On Friday 3rd July, BHRC held a seminar to discuss the peace process in Colombia and to focus in particular on the situation of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community. The community located in the North-West region of Urabá, declared itself neutral to the five-decade armed conflict in 1997, a civilian protection strategy based on international humanitarian law. Since then, the community has suffered many killings and reprisals. In 2005, a massacre committed by paramilitaries and the Colombian army left eight people dead including three children. In response, the community declared themselves in ‘rupture’ with the Colombian state.
The visit of Gildardo Tuberquia Úsuga, Representative of the Internal Council of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges faced for reconciliation between the state and its victims, within the current context of peace talks.
Joining him on the panel was BHRC Chair, Kirsty Brimelow QC, who has for several years been facilitating dialogue between the Colombian Government and the Peace Community. One result of this has been that on 10th December 2013, President Santos issued a historic formal apology to the community for stigmatisations made by his predecessor Álvaro Uribe. Also on the panel was anthropologist, Gwen Burnyeat, who has worked with the Peace Community since 2011. She and Kirsty have now combined forces to work towards reconciliation between the Government and the community.
Former British Ambassador to Colombia, John Dew, was the fourth member of the panel and gave his personal perspective on the on-going peace process in the country.
The seminar was filmed and the recording can be viewed here.