| alca | archives of global protests |


The great challenges, that the Colombian reality faces today, are marked by a systematic process of human rights violations. These constitute the basic background in which the work of defending human rights comes closer to the search processes of a political way out of the present internal social and armed conflict. In our view, one of the factors that determines the continuity and deepening of this human rights crisis mostly is the IMPUNITY.

The impunity constitutes of an open denial of justice and the right to know the truth. The state's obligation of punishment can not be negotiated nor be relieved for any reason at all. A state that defends the impunity calls into question its legitimacy, because the guaranty of human rights, fundamental base of the constitutional state, has no meaning when the state fails to sanction those responsible for human rights violations.

Colombia Nunca Más is an initiative with the goal of contributing to the struggle against impunity of the crimes against humanity committed in Colombia , between 1966 and 1998, with the perspective of recuperating the historic memory. This process that was started by a dozen human rights organizations six years ago, has now reached a national level with 17 social and human rights organizations . It is realized through numerous organizations of workers, peasants, communities, churches etc. with a local, regional or national character. They have formed working groups through out the country. Together, we have collected documented information of more than 38.000 victims of torture, forced disappearance and/or extra-judicial execution, all over the country.

Colombia Nunca Más also tries to contribute to the analysis so that the economical and political causes of the crimes can be understood, as well as the specific contexts of the time and the struggle, the coincidence of the conflicts that lead to the violations, the actors involved, the mechanisms used to commit those crimes and to guaranty their impunity, and the damage caused to the communities and organizations.

For methodological reasons, Colombia Nunca Más has divided the country into zones according to a logic that obeys, more than the current political-administrative division, to the economical and political dynamics, as well as to the forms of repression that have been implemented by the establishment. This is being done with the aim of exterminating the organization process generated by the people, like the alternatives of resistance and dignity. Also, the investigation brings back to mind the specific and particular facts of what has happened in the different parts of the country, without loosing the national perspective on the strategy of extermination that has been put upon the Colombian people.

Given the magnitude of the job, and because of the limitations an experimental undertaking like this brings along itself, Colombia Nunca Más presented the first report a year ago. This report contains a characterization of has been the cycle of violence that started in Colombia in 1966, the values that form the basis of our reaction against this reality, which are truth and justice. These are the rationales for investigating just the crimes against humanity, together with the experience of the regions that have been tortured by the official terror, like the departments of Meta and El Guaviare and the regions of Northeast Antioqueño and southern Magdalena Medio.

The crimes that have been documented with testimonies, analysis of the penal and disciplinary processes and general information about the economic and political dynamics of the regions wehere the crimes have been committed.

Why is it necessary to fight against the impunity of crimes against humanity?

Because the impunity is not a juridical problem only. It's a social phenomenon with grave political and cultural consequences, that has already taken away the safety of the citizens — to begin with the victims—, that legitimizes what has been done to eradicate the civilized society. The impunity gives the society the message that there is space for a democratic solution of the conflicts. And as a result there is the factor of social demobilization. Since impunity creates a deformed historical consciousness, a compulsive forgetting is installed and it forbids the historical memory; the truth is replaced by an amnesia caused by terror.

Those who have part in this initiative for struggle against impunity in Colombia also are conscious of the difference with Argentina, Uruguay, Chile or Guatemala. In Colombia we are stuck halve way on the road through the mist. Also it clear to us that the recuperation processes of our memory are not aseptic or painless; recovering our pain and our memories will produce a reaction. But we believe that, depending on us, this reaction is stuck in an unmovable pain, or does in the contrary a step forward to what we call the dignification of the victims, of their lives and their accomplishments. We can assist to this by contributing to the transformation of the 'official history' and the changing of individual memories, hidden in the collective memory of a people that does not want to repeat nor permit new disgraces in the name of the state, and that fights so that these atrocities will be committed NEVER AGAIN.

The memory has a collective sense of incorporated values, recollections and examples from the past, necessary to live in the present. These values are the traditions on which the present is built. But this construction is not univocal, it's the struggle for a sense of history, it's the dispute amongst social subjects for the contents of these values and this tradition.

Colombia Nunca Más accepts the challenge in the struggle for the memory and against the forgetfulness. It's a challenge with a positive sign. We seek to contribute to the victory over such a great crisis in human rights, and to the construction of a society where no repetition of these crimes will be possible.

The dimensions that this phenomenon has reached in our country demand a profound analysis, when to make alternative proposals that promote a transformation of the institutional and para-institutional mechanisms that have impaired the materialization of the hopes for justice of the victims, their families and organizations. A political and ethical will is necessary to brake the silence and fear, grown into the communities by the years. We can open the roads to coexistence and complete democracy in the country. Promote the creation of a social movement of struggle against impunity of crimes against humanity in Colombia.

But more important might be the conviction that the solution of the human rights crisis and the victory over the impunity is reached through the clear rejection of these type of practices by the Colombian society. “Nunca Más” presents itself to the communities in terms of an opportunity to fight the impunity and of a contribution from the human rights organizations.

Colombia Nunca Más is a project for justice, that is a great desire for the whole society. It aspires to give a different perspective on the problem of impunity. If the message of memory is that of the search for truth, that the struggle against impunity is the message of obtaining justice, this is contradictory to revenge. The project does not wish to declaim against or deny the victims of other modes of violence by the phenomenon of impunity. Starting from a memory exercise The Never Again Project seeks to pave the roads (from a non-governmental perspective) which is necessary to reach victory over impunity, responding to the following challenges:

The struggle for truth: This is the aim to give back to memory its historical and cultural dimensions. It implies working on two tracks. Firstly, identifying the victims of the violence, so that they get back their value, their dignity and their struggles. Secondly, furnish elements of information, sufficient to explain the how and why of the crimes and of the ones responsible, and sufficient to have a sincere social debate about what has happened.

The struggle for justice: Obtaining justice is the only way impunity can be considered overcome. The conviction and sanctioning of those responsible is the greatest challenge in the struggles against impunity. The struggle for this desire is what causes the most frustrations to the human rights movement in Latin America in the periods of victory of the grave human rights crisis.

The struggle for total rehabilitation of the victims: the impunity strikes against the right of rehabilitation. Indemnification and rehabilitation of the victims human rights violations. The special reporter on the right of rehabilitation Theo Van Boven signals that:

"In a social and political atmosphere in which the impunity prevails, it is likely that the right of rehabilitation that victims of flagrant human rights violations and of fundamental liberty violations have, will be a mere illusion.”

We are inspired by a stubborn and immense sense of hope, that one day dignity and justice will be possible in our country. We are also inspired by the permanent solidarity of peoples and sister organizations, that from different parts of the world have accompanied the Colombian communities and organizations. Since many years many of those have preceded us in the struggle so that NEVER AGAIN crimes against humanity will be committed in their countries or in other parts of the world.

August 2002

1 When we refer to the crimes against humanity, we speak of grave violation of the international law on human rights, that insult the ethical conscience of humanity and denial the validity of the indispensable norms for human existence. The crimes that occur most in our country are extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances and torture.

2 Convocing Organizations of Colombia Nunca Mas: Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos —Asfaddes-, Colectivo de Abogados 'José Alvear Restrepo", Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz, Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Comisión Interfranciscana de Justicia, Paz y Reverencia con la Creación, Corporación Sembrar, Comité Regional de Derechos Humanos de Santander —Credhos-, Fundación Reiniciar, Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad -Codehsel-, Corporación Jurídica Libertad, Comunidades Eclesiales de Base y Grupos Cristianos de Colombia -Cebs,- Humanidad Vigente Corporación Jurídica, Fundación Manuel Cepeda, Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos Unidad y Reconstrucción -Anuc-UR-, Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria —ANDAS-, Misioneros Claretianos de Colombia. | ALCA/FTAA | Plan Colombia |