On Tuesday, June 28, the Truth Commission of Colombia presented its final report, documenting deaths, forced disappearances, torture and other human rights violations committed by all sides in the armed conflict in Colombia, during the years 1985–2018. Reverend Francisco de Roux, who headed the Truth Commission, presented the report in an official event at the Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Theatre in Bogota. Neither the outgoing President Iván Duque nor any member of his cabinet was present at the meeting; the government of Colombia was represented by the advisor on stabilization, Juan Carlos Vargas. On the other hand, President-elect Gustavo Petro and Vice President-elect Francia Márquez attended the event, and highlighted the importance of the Commission’s report and recommendations.
The Truth Commission has estimated that more than 450,000 people died in Colombia between 1985 and 2018, a period during which the United States provided key support to the Colombian Army and right-wing paramilitaries attacking leftist groups, social justice activists, indigenous leaders and trade unionists.
The Truth Commission report denounced the US-funded drug war in Colombia, stating, “The consequences of this concerted and largely US-driven approach made the conflict harsher, in which the civilian population has been the main victim.”
“Estamos convencidos que hay un camino para construir juntos en medio de nuestras legitimas diferencias”: @FranciscoDeRoux , presidente @ComisionVerdadC #HayFuturoSiHayVerdad ► https://t.co/k4B5eXVzW2 pic.twitter.com/SB0q3xlcMr
— Comisión de la Verdad (@ComisionVerdadC) June 28, 2022
Reverend Francisco de Roux, on presenting the report, stated, “We ask the government, the security forces, political parties, businesspeople, churches, educators and other decision-makers in Colombia, to recognize the penetration of drug trafficking in the culture, the State, politics and the economy, and face it as a nation, develop the investigative instrument to confront the system of alliances and interests involved, to change the policy of war that attacks the peasants and the most vulnerable.”
The report detailed that during 1985-2018, the main perpetrators of homicide were paramilitary groups, which killed 205,028 people (45% of all deaths). Guerrilla groups are next on the list, killing 122,813 victims (27%). Among the rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were responsible for 96,952 victims, the National Liberation Army (ELN) for 17,725 victims, and other guerrillas killed 8,496. The police and the armed forces murdered 56,094 people, which amount to 12% of all reported deaths.
The report also clarified that, given the fact that 52% of the cases in the original database for which it is not known who are responsible, there is high uncertainty in terms of responsibility. Therefore, “the most probable data in a defined range of uncertainty has been used,” the report noted.
The Truth Commission itself was not immune to the culture of death in Colombia. Two of its members, Alfredo Molano and Ángela Salazar, were killed by paramilitary forces during the course of the Commission’s four years of investigation.
The departments where the highest number of murders were reported are listed as follows:
Antioquia: 125,980 victims (28%)
Valle del Cauca: 41,201 victims (9.1%)
Norte de Santander: 21,418 victims (4.8%)
Cauca: 19,473 victims (4.3%)
Cesar: 16,728 victims (3.7%).
The report added that the decade with the most victims was between 1995 and 2004, a period in which approximately 45% of all the reported murders were committed (202,293 victims).
These data were obtained by the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), together with the Human Rights Violations Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). The study also included 112 databases provided by 42 State institutions, organizations of victims of violence and their families, and civil society organizations.
In the results of the first compilation of data, 26 million records were obtained. Of those, 12.8 million passed the filters, corresponding to records of individuals with at least the following data: name, surname, year, and region. After eliminating duplicate records, 8,775,884 unique individuals were registered in the integrated database.
This is one of the largest projects that has been carried out to date on human rights violations in the world. In fact, the submission of the final report by the Truth Commission is a historic act, since this is the first time in the history of Colombia that a state-sanctioned body has reconstructed the memory of the armed conflict.
In addition, the Truth Commission report makes two key recommendations to the state in order to overcome judicial impunity in matters of human rights violations: reform of the election of the prosecutor, and limiting extradition to foreign countries, particularly to the US, in order to prioritize investigations in Colombia.
The Truth Commission expressed that the findings and recommendations, which are the result of four years of exhaustive work, will contribute significantly to the dignity of the victims and have a real impact on public policies and on the Colombian population in general.
According to Reverend de Roux, the report represents “a message of hope and future for our hurt and broken nation. Uncomfortable truths that challenge our dignity, a message for all of us as human beings, beyond political or ideological positions, cultural and religious beliefs, differences of ethnicity or gender. We bring a message of truth in order to stop intolerable tragedy of the conflict.”
“We are convinced that there is a way build back everything, working together in spite of our legitimate differences,” he added.
President-elect Gustavo Petro announced that the Truth Commission’s recommendations will be analyzed by his new government, and working together with the most vulnerable communities, those recommendations will be incorporated effectively.
(Resumen Latinoamericano) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune