When and how did the Movement come into being? Our History
On June 25, 2005, during the Second National Encounter of Victims of Crimes against Humanity and Human Rights Violations, four days after the Colombian Congress passed Law 975/05, the Law of Impunity, the Movimiento de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado (Movement of Victims of State-Sponsored Crimes) came into being.
The National Victims’ Movement is the result of many different past struggles by victims for the rights to truth, justice and comprehensive reparation in Colombia. Precursors include the work carried out since 1995 by the Proyecto Nunca Más Crímenes de Lesa Humanidad (Project – Never Again Crimes against Humanity). This project has worked to safeguard the memory of the crimes against humanity perpetrated from 1966 to 1998. After ten years of research, Proyecto Nunca Más has documented an under-reporting of almost 41,400 cases of torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearance of persons.
Another of the Movement’s precursors is the campaign “Colombia clama Justicia” (Colombia Demands Justice). Along with other work, this initiative fostered the Opinion Tribunals meant to clarify the facts concerning the Barrancabermeja massacre on May 16, 1998, the Santo Domingo massacre on December 13, 1998, and the more than 500 crimes committed in the south of Bolivar Department from 1999 to 2003. This campaign also helped bring about the Popular Public Hearing concerning the criminal policies implemented by the transnational corporation Coca-Cola.
In May 2004, in the midst of the negotiation process between the paramilitaries and the Álvaro Uribe Vélez administration, a group of social, labour, political, regional and human rights organisations, in addition to more than 300 survivors of genocide, as well as victims and family members of persons murdered, tortured, forcibly disappeared, internally displaced, exiled and arbitrarily detained, met in Bogota for the First National Encounter of Victims of Crimes against Humanity and Human Rights Violations. In the closing session of this event, it was stated that a true process does not presently exist for the resolution of violence in Colombia. Rather, this session confirmed the growing paramilitarisation of the State and society. Additionally, it was confirmed that the negotiation process undertaken by the government guarantees impunity, and is being carried out behind the public’s back. The victims, who no one else should speak for nor represent, do not have an active participation in this process. At the First National Encounter, the decision was made to move towards creating a national movement, which would bring together persons, communities and victims’ organisations.
The decision to create the National Victim’s Movement began to come together in the regional preparatory assemblies carried out in the cities of Cartagena, Medellin, Cali, Popayan, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Bogota and Neiva. These regional assemblies elected more than 800 delegates. In June 2005, during the Second National Encounter, delegates from 200 local organisations made the decision to bring the Movement to life, and to define its identity and areas of action. This coalition against impunity came into being as a call to unify persons and groups persecuted by the Colombian State. This was done to end the isolation, forgetting and fear, so as to claim the rights to truth, justice and comprehensive reparation.
Who are we? Our Identity
The National Victim’s Movement is made up of social, labour and political organisations, as well as women and men from communities with diverse ethnicities, cultures and ages. We have all borne the impact of the violence generated by the Colombian State by way of massive and systematic violations to our individual and
collective, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Undertaken by armed State structures in their regular or paramilitary strategy, this systematic violence has provoked immense social damage, and has represented the destruction of life projects, community surroundings and natural environment, as well as the fraudulent appropriation of vast tracts of land.
In this way, the Movement brings together:
1. Victims of crimes against humanity, in other words, of instances of systematic and generalised violence, such as torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. This includes the following acts perpetrated by State agents, institutions and powers or armed structures protected by the State: the forced disappearance of persons, selective murders, massacres, sexual violations, forced displacement and expulsions, arbitrary detentions, imprisonment for political reasons or on the basis of opinion, political persecution, arbitrary extraditions, internal banishment and exile.
2. Victims of war crimes committed by the State against civilians and non-combatants, such as instances of persecution, torture, forced disappearance, murder, bombardment, forced displacement or siege of civilian population. This also includes death or inhumane treatment inflicted upon prisoners of war, plundering of public property, destruction of civilian property in military operations, as well as cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment exercised in combat or in situations of the armed conflict.
3. Victims of genocide for political, social and ethnic reasons, in addition to all kinds of systematic extermination of human groups.
4. Organisations of the survivors of these crimes, family members of direct victims, as well as social, labour, political and legal organisations that have been attacked both in Colombia and abroad, which confirm their right to clarifying the facts, memory, truth, justice and comprehensive reparation.
5. Organisations accompanying the victims of violations to political, civil, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.
What are our objectives? Our commitments
Consolidate a participatory national movement in which we work towards discovering, denouncing and definitively eradicating the State’s criminal strategies, methods and models, which are maintained by way of impunity. Support and organise the victims of State-sponsored terrorism in Colombia. Additionally, create alliances with victims who have suffered from instances of State, colonialist and imperialist violence in any part of the world. Contribute to the political solution of the social and armed conflict existing in Colombia. Demand the dismantlement of all war structures, the demilitarisation of civilian life and the immediate realization of humanitarian agreements, which diminish the impact of the armed conflict on the population. Encourage the unity of victims’ organisations around the issue of the recovery of collective memory. Demand individual and collective recognition of the right to historical truth dignifying the names and lives of the victims.
What are our areas of work? Our activities
Recovery of memory: We carry out proposals confirming truth, justice and comprehensive reparation by way of out-of-court actions, memory-recovery activities, as well as moral and political sanction of the responsible parties.
Legal actions: We initiate national and international legal actions meant to clarify the facts, sanction the responsible parties and make reparations to the victims. We also carry out actions meant to object to and disobey laws of impunity or any other legal and political provision favouring pardon, forgetting or false reconciliation.
Political advocacy: Both in Colombia and abroad, we disseminate the Movement’s proposals, activities and positions in order to have an impact on public policy and international cooperation.
Mobilisation, visibilisation and growth: We participate in mobilisation coalitions made up of campesinos (small farmers), indigenous people, unionists and human rights defenders, as well as survivors and family members of victims. This work visibilises the Movement’s objectives, identity, thought and activities.
Communication: We carry out communication activities to report on the Movement’s identity, proposals and approaches.
Capacity-building of victims and members of the Movement: We carry out educational and experience-sharing activities so victims have the tools to represent themselves and construct proposals for memory, truth, justice and comprehensive reparation.
What are we requesting from the international community? The solidarity we hope for…
We request the international community to:
– Consult with the victims on any support solicited in our name by the State. Not financially support the demobilisation process, rather demand the paramilitary groups finance their troops’ reinsertion. Additionally, not support the mechanisms of the laws, nor the bills, concerning “community reparation”. These mechanisms and bills impose a forced reconciliation on the victims and openly ignore their rights.
– Solicit a greater presence of missions to Colombia by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, as well as the strengthening of the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
– Accompany verification missions, humanitarian missions and events organised by the victims.
– Promote the participation of victims in international tribunals. Decisively support international criminal justice systems, in addition to mechanisms for judicial pluralism and alternative justice coming out of Colombian civil society.
– Not designate international cooperation resources for war or for favouring the interests of the authors of crimes against humanity. To the contrary, cooperation efforts should be directed to all activities by victims’ organisations, which foster the recovery of memory and the establishment of historical truth.
– Continue carrying out initiatives and begin new ones meant to bring about humanitarian agreements. – Actively promote the rapprochement of the parties in the conflict, as well as the political solution of the war in Colombia.
– Not recognise groups and political parties with the direct or indirect participation of material and intellectual authors of crimes against humanity.
– Demand compliance to human rights recommendations, as well as establish conditions in this area for cooperation with the Colombian State.
How to join the National Victims’ Movement?
If you identify with the Movement, you can contribute to its development by participating in the activities, carried out by the existing regional chapters, which defend the rights to memory, truth, justice and comprehensive reparation. If no organisational structure of the Victims’ Movement yet exists in your region or country of residence, we invite you to create one.