Yesterday, 7 February 2017, the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) initiated a public stage of peace discussions in Quito, Ecuador. On 30 March 2016, the Colombian government and the ELN had jointly announced that such discussions would begin promptly, following two years of prior negotiation, however the commencement was postponed on a number of occasions because of preconditions put in place by the Colombian government regarding the release of former Congressman Odín Sánchez Montes de Oca. On 18 January 2017, a deal was brokered, which permitted the release, on 2 February, of Mr. Sánchez and two imprisoned ELN members, paving the way for the installation of this public stage of peace talks.
OIDHACO applauds the aforementioned advances, which led to the peace negotiations between the Colombian government the ELN finally getting under way yesterday in Quito, Ecuador. We now call on both parties to declare a bilateral ceasefire so that these negotiations may be conducted in a more amicable climate and as a demonstration of the importance of advancing towards a complete and lasting peace in Colombia.
Although Quito will be the headquarters for these talks, sessions will also be held in Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba and Chile, the latter, together with Norway, will act as guarantors in this process. The parties outlined a six-point agenda for these negotiations: (1) Society’s participation in the construction of peace, (2) Democracy for peace, (3) Transformations for peace, (4) Victims, (5) Bring the conflict to an end, and (6) Implementation.
OIDHACO wishes to reiterate before the EU institutions, its member states, and Switzerland and Norway, the importance of supporting this peaceful and participative dialogue, which should include Colombian civil society representatives, victims, community leaders, women, indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian populations, in order to achieve a true peace in Colombia. For this to be possible, it is fundamental that the Colombian state provides all necessary guarantees for their participation, including prevention and protection protocols.
We call on the EU, its member states, and Switzerland and Norway, to support victims’ initiatives, as well as their inclusion in this new process, guaranteeing their access to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of no repetition. Furthermore, we urge that the aforementioned actors remain vigilant of the human rights situation, as well as the risks posed to those who defend such rights, considering the increased threats and killings perpetrated against them since the beginning of 2017, principally by paramilitary groups, putting at risk the implementation of the existing peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC.