The Human Rights Ombudsman’s office (Defensoría) issues an “early warning” alert about armed groups’ activities during the COVID-19 emergency. Between March 23 and April 27, the agency documents 72 threats or other violent acts that groups have justified by claiming enforcement of public health measures. It documents ten cases in which armed groups killed people for violating the quarantine rules that they had put in place. Of 41 violent acts, the Defensoría finds FARC dissidents responsible for 14, the ELN for 11, neo-paramilitary groups 6, the EPL 2, and the rest other organized crime groups or unknown armed actors.
The ELN’s one-month unilateral ceasefire comes to an end. ELN negotiators who have been in Havana since talks broke down in January 2019 reiterate a demand that they be allowed to leave Cuba and re-enter Colombia. The Colombian think-tank CERAC, which maintains a database of conflict events, reports that it could not verifiably document a single offensive action by the ELN during this period, or indeed since March 12, 2020. It does note a few ELN aggressions during this period, but cannot state clearly whether the guerrilla group was the first to act in any of the cases.
Citing their vulnerability to COVID-19 while imprisoned, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) orders house arrest for 25 people accused of committing war crimes while serving in the security forces. On April 22, the JEP’s Legal Situations Chamber denied release to two former senior officers, Colonels Joaquín Correa López y Jorge Eliécer Plazas Acevedo, both over 60 years old. The JEP mandated that they be granted humanitarian protective measures while detained.
Analysis of the end of the ELN’s one-month ceasefire with Andrés Aponte (CINEP), César Grajales (Diakonia), Abid Manuel (Foro Interétnico de Chocó), and Professor Socorro Ramírez, moderated by Naryi Vargas.
A statement from the Colombian Catholic church’s Episcopal Conference voices “pain and concern” about increasing levels of violence and human rights abuse in several regions of the country, and calls on all armed groups to engage in a ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to a proposal by governing-party congressman Edward Rodríguez, High Commissioner for Stabilization and Consolidation Emilio Archila says that the government has no intention to take funds intended for peace accord implementation and divert them to COVID-19 public health needs.
A presidential decree lowers judicial penalties to members of criminal groups who agree to demobilize peacefully and submit to the High Commissioner for Peace.
It does not apply to the ELN, whose “political character” the state recognizes, making benefits available to individual ELN deserters. It applies instead to FARC dissident groups, the Gulf Clan and Caparros neo-paramilitary groups, and the Pelusos or EPL. These are the groups that, according to the government, meet the Geneva Conventions Protocol II definition of those “which, under responsible command, exercise such control over a part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations.”
The ELN announces that it will not renew the one-month unilateral ceasefire that it declared for April, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was unfortunate that the Duque government did not respond in a reciprocal manner,” reads the guerrilla communiqué. The ELN missive calls for its negotiators to be allowed to leave Cuba, where they have been since peace talks broke down in January 2019, and re-enter Colombia as agreed in the talks’ protocols.
“We think there’s an enormous lack of harmony between the ELN’s leaders. Two have made declarations, one in Cuba and one is in Venezuela,” says High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos. “It would seem that they don’t have good contact with their organization’s members and they seem disconnected with the reality that needs non-violent action.”
Earlier in the day, the UN Mission in Colombia had called on the ELN to prolong the ceasefire.
CERAC, a Bogotá think-tank that monitors security, measured no ELN offensive actions during April.
In a letter responding to the Defendamos la Paz coalition, Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, declares his concern for attacks on social leaders and his intention to visit Colombia.