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The UC3M organises a conference on peace and transitional justice in Colombia


The Chair of Ibero-American Legal Studies of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), in collaboration with Tirant Lo Blanch, held a colloquium yesterday on peace and transitional justice in Colombia with Colombian ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, ex-advisor of negotiations between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, its Spanish acronym) and the Colombian government, Enrique Santiago Romero, and ex-president of the Constitutional Court of Colombia and current president of the Universidad del Externado, Juan Carlos Henao, as a moderator.

La UC3M organiza una jornada sobre paz y justicia transicional en Colombia

Enrique Santiago Romero, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón y Juan Carlos Henao (from left to right in the picture).

 The act, which was held in the Círculo de Bellas Artes of Madrid with almost one hundred attendees, was divided into three main categories: the methods put into practice during negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC to achieve peace, the current transitional situation with the justice text applied and in effect, and the short and long-term consequences that can be expected from this new development. The event was opened by the general secretary of the UC3M, Marcos Vaquer, who stated that the Chair of Ibero-American Legal Studies of the UC3M and Tirant Lo Blanch had created it to exchange knowledge between Spain and Latin America through activities of academic excellence such as this forum.

Regarding the reasons for which this fourth peace process in Colombia has been achieved, Juan Manuel Santos explained that he didn’t have just one answer: “It was well planned, we did a series of precise exercises to learn from other processes that had failed. There was a lot of difference and distrust with FARC, but we had to create exactly that, trust. It was beautiful to see that, after two years of negotiations, we successfully established the six points of the agenda that we made public in Oslo”. According to Enrique Santiago, “it was a shock method to create a work commission isolating the parties and, without a doubt, a very elaborate strategy with a favourable result for both parties that knew they were not going to win the war militarily. They had more to gain than lose”.

Being asked about the current transition period the Colombian society is living through, with one part of the population being unhappy with the agreement, the ex-president said: “We had to achieve the maximum amount of justice that would permit us peace. This says everything and nothing at the same time, but those were the instructions. It does not matter where you draw the line between peace and justice because there will always be people who are unhappy with it. I emphasise that we should conduct a pedagogical exercise to carry out this justice because there is a very important element of reparation and the victims played a very important role. Now the objective is reparation”.

In this respect, the ex-advisor of negotiations added that “the process has lacked support from key sectors that instead of doing so, committed to making a demagogy. The problem of the Colombian conflict, also highlighted by political scientists and experts, is the ownership of the land and that causes problems of misappropriation of farmers’ land; now it is halted, it is what worries me most and it has stopped”.

Juan Manuel Santos highlighted the positives of this process: “The most powerful feeling is love therefore, if we return to our origins, we understand that we should treat the FARC as humans and Colombians, thereby respecting the human rights of the adversaries, not enemies. Thinking this way, something has been done that appeared impossible 10 years ago... the agreement has been made possible thanks to discussions, empathy and never ceasing with the will to solve problems”.

For his part, Enrique Santiago emphasised that there is another view of country, another reorganisation of the political scene which guarantees that Colombia will improve from all points of view. “I was the only foreigner on the negotiation team and there is nothing more satisfying than stopping a war. There is always common ground, empathy and synergy”. On the other hand, Juan Carlos Henao explained how the negotiation process arose: “We began some very difficult negotiations from scratch and the work of Santos and Enrique was vital. But this is nothing of names or protagonists. It was an enormous collective effort that allowed for the devising of the text and of a new reality for Colombia.