UNSC Arria-Formula meeting on Transitional Justice in Colombia

United Nations Security Council Arria-Formula meeting
“A Milestone Year for a Peaceful Future: Transitional Justice in Colombia”

Remarks by EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore

14 July 2022



Thank you very much Ambassador. Let’s say at the beginning that as a citizen of Ireland, I want to thank you for the great service that you have done for our country here at the United Nations and in particular your service and leadership on the Security Council.

I want to say that it is a great privilege to join this meeting today. To be here in the presence of Vice President Martha Lucia Ramirez, Assistant Secretary General Ihze Brands Kehris, my fellow panellists Juana Acosta, Yanet Mosquera Rivera and especially to share a table with my good friend, Padre Francisco de Roux. I especially want to thank you Padre de Roux for your incredible commitment and courage in guiding the work of the Truth Commission over the last 3 and half years. Pacho, you have been a lifelong human rights defender and your leadership has been critical to the work of the Commission and the completion of the Commission’s report.

I want to thank also the Commissioners who join you here today and all the members of Commission for their tremendous contribution and particularly for achieving a very participatory process to produce the report, in the very challenging circumstances of the pandemic.

I have been the EU Special Envoy for the peace process in Colombia since 2015 and I have seen many milestones along the way, including the signature of the agreement. I have been privileged to travel all over Colombia and visit many parts of that beautiful country, some of which are still struggling to emerge from the conflict. I believe the Truth Commission’s report is a new hope and a new opportunity to revitalise the peace agreement five and a half years after its signature.

Peacebuilding never stops and it is never the concern of one country in isolation. International support is and continues to be crucial. And this is why the European Union will continue to support peace in Colombia, for as long as is needed.

This is also why the support of the Security Council has been so important in driving forward the peace agreement. The work of the United Nations, in particular the UN Verification Mission, has been hugely important in making the agreement a reality. I want to take the opportunity today of paying tribute in particular to the work of the UNSRSG Carlos Ruiz Massieu and his team. When we think of the work that the United Nations does in so many countries, it comes right down to the work that is done by its personnel in the field. Thank you very much Carlos for your work and the contribution you have made.

The Colombian peace agreement is in many ways a model, because of its ambition, its innovation, its determination to resolve the specific causes of the conflict and to put victims at the heart of its action. In order to implement such a complex agreement, all parts of the agreement need to be implemented, as they are interdependent in addressing the causes of the conflict.

The promotion and protection of human rights is very much at the heart of the Truth Commission’s report and the participatory approach to its preparation. This can and should inspire other peace processes and transitional justice mechanisms. I warmly welcome the recommendations from the Truth Commission and look forward to working with the monitoring committee in the follow up to the report.

The European Union will of course continue to work closely with the other transitional justice bodies and support their work. The Missing Persons Unit, which is working with state institutions to recover the remains of over 120,000 victims, is a critical mechanism in bringing closure to families of loved ones, 90 per cent of whom remain missing.

This year is also a milestone year for the JEP, the transitional justice court. It is expected to issue restorative sentences in at least two cases, on kidnapping and false positives. In recent weeks, indicted individuals, both from FARC and the public security forces, have publicly acknowledged their responsibility for crimes committed. I cannot recollect any other peace process anywhere in the world where something similar has happened. These are all significant and vital steps in the process to build peace, cultivate reconciliation, to provide truth for victims and to guarantee that this does not happen again.

The support of the international community is also manifested through the International Criminal Court (ICC). And the agreement signed in October 2021 between the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC and the Colombian Government is truly ground breaking. It is the first of its kind between the Prosecutor’s Office and a state party. It demonstrates that the ICC’s complementary role on justice can also stimulate and support strong and successful domestic transitional justice measures.

The Colombian peace process is a success, albeit with challenges. The transitional justice system is one of its finest achievements. And it is a particular success for the United Nations.

But the international community needs to remain invested in Colombia, politically and financially. It will also take significant human, financial and technical resources on the part of the Colombian Government to ensure the recommendations of the Truth Commission’s report are realised.

The European Union remains committed to that effort and we will continue to work with the wider international community and especially with the United Nations. The great country of Colombia and its people deserve no less.