During the Human Rights Council 22nd session, the Colombian Commission of Jurists organised a side-event with the aim of assessing the performance of the Colombian government in its obligations towards human rights.

The results are mixed and far from satisfying. Indeed, though the government has taken several legislative measures, they are not translated into concrete actions and remain solely formal. Symbolic domestication of recommendations is not sufficient: without material and concrete measures for implementation, the reality of Colombia will not change.

A few positive changes

The beginning of peace negotiations in August 2012 between the government and FARC rebels is a very positive sign for the improvement of the global situation in the country and shows the willingness of both parties to put an end to this age-old conflict.

In 2011, a law on forced displacements acknowledged the existence of an armed conflict in Colombia and established the direct responsibility of the Colombian State for this conflict, as well as its failure to protect civilians in such context.  According to the NGO representatives in the panel, this law is a significant step forward on the issue of forced displacements and land restitution.

In addition, it was acknowledged that since the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Colombia in 2008, there have been many realizations in the domain of human rights, and the government has implemented some valuable recommendations.

Major preoccupations remain

Impunity remains an issue of major concern in Colombia, in particular for cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and sexual violence. Only 30% of reported cases of extrajudicial killings are investigated! The situation is even more appalling for cases of forced disappearances: less than 25% of reported cases are subject to investigations.

Furthermore, women are once again the main victims of this impunity since the vast majority  -almost 90%- of cases of violence against women are not investigated or do not lead to a definitive decision about the criminal responsibility of the offenders.

There is therefore an urgent need to tackle impunity and to give victims the justice and reparation they claim.  This can only be done by a fair justice system, but there is the rub: military tribunals investigate many of these human rights violations, which constitutes a violation to the human right to a fair trial.

Regarding the peace process between the government and FARC, most of local NGOs agree to say that civil society is not involved enough in the negotiations. This needs to be addressed, it is thus essential that the international community keeps monitoring compliance of the peace negotiations with human rights.

Human rights are thus revealed as a key factor in the conflict in Colombia. The international community has an obligation to contribute and monitor the compliance of human rights in Colombia particularly through the UPR mechanism. Indeed, so far as human rights are not respected by the government of Colombia and all actors within the country, a solution to the armed conflict will be far.