1st LD Writethru: UN envoy for Colombia stresses importance of transitional justice

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UNITED NATIONS, April 12 (Xinhua) -- The UN envoy for Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, on Friday stressed the importance of transitional justice in a country that saw more than five decades of civil war between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Recent weeks have been dominated by divisive debates in Colombia regarding the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), an extrajudicial court system for the sake of reconciliation, Massieu told the Security Council.

Last month, President Ivan Duque objected to six articles of the draft statutory law of the JEP. Following a vote against these objections in the Chamber of Representatives earlier this week, consideration of the objections is pending in the Senate, said Massieu.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for prompt action by all parties concerned to ensure that a statutory law consistent with the peace agreement between the government and FARC is put in place as soon as possible, he noted.

This statutory law is the last missing element of the legal framework for the JEP and a necessary one to ensure that this institution can operate with the necessary independence and autonomy, said Massieu, who is also head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.

The JEP continues to advance its work with impressive results, he said. It has now initiated seven large cases that are examining significant violations affecting 820,000 victims. Moreover, close to 9,700 former FARC members and almost 2,000 individuals from government forces have subjected themselves to its authority.

President Duque has also announced his intention to propose three reforms to the articles of the Constitution underpinning the transitional justice framework of the peace agreement, said Massieu.

Any such initiatives should not be applied in a retroactive manner to those who laid down their arms in good faith and on the strength of commitments made under the peace agreement, he said.

In a climate of uncertainty for victims, for those subject to the JEP, for FARC members awaiting funding for social and economic reintegration, and for communities who have suffered from the conflict, the greatest uncertainty would be to reopen core elements of the underlying peace agreement itself, he warned.

The UN envoy asked for more investment in the reintegration of ex-combatants. "Nearly two years after they laid down their arms, a critical challenge is to maintain their optimism in the face of the continued uncertainties about their future."

Individual and collective projects for 1,774 former FARC members, including 520 women, have been approved. A recent census identified more than 10,500 former FARC members within the reintegration process, he said.

"I encourage the government to accelerate the approval of more projects and the prompt disbursement of funds, as well as the implementation of a gender-sensitive approach and timely decisions on access to land."

On proposals for the future status of the 24 "Territorial Areas" where former FARC combatants live before their reintegration, Massieu said it is important to ensure an inclusive discussion on those proposals that involves former combatants as well as local authorities. These decisions should be taken and communicated to the former combatants as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition, he said.

The current legal status of the 24 areas expires on Aug. 15, 2019.

The killings of community leaders, human rights defenders and former FARC combatants continue and remain a grave concern, said the envoy.

The deployment of Colombian military and police near the Territorial Areas is critical, but violent competition among illegal armed groups for territorial control in areas outside of these security perimeters continues to threaten the security of former combatants and communities, as well as to undercut the overall peace implementation efforts, he warned.

The Colombian government and FARC struck a peace deal in August 2016 after four years of negotiations in Havana, Cuba, ending a five-decades-long conflict in the country.

The UN Verification Mission in Colombia, mandated by the Security Council, is tasked to verify the reintegration of former FARC fighters. Enditem

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