‘FARC should demonstrate commitment to peace’: UN

Posted on Apr 3 2014 - 1:23pm by Rico
Todd Howland (Photo: Personeria de Cali)

The United Nations’ human rights office in Colombia on Wednesday asked the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, to demonstrate its commitment to the ongoing peace process by agreeing to a series of proposals.

Todd Howland, the representative of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Colombia, presented the proposals at a regional human rights meeting in Medellin.

Howland requested that the FARC disclose information regarding the hostages that are currently being held by the guerrilla organization, “In regards to the hostages, it is important that the FARC provide information about the number  of hostages, their names, and what happened with them, because it is part of establishing justice in post-conflict scenario.”

The FARC allegedly banned kidnapping in early 2012, in what appeared to be a prelude to peace talks that were announced in August 2012. Since then, the FARC admitted to only have held “prisoners of war” captive.

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Howland also called on the FARC, as well as the guerrillas of the smaller ELN to discontinue their use of antipersonnel land mines, and provide the location of the mines to avoid further civilian casualties.

“We are also asking the FARC and the ELN to acknowledge their use of landmines, and to help locate these mines, since they have created a situation where people live in constant fear,” said the UN representative.

In a previous interview, a representative of the NGO Campaign Against Mines in Colombia told Colombia Reports that the issue of landmines must be part of the peace talks “to avoid any more civilian deaths… the continued use of landmines is infringing on the rural communities’ rights to enjoy their land.”

According to CCCM, since dialogues started with the FARC in November 2012, 144 civilians have been victims of land mines – “between deaths, lesions, and mutilations.” Sixty of those were minors.

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The OHCHR’s final request was that the country’s two major guerrilla groups immediately cease their recruitment and use of child soldiers in the armed convict.

“They must collaborate with the national government to implement a plan of action that effectively removes the children from their ranks,” said Howland.

A report released recently by the Group for Humanitarian Attention of Demobilized People (GAHD), working with the Colombian Ministry of Defense, stated that Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, along with the smaller ELN  have recruited 1,387 children in the past two years.

The recruitment of child soldiers has been a humanitarian issue throughout the 50 years of armed conflict between Colombia’s armed guerrilla groups and the government with many international bodies working to try and end the practice.

The FARC has been fighting the Colombian state since its foundation in 1964. A reported 5 million Colombians have been displaced from their homes, as a result of fighting between the rebels, the Colombian military and state-aligned paramilitary groups.

The rebel group is currently negotiating a political way out of the conflict with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos.

This represents the fourth historic attempt at peace talks between the government and the FARC.


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