A chronology of events related to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia.

January 27, 2020

  • A civilian judge sends to preventive prison, pending trial, an Army colonel who allegedly green-lighted the April 22 murder of former FARC combatant Dimar Torres in Catatumbo. “This man should be killed,” Col. Jorge Armando Pérez Amézquita reportedly said of Torres, whose murder by soldiers caused a national outcry. “We can’t stand to see him captured only to get fat in jail.” The corporal who carried out the deed was sentenced to 20 years in prison in late 2019.

Tags: Army, Civil-Military Relations, Justice System, Protection of Excombatants

January 27, 2020

  • Senate President Lidio García raises the possibility that the body might re-visit legislation, foreseen in the peace accord, that would create 16 temporary congressional districts for conflict victims, not political parties. Though legislation to create these districts won a majority of Senate votes in late 2017, the absence of senators from the chamber raised questions about whether a quorum existed. A quorum did exist if one excluded the seats of senators who had been suspended, for corruption or similar reasons, but the legislation was ruled as failing to pass, and the special districts were not created for the 2018 legislative elections. In light of a 2019 Constitutional Court decision on the quorum question, Senator García signals an intention to send the 2017 bill to President Duque as approved legislation. If Duque signs it, the temporary seats for victims, representing 16 conflict zones, would be created.
  • High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos casts doubt on the temporary congressional districts, contending that the Constitutional Court’s 2019 decision cannot be applied retroactively to a vote that took place in 2017.

Tags: Congress of Colombia, Constitutional Court, High Commissioner for Peace, Politics of Peace, Special Congressional Districts, Victims

January 27, 2020

  • The Colombian government sends to the UN Human Rights Council a strongly worded, 20-page statement taking issue with the work of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michael Forst. On December 26, 2019, Forst had published a report that was quite critical of the government’s response to the crisis of killings of social leaders, relying significantly on data from non-governmental sources. The Colombian government had refused to allow Forst to revisit the country for a follow-up visit.

Tags: Attacks on social leaders, Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders, UN

January 26, 2020

  • The FARC political party suffers some high-profile defections. Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch citizen who joined the guerrillas in 2002 and was part of the negotiating team in Cuba, left the party “because I’ve had years without feeling in sync with what is decided, discussed, or planned.” Also leaving for political reasons was Martín Batalla, who ran one of the most successful ex-combatant reintegration processes. Neither defector appeared to be taking up arms—just leaving the ex-guerrilla political party.

Tags: FARC Political Future, Politics of Peace

January 24, 2020

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) refuses to admit Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40,” the former head of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)’s northern bloc, currently imprisoned in the United States for narcotrafficking. The JEP notes that Tovar should have submitted to the Justice and Peace process set up for paramilitary leaders after 2006, but that he did not.

Tags: JEP, Paramilitarism, Transitional Justice

January 24, 2020

  • Hernando Londoño, director of the program implementing the peace accords’ crop substitution commitments (Comprehensive National Program for Illicit Crops, or PNIS), causes a stir by alleging that no leaders of coca substitution efforts have been killed. While dozens of people involved in coca substitution efforts have been murdered, Londoño tells El Espectador, they have not been leaders of coca farmer associations. He goes on to allege that “one or two last year” were killed because they were demanding kickbacks from the payments that coca growers were receiving from the PNIS program. “Those who have been killed were obviously involved in the program,” Londoño went on, “which is regrettable and should not happen, but many cases have to do with the same coca leaf business.”

Tags: Attacks on social leaders, Crop Substitution, Directorate for Illicit Crop Substitution

January 23, 2020

  • The U.S. Department of Justice communicates that top former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, who headed the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), will be returned to Colombia on March 27, twelve years after his extradition to the United States. A Colombian judge has determined that Mancuso has already served his required jail time under the “Justice and Peace” process that governed the AUC’s 2003-06 demobilization, though he must continue to cooperate with that process. Mancuso intends to collaborate with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) because, as a landowner, he supported paramilitary groups for several years before becoming a paramilitary leader.

Tags: Extradition, Paramilitarism, Transitional Justice, U.S. Policy

January 23, 2020

  • A delegation from the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor’s Office completes a four-day visit to Colombia. In a statement, the Office “reiterates the importance of the SJP [Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP] and the necessity to maintain its integrity and independence, as well as the need to provide it with the necessary resources and support to carry out its important mandate.”

Tags: International Criminal Court, JEP, Transitional Justice

January 19, 2020

  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized by dozens of countries including the United States and Colombia as the country’s legitimate president, pays a visit to President Duque in Bogotá.

Tags: Venezuela

January 15, 2020

  • High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos says that Colombia will ask for a delay of its commitment to the Ottawa Landmine Treaty, extending the original goal of demining the country by 2021. This is in part due to an increase in use of landmines by armed groups, with more victims in 2019 than 2018.

Tags: Landmines, Security Deterioration

January 15, 2020

  • The CEO of the International Development Finance Corporation, a U.S. government body that issues loans and loan guarantees, visits Tumaco, the Pacific coast municipality that leads all Colombian municipalities in land area planted with coca. Adam Boehler promises US$5 billion in financing for private development projects, and witnesses a coca eradication operation.
Photo source: César Carrión, Colombian Presidency
Photo source: César Carrión, Colombian Presidency

Tags: Coca, Illicit Crop Eradication, U.S. Aid, U.S. Policy

January 15, 2020

  • Colombia’s Foreign Ministry sends a formal extradition request to Cuba for ELN negotiators who remain on the island. Those wanted include the group’s maximum leader, Nicolás Rodríguez alias “Gabino,” and former chief negotiator Pablo Beltrán. The ELN members were in Cuba in January 2019, when President Duque shut down peace talks following the ELN’s bloody attack on the Colombian National Police Cadet School in Bogotá. Negotiation protocols signed by the Santos government had arranged for the negotiators’ return to Colombia if talks broke down. The Duque government rejected those protocols and demand that Cuba turn the negotiators over.

Tags: Cuba, ELN, ELN Peace Talks, Extradition

January 14, 2020

  • In Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo, Jordan Tovar becomes the 17th social leader murdered in Colombia during the first 14 days of 2020.
  • A statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights offers grim numbers, which contradict the Colombian Presidency’s earlier claims of a 25 percent reduction in social leader killings during 2019. The UN agency’s 2020 count is smaller because it doesn’t count fully verified killings.

We are deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019. According to our records, 107 activists were killed last year, and our staff in Colombia are still in the process of verifying 13 additional cases reported during 2019 which, if confirmed, would raise the annual total to 120 killings. Attacks on human rights defenders had already intensified during 2018, when 115 killings were confirmed by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia. And this terrible trend is showing no let-up in 2020, with at least 10 human rights defenders already reportedly killed during the first 13 days of January.

Tags: Attacks on social leaders, UN

January 13, 2020

  • UN Verification Mission Head Carlos Ruiz Massieu presents the Mission’s latest findings to the UN Security Council. “It is urgent,” Ruiz Massieu says, that the parties establish and implement “a public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups, criminal structures and their support networks through the National Commission on Security Guarantees,” as foreseen in the peace accord.

Tags: Attacks on social leaders, National Security Guarantees Commission, UN, UN Verification Mission

January 12, 2020

  • A cover story in the Colombian weekly Semana reveals that Army intelligence units have been illegally intercepting the communications of, following, and threatening high-court judges, opposition politicians, human rights defenders, and journalists—including Semana reporters investigating military human rights and corruption allegations. Those being followed and intimidated include Army officers who had been providing information to investigators about these allegations.
  • The magazine speculates that revelations about the illegal intelligence operation—the product of a dramatic judicial police raid on Army intelligence facilities in mid-December—forced the late-December exit of the Army’s chief, Gen. Nicacio Martínez. Gen. Martínez denies that he retired for this reason, blaming “retaliation” from elsewhere in the army “for denouncing and preventing corrupt acts.”
  • Semana hints that Army personnel were passing information from intercepted communications to a legislator in the government’s party, the Democratic Center. Much speculation centers on Senator Álvaro Uribe, who was embroiled in a wiretapping scandal during the latter years of his 2002-2010 presidency. One of those being wiretapped is a Supreme Court justice in charge of a case against the former president, who is under investigation for witness tampering. 
  • Supreme Court President Álvaro García calls for a special investigation.
  • The Inter-American Human Rights Commission expresses “deep concern” about the revelations.

Tags: Army, Civil-Military Relations, Inter-American System, Justice System, Military and Human Rights

January 12, 2020

  • National Police Chief Gen. Óscar Atehortua claims that his forces foiled a plot by two former FARC combatants to assassinate maximum FARC party leader Rodrigo Londoño. Police killed the two alleged assailants in Quindío department, apparently in self-defense, near where Londoño was vacationing. Gen. Atehortua, Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez, and National Protection Unit Director Pablo Elías González visited Londoño to tell him about the operation. They cited information that the two would-be assailants may have been sent by the FARC dissident faction led by former top leader and negotiator Iván Márquez.
  • “I’m here talking to you thanks to the Police and Army of Colombia, who were always guarding my life and frustrated the assassination,” Londoño tells a Quindío newspaper.
  • A top member of that faction, Henry Castellanos alias “Romaña,” denies on his Facebook page that the Márquez faction had anything to do with a plot against Londoño.
  • Security analyst León Valencia tells El Tiempo, “I believe there is much resentment, and one can see it, within the FARC, but I find it hard to believe the the first one they would confront would be Timochenko [Londoño].”
  • The girlfriend of one of the dead alleged hitmen cast doubt on the official story by sharing with prosecutors a WhatsApp message from him, minutes before he died, reading “My love, I’ll write you back, the Police just arrived.”

Tags: Dissident Groups, Protection of Excombatants

January 11, 2020

  • Visiting Bojayá, Chocó, President Duque promises to increase military presence and social investment in the battered municipality.
  • That day, Bojayá social leader Leyner Palacios, who had met with President Duque three days before, receives a truculent letter from the commander of the Titan Joint Task Force, a Chocó-based military unit. Palacios had denounced episodes of collusion between members of the security forces and Gulf Clan paramilitaries. In what he calls a “freedom of information request,” Commander Darío Fernando Cardona Castrillón asks Palacios to provide “names or surnames of the security-force members, and the place and date during which such illegal acts were committed, so that respective investigations may be initiated.”

Tags: Afro-Descendant Communities, Armed Groups, Army, Chocó, Civil-Military Relations, Gulf Clan, Military and Human Rights, Stabilization

January 10, 2020

  • The ELN attacks an Air Force base in Yopal, Casanare, launching homemade explosives from a truck. One explosive lands near women’s barracks, wounding an enlisted woman. It is one of the first times the group has attacked an Air Force target, and Yopal is considered to be outside the ELN’s zone of influence.

Tags: Armed Groups, Casanare, ELN

January 9, 2020

  • President Duque “reiterates that behind the killings of social leaders are narcotrafficking, illegal mineral mining, and organized armed groups,” according to the Presidency. This contrasts with human rights defenders’ claims that powerful local economic and political actors are behind at least some of the killings. Duque claims that social-leader killings declined by 25 per cent, a figure that human rights groups vigorously dispute.

Tags: Attacks on social leaders

January 8, 2020

  • Amid reports of 23 homicides of social leaders in December, a large-scale “Gulf Clan” paramilitary incursion in Bojayá, Chocó, and the murder of human rights defender Gloria Ocampo in Putumayo, the Presidency convenes a rare meeting of the National Security Guarantees Commission that was established by the peace accord.
  • Bojayá social leader Leyner Palacios, who denounced serious recent threats on his life, is invited to join the Commission’s meeting. Palacios is known nationally as a survivor of the 2002 FARC indiscriminate bombing that destroyed the village’s church, killing 79 people—including 5 of Palacios’s relatives—seeking refuge inside.
  • High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos voices doubt that 300 Gulf Clan members could be deployed all at once in Bojayá, as local groups have denounced.
Photo source: David Romo, Colombian Presidency
Photo source: David Romo, Colombian Presidency

Tags: Afro-Descendant Communities, Armed Groups, Attacks on social leaders, Gulf Clan, High Commissioner for Peace, National Security Guarantees Commission

January 8, 2020

  • President Duque meets with UN Verification Mission Head Carlos Ruiz Massieu to go over the Mission’s findings, as documented in the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council. Duque calls on the Mission to extend its mandate to 2022. It is currently set to expire at the end of 2020.
  • Ruiz Massieu says that although “very important advances” had been made in the accord’s implementation, it faced “great challenges.”
  • A FARC communiqué rejects President Duque’s claims, following his meeting with Ruiz Massieu, that the government has made significant advances in implementing the peace accord. The process “is going through a critical moment,” according to the ex-guerrillas, who called on the UN verification to exercise “greater neutrality.” The FARC called out the government for referring at all moments to its own “peace with legality” policy instead of to the peace accord.
Photo source: Colombian Presidency

Tags: Compliance with Commitments, Politics of Peace, UN, UN Verification Mission