displace people according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Colombia tops the list of internally displace people according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Their security cannot always be guaranteed, especially in areas where armed groups still hold sway.

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