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Colombia

The conflict in Colombia killed over 200,000 people between 1958-2013. To help those affected, and begin to bridge historic divides, the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation is advising the Colombian Truth Commission on the best tools for collecting, documenting and sharing the stories of the conflict’s survivors – an integral step to ensuring lasting peace in the country.

Project Overview

Context

Despite being one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, for more than six decades Colombia was afflicted by a long-standing armed struggle between the government, guerrillas and paramilitaries, resulting in a wide spectrum of human rights violations, including forced disappearances, kidnappings, forced displacement and sexual and gender-based violence. From 2012 to 2016, the Government of Colombia (GoC) held peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was the largest leftist guerrilla group in the country. Following strong pressure from victims’ groups and associations, the parties to the negotiation eventually agreed to address the victims’ claims as a central element to the terms of any possible settlement. A final peace agreement was completed on August 24, 2016.

Project Details

Since 2016, the GIJTR has been working with Colombian victims’ groups and, later, the Truth Commission – which formally began on November 29, 2018 – to address a range of identified needs in the country, including accounting for victims of enforced disappearance, analyzing the mechanisms proposed in the peace agreement, and assessing whether the mechanisms adequately addressed victims’ needs related to truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Through this project, “Supporting Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Colombia,” the GIJTR has led initiatives that facilitate effective communication between victims and the Truth Commission, including exchanges and technical capacity-building trainings for civil society organizations working on forced disappearances to develop skills in forensic techniques; roundtables with state institutions and local and regional archival specialists to develop technical recommendations to strengthen the effectiveness of  transitional justice mechanisms’ access to state archives; and sponsoring capacity-building workshop for communities to develop truth-telling initiatives that support the country’s truth, justice and reconciliation endeavors.

GIJTR Resources

Access to Information in State Institutions: A GIJTR Recommendations Report

Spanish

English

Creating Channels of Trust: Community Truth-Telling in Outlying Regions in Colombia

Spanish

English

French

Experiences of Civil Society Participation in Truth Commissions in Latin American South-South Dialogues: Commissions of South Africa and Sierra Leone (With the Latin American and Caribbean Sites of Conscience Network)

Spanish

English

Project Fact Sheet

English

GIJTR Partners

Context

Despite being one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, for more than six decades Colombia was afflicted by a long-standing armed struggle between the government, guerrillas and paramilitaries, resulting in a wide spectrum of human rights violations, including forced disappearances, kidnappings, forced displacement and sexual and gender-based violence. From 2012 to 2016, the Government of Colombia (GoC) held peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was the largest leftist guerrilla group in the country. Following strong pressure from victims’ groups and associations, the parties to the negotiation eventually agreed to address the victims’ claims as a central element to the terms of any possible settlement. A final peace agreement was completed on August 24, 2016.

Project Details

Since 2016, the GIJTR has been working with Colombian victims’ groups and, later, the Truth Commission – which formally began on November 29, 2018 – to address a range of identified needs in the country, including accounting for victims of enforced disappearance, analyzing the mechanisms proposed in the peace agreement, and assessing whether the mechanisms adequately addressed victims’ needs related to truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Through this project, “Supporting Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Colombia,” the GIJTR has led initiatives that facilitate effective communication between victims and the Truth Commission, including exchanges and technical capacity-building trainings for civil society organizations working on forced disappearances to develop skills in forensic techniques; roundtables with state institutions and local and regional archival specialists to develop technical recommendations to strengthen the effectiveness of  transitional justice mechanisms’ access to state archives; and sponsoring capacity-building workshop for communities to develop truth-telling initiatives that support the country’s truth, justice and reconciliation endeavors.

Project Objectives

Support civil society organizations in collecting and preserving the stories of marginalized communities

Bolster the capacities of CSOs and communities to design locally-led and culturally appropriate materials and activities to raise awareness about the Truth Commission and the Search Unit, to engage communities in collective truth-telling, to encourage intergenerational dialogue for non-repetition of human rights abuses, and to strengthen archival techniques to develop both oral archives and digital repositories.

Facilitate effective participation of civil society organizations in transitional justice mechanisms

Support the non-judicial transitional justice mechanisms (the Truth Commission and the Search Unit) and the CSOs working with them by ensuring that CSO documentation meets the standards of, and is useful to, the transitional justice mechanisms.

Connect Colombian civil society organizations with similar groups in other Latin American countries

Enhance the capacity of local CSOs in the areas of acknowledgement, reconciliation, non-repetition and enforced disappearance by providing opportunities for exchange of experiences with other Latin American CSOs.

Improve the coordination of the Search Unit and regional CSOs to advance initiatives for the investigation, search, recovery, and identifications of the missing and disappeared in Colombia

Strengthen the technical capacities and forensics understanding of CSOs working in outlying regions of Colombia to advocate on behalf of families of the disappeared and to monitor initiatives undertaken for search, recovery and identification of victims.

Leading with the Local

I think of a woman I met in the Wayúu territory, who survived a brutal massacre. She escaped a mass killing by jumping over bodies and hiding in bushes… She had grabbed hold of her daughters while doing so and managed to save them too. But it was very hard for her to start speaking about this. Through knitting the mochila testimony bags in our program, she gradually became able to share her experience. Surrounded by others – a small group of 10-20 people like her – she, little by little, got relief. Later, through our program, she was able to meet with the Truth Commission on her first trip to Bogota.

Darío Colmenares Millán

Program Director, Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation

Project Activities

An exhibition during the celebration of the Day of Missing and Disappeared Persons at Bolivar Square in Bogotá in August 2013. The conflict in Colombia claimed the lives of over 200,000 people between 1958-2013.
Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman (r), Senior Program Director at the GIJTR, talks with a participant at a truth-telling project development workshop in Bogotá in July 2019.
The truth-telling development workshop led to the creation of seven truth-telling projects conducted in marginalized communities throughout the country.
In November 2019, GIJTR partners led a workshop for civil society organizations to assist them in collecting documentation that could be used by the Truth Commission.
Participants in the documentation workshop collaborate.
Children gather at a GIJTR-sponsored community mural - one of seven supported by the project - that was made in partnership with the Ethnic Afrocolombian Community Council of Guacoche in Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia.
Another GIJTR truth-telling project in which women victims of the armed conflict from El Castillo created hand-woven dolls in honor of their missing and killed loved ones.
Each doll contained a recording that shared the survivor's stories at exhibitions in local community centers, helping to spread knowledge and understanding of the conflict to multiple generations. For more information about the GIJTR's truth-telling projects, see below.

Creating Channels of Trust

To promote healing, awareness and accountability, the GIJTR supported seven truth-telling projects in marginalized communities, projects that have been shared and replicated throughout Colombia.