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Colombia’s Landmark Agreement: The End of 50 Years of War?

People march with Columbian flags

Ahí va Colombia…Courtesy Lucho Molina/flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 27 June 2016.

While a final peace accord is likely still a few weeks away, Colombia’s government and FARC guerrillas reached a momentous agreement on June 23. The consensus on the last of five substantive items in negotiations taking place in Havana, Cuba, since 2012 delineates conditions for a permanent ceasefire and the demobilization of the guerrilla movement, which had been by far the thorniest issue on the agenda. Though the parties have decided that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the accompanying Havana ceremony had the feel of the end of a 50-year war that has killed over 200,000 people and displaced six million.

Attending the ceremony was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos; FARC Commander Timoleón Jiménez; Cuban President Raúl Castro and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende (representing the two guarantor countries); United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN officials; Presidents Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela and Michelle Bachelet of Chile; and many other world leaders and envoys. The impressive lineup sent a clear political message: no one should harbor doubts about the possibility of a peace agreement being signed, and the international community will put its weight behind it to ensure its success.

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Guatemala Prosecutes a President, but Progress Falters

Cartoon image of Efraín Rios Montt (front) and President Ronald Reagan (back). Image: Truthout.org/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenSecurity on 29 April, 2015.

Barring hurricanes, landslides and the occasional drug trafficking story, Guatemala doesn’t often reach our newspapers or TV screens. But in spring 2013, this small Central American country made the headlines when it put its former president on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges against General Efraín Ríos Montt and his Intelligence Chief, General Rodríguez Sanchez, were based on a military campaign in 1982-3 that targeted indigenous Mayan civilians. This was not a case of rogue troops, but sophisticated and brutal social engineering thinly masked as counter-insurgency against leftist rebels. Unlike Yugoslavia and Rwanda however, Guatemala was not given an international tribunal, or even a ‘hybrid’ war crimes court like Sierra Leone or Bosnia. Instead, justice came only 30 years later and from the most unlikely of places: an official state tribunal. » More

Accountability Process in Sri Lanka Disputed

Sign here and smile for the camera, please. Photo: vikalpasl/flickr

The report of the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, published on 31 March 2011, reveals “a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka.” The panel findings indicate that serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Some of these violations, if proven, “would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The UN also got its share of criticism, for failing to take action that might have protected civilians during the final stages of the war.

Unsurprisingly, the Sri Lankan Government denounced the report as “fundamentally flawed”. The Ministry of External Affairs alleged that, among other deficiencies, the report was based on biased material and presented without verification. Although it was originally a joint commitment by the UN Secretary-General and the President of Sri Lanka, the government objected to the publication of the report and claimed that it could damage reconciliation efforts between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority in the country. The government is now seeking international and local support as part of an effort to counter the UN panel report and the implementation of its recommendations.

On the other hand, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – the main political party representing the ethnic minority – welcomed the panel’s recommendations and expressed hopes that they will be implemented. » More