WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today,
This week marks a major step forward for peace with the historic agreement reached by the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) negotiating teams. By working together to find common ground, they have reached a critical agreement on transitional justice, or how to hold accountable those on all sides who committed serious war crimes and human rights violations. These agreements, once again, reflect the commitment and serious nature of the peace process and the desire to negotiate a just and lasting peace.
The accord foresees five to eight years of "restriction of liberty" for those who confess all their crimes and make reparations to victims. It applies stiffer penalties to those who do not. The result may be that some who committed grave human rights crimes may not go to prison, even if their freedoms and movements are restricted.
It is not easy to balance peace and justice, yet they must coexist and serve the demands of truth, reconciliation and an end to violence and vengence. If well-implemented, the agreement on transitional justice offers all Colombians, and especially those who have been victims of violence and abuse by parties to the conflict, a path to address the deep wounds of the past, hold accountable the perpetrators of violence and abuse, and break the culture of impunity. It is important, however, for the implementation of this agreement not to whitewash serious human rights crimes committed by both sides.
I want to express my admiration to President Santos and the Government and FARC negotiating teams; to Cuba and Norway for their steadfast support of the peace process; to the many legal, religious, academic and human rights experts, inside and outside Colombia, who provided insights and assistance on transitional justice to the negotiating teams; and to all the victims who shared the painful reality of how decades of armed conflict have affected the lives of individuals, children, families, women, minorities and communities throughout Colombia.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis voiced all of our sentiments when he called on Colombia to end “the long night of pain and violence.” It is my sincere hope that by March of next year at the very latest, a new day might indeed dawn for all Colombians.