Sending Office: Honorable James P. McGovern
Sent By:
Cindy.Buhl@mail.house.gov

Support Peace and Human Rights in Colombia

 

Dear Colleague,

            Please join us on a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo in support of fully implementing the historic 2016 Colombian peace accords and protecting human rights defenders and social leaders in grave danger from escalating attacks and murder.

            The U.S.-supported peace process offers Colombia an opportunity to end nearly sixty years of violent conflict during which more than 261,000 Colombians lost their lives, eight million people were internally displaced, and tens of thousands of
people disappeared.  Initial implementation of the process successfully disarmed and demobilized over 13,000 FARC combatants.  In 2017, the national homicide rate dropped to its lowest level in decades, and many areas of the countryside experienced the first
taste of security.

            Today, however, serious concern about the status of the peace process is increasing. On April 16th, the U.N. Security Council warned that “the Colombian peace process stands today at a critical juncture.”  In his remarks before the
Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen stated that the United States is “deeply concerned about the continuing attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders” and called on the Colombian government to “redouble its
efforts to protect these vulnerable members of society” and ensure “meaningful justice for victims and accountability for the crimes committed during so many years of armed conflict” as “vital to reconciliation.”

            Advancing and consolidating peace requires sustained attention and investment.  Please join us on this letter calling for the United States to stand firm in its support for the 2016 peace accords and a unified and unifying message in support
of human rights and the rule of law.

            To sign onto the letter or for additional information , please contact Cindy Buhl (McGovern) at
cindy.buhl@mail.house.gov; Jamila Thompson (Lewis-GA) at
jamila.thompson@mail.house.gov; or Robert Marcus (Schakowsky) at
robert.marcus@mail.house.gov.  Deadline to sign on is COB Friday, May 17th.

Sincerely,

James P. McGovern                            John Lewis                                          Jan Schakowsky

Member of Congress                          Member of Congress                          Member of Congress

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Dear Secretary Pompeo,

We write with grave concern about the implementation of the 2016 Colombian Peace Accords and the continuing escalation of murders and attacks against human rights defenders and social leaders.

We strongly urge you to insist that the Colombian government fully implement the historic peace accords reached with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and to protect the country’s human rights defenders, who remain in grave danger. Initiatives
by the Colombian government to weaken or overturn accord commitments should be emphatically opposed.

The U.S.-backed peace process offers a unique opportunity to end nearly sixty years of violent conflict, during which more than 261,000 Colombians lost their lives, eight million people were internally displaced, and tens of thousands of people were disappeared.
Initial implementation of the process successfully resulted in the disarmament and demobilization of over 13,000 FARC combatants. In 2017, the national homicide rate dropped to the lowest level in decades, and many areas of the countryside experienced the
first taste of security.

Today, though, serious concerns are rising. On April 16th, the United Nations Security Council warned that “the peace process stands today at a critical juncture.” Continued implementation of the accord is being hampered by bureaucracy and decisions
by the Duque Administration to reduce funding and rewrite elements of the accord on transitional justice and the return of land to victims of displacement. The government has been slow to expand the civilian presence of the state into areas affected by the
conflict.  Programs to reintegrate former combatants into economic life are advancing, but too slowly.

Consolidating peace requires sustained attention and investment. The accord provides Colombia a roadmap to better serve its forgotten rural citizens, tackle illicit drug production and organized crime, and address the inequality that fueled the conflict. 
Unfortunately, the Colombian government has not dismantled other illegal armed groups, including paramilitary successor groups, nor investigated their links to corrupt security forces, local politicians or business interests. As a result, illegal armed groups
are expanding their reach into areas from which the FARC had withdrawn, and some ex-combatants have lost faith in the peace process and rearmed. 

The U.S. government has a major stake in the successful implementation of the Colombian peace accords.  Full implementation of the chapters on rural development and illicit crops would reduce the susceptibility of vast territories to armed group activity
and illicit drug production. Encouraging the Colombian government to fully carry out its comprehensive commitments to help small farmers voluntarily eradicate and replace coca production is in the best interests of the United States and offers a far more sustainable
solution than forced eradication or a return to aerial herbicide spraying.  As civilian government presence expands, good governance extends to ungoverned spaces, and peace is consolidated, durable advances in reducing coca can occur.

We strongly urge you to communicate unwavering American support for the three elements of the transitional justice system – the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the Truth Commission, and the Unit to Search for the Disappeared.  U.S. pressure to modify
elements of the JEP, after Colombia’s Constitutional Court upheld its statutory law, has sent an unfortunate signal regarding the rule of law and threatens to unravel a key element of the accord. “In a climate of uncertainty,” the UN’s special representative
in Colombia warned, “the greatest uncertainty would be to reopen core elements of the underlying peace agreement itself.” 

We urge you, Mr. Secretary, to ensure coordinated, whole-of-government diplomacy with one central and consistent message: urging the Colombian government to fully implement the 2016 peace accord.  In that regard, we welcome the recent remarks by U.S. Ambassador
Jonathan Cohen before the U.N. Security Council. We further emphasize the vital importance of continuing USAID’s carefully targeted programming to support accord implementation, protect the rights of victims of the conflict, and support local development and
peacebuilding efforts by Afro-Colombian and indigenous organizations.

The accord’s slow implementation is significantly and adversely affecting human rights defenders and social leaders leading the recovery in war-torn areas. According to Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office
(Defensoría), 431 human rights defenders and community leaders were killed between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2018.  Most of these leaders, including many Afro-Colombian and indigenous people, were urging their neighbors to eradicate coca, defending
the rights of victims, and building peace in their communities. The accords included mechanisms designed specifically to protect such leaders. The government’s failure to implement these protection measures is a key factor behind the increase in murders, threats,
and attacks.

We therefore ask you to vigorously press the Colombian government to carry out the measures agreed to in the peace accord to protect defenders. This includes convening and granting sufficient powers to the National Security Guarantees Commission to develop
and advance plans to dismantle illegal armed groups and protect human rights defenders; helping communities at risk develop and launch protection plans; and ensuring that the designated special unit in the Attorney General’s office is effectively dismantling
paramilitary successor and organized crime groups. The Colombian government should develop individual and collective protection and prevention measures for human rights defenders and community leaders in consultation and coordination with those defenders who
are at risk.

In closing, we underscore the importance of the United States using every diplomatic channel to encourage the Colombian government to implement the accord’s ethnic chapter to ensure protection and respect for the rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities,
with special attention to preserving their collective territories.

Mr. Secretary, recognizing that the long-term interests of the United States are best served by a stable, rights-respecting Colombia, we ask you to provide a unified and unifying message that the United States supports full implementation of the 2016 peace
accord and stands by its partner in consolidating peace, promoting and respecting human rights, and advancing the rule of law.  

Thank you for your consideration of these vital matters.

 

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