Colombia: Recognition of Armed Conflict a Positive Step


BOGOTÁ, May 12, 2011—The decision by President Juan Manuel Santos to recognize the existence of an internal armed conflict in Colombia is a positive step toward transparency and truth-telling in that country, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) said today.

The Colombian government has denied for years the existence of an internal armed conflict there, although it was never in doubt from an international law perspective. This official denial has been an obstacle to a full and frank discussion in Colombia on accountability for the crimes committed in that context and has undermined the prospects of restoring trust between the institutions of the state and its citizens.

President Santos’ decision opens pathways for a more honest assessment of how best to address the crimes committed by all parties to the conflict.

“With this positive development from the Santos government, we hope a new page has turned in Colombia’s quest for accountability and respect for the rule of law,” said ICTJ president, David Tolbert. “The movement from denial to recognition can set the scene for a more open assessment of how crimes committed by all parties should be addressed. At the same time, many challenges lie ahead to find effective solutions ensuring victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations.”

President Santos took the public position of recognizing the existence of the armed conflict as part of the political debate on proposed legislation to provide assistance to victims.

“Victims’ right to reparations should not be restricted by political considerations,” said Michael Reed-Hurtado, director of ICTJ’s Colombia Program. “The state should ensure reparations to all victims of the armed conflict, without distinction based on creed, gender, ethnic group, sexual orientation or political opinion. We hope the state—and society—recognize the debt owed to the thousands of Colombians who have lost their lives, family members, possessions, security or livelihoods as a consequence of the armed conflict.”

The Colombian government’s recognition of the armed conflict could open an important path forward in the effort to build a sustainable peace that responds to and addresses the causes that gave rise to the conflict.

About ICTJ

The International Center for Transitional Justice works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit


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Photo: Las Águilas Negras (Paramilitares), 2007. Photo courtesy of Flickr user SMORENO2007