Victims of violence committed in the coal mining region of Cesar, Colombia, are hopeful the new Colombian Truth Commission will help them. The commission was recently inaugurated in the Colombian capital Bogotá. Representatives from the assembly representing victims, which is supported by PAX, were at the ceremony.
“It’s very exciting to be here,” said Miguel Ricardo, who spoke at the inauguration. He was one of the victims from the coal mining region invited to be present at this historic occasion. “I believe that the work of the Truth Commission is extremely important because we, the victims of the armed conflict, have waited a long time to learn why the violence took place and who was responsible.”
Waiting for restitution
Ricardo, a leader of the El Toco community, is a member of the Peasant Assembly of Cesar Land Restitution, which is supported by PAX. He spoke on behalf of more than 15 peasant communities from the mining region of Cesar who were violently displaced between 1997 and 2005. His presence meant a lot to members of displaced communities united in the Peasant Assembly. The majority of them have been waiting years for the restitution of their lands and still suffer from trauma related to the violence and overall neglect by Colombian state institutions.
Still much to be done
In his talk at the Truth Commission opening, Ricardo reminded the audience that much work still needs to be done to fulfill the debt of unresolved land restitution. “The majority of victims from Cesar have not been able to reclaim our lands, because lies and corruption prevail.”
The Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Repetition, led by Francisco de Roux, has a 3-year mandate and is responsible for exposing the truth behind human rights abuses committed during Colombia’s internal armed conflict.
Its task is ambitious. It has three years to gather evidence and submit a report that answers the questions posed by Miguel Ricardo and the millions of victims of the Colombian armed conflict. “We have high expectations,” said Ricardo. “The conflict has had an enormous impact on our lives; the deaths, the displacements of our communities, the dispossession of our lands, and the lack of implementation of our rights as victims… Knowing the truth is a very important first step that would benefit us all.”
Natural Resources, Conflict & Human Rights, Colombia