Colombian peace deal: Victims-centered

After five decades of bloody conflict with eight millions victims, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have clinched a final peace deal, ending seemingly an intractable conflict. It is another feather in global conflict resolutions that can be a model by itself.

The success of these negotiations can be attributed to a number of factors. Among which are resolutions of land reform and drug trafficking issues. But most important of all, the rights of the victims such as to truth, justice, and reparation became the centre of the talks. In this reckoning, both the government and the FARC are made accountable. The United Nations has estimated that 12% of all killings of civilians in Colombian conflict have been committed by FARC and other guerrilla groups, and the rest, 88%, by government forces and paramilitaries.

The emphasis on victims’ rights and the just resolution of those abuses and violations committed mainly by state forces made the talks and the deal unique --- and successful. In the GPH-MILF peace process, transitional justice, in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses committed by government and its armed forces, formed part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). They created the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). Chaired by a Swiss expert, Mo Bleeker, the body, after a long, thorough and systematic approaches, made 90 recommendations including the creation of the National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for Bangsamoro (NTJRCB). But for various reasons, the Aquino administration failed to create this commission, and instead spread the functions of the supposedly body to other government agencies that are already in place.

The MILF views the decision with reservations. Instead of healing the past, the dispersals of the functions to various agencies will either be relegated to the background or die a natural death. We would like to see that under the Duterte administration the recommendations of the TJRC would be given due course, or at least the special focus that it deserves.

Frankly, the MILF at the outset expressed serious doubt on the independence of a body that is being created by government to handle issues that were mainly borne out of state repressions and excesses. But because of the overwhelming importance of such body in the Bangsamoro, in the end we have to support it. An old cliché says that in the absence of what is best, what is available is always the best.

Signing of the CAB and passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are the indispensable aspects of peace-making (with the MILF) in Mindanao, but without undertaking the serious “healing process” through transitional justice they are seriously flawed and incomplete. To the MILF, the massive violation of human rights and the loss of our landholdings cannot just be redressed by short-cutting it via “forgive and forget”. The way is through this set of judicial and non-judicial measures in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses, which also included criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

But the MILF does not want transitional justice pursued through the hard way, because the future is more important than what happened in the past. Sometimes, the softer approach is more preferable. In the end, the most desirable result would be solving the Bangsamoro Question, without impunity, and where peace and justice reign.