Colombia: Agreement on Truth Commission

Firstly and for the first time as part of a peace process, the Conversation Table heard directly and received proposals from a group of victims of the conflict. The selection process of these victims was conducted by the UN and the National University, accompanied by the Episcopal Conference, who under the principles of pluralism, balance and common sense, sought to reflect the total universe of human rights violations and breaches of IHL that have taken place in the conflict, taking into account the different social sectors and populations, and the regional approach. The delegations were composed of 12 victims and the Table heard a delegation in each round, during round 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 of talks.

Among the victimizing events that were represented, we heard testimonies on forced displacement, murder, torture, forced disappearance, kidnapping, sexual violence, extrajudicial executions and forced recruitment of minors, among others.

Round 37 Closes with Agreement on Truth Commission

After a four-day extension of the 37th round of talks between the Colombian government and the FARC that had been launched on May 21, the parties ended their cycle yesterday.  In a joint communiqué, they reported new advances at the table regarding the topic of “victims”–namely, an agreement to establish a Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Harmony and Non-Repetition that would be activated once the final peace  agreement is signed.  More to come, but in the meantime, here’s the link to the full report in Spanish: 2015_0604 Comunicado conjunto Gobierno Nacional y FARC-EP No.53.  You can read the report in English here.




The Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -People’s Army, in compliance with the provisions in paragraph 3 of section VI of the General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace, in August 26, 2012, present this Joint Report on the progress and the reached agreements on Agenda Item 5 – “Victims”.

joint.jpgThe end of the conflict provides a unique opportunity to meet one of the greatest desires of Colombian society and the victims in particular: to clarify and know the truth about what happened in the conflict.

In this new scenario, it will be possible to contribute to the construction and preservation of historical memory and achieve a broad understanding of the multiple dimensions of the truth of the conflict, including the historical dimension, so that not only the right to the truth will be satisfied, but also the foundations for coexistence, reconciliation, and non-repetition will be laid.

For this purpose, the National Government and the FARC-EP have reached an agreement in order to start, once signed the Final Agreement, the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence and Non Repetition (from now on “Commission”) which will be an independent and impartial mechanism of extra-judicial nature.

The Commission will be part of the integral system of truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition that has to be agreed at the Table to satisfy the rights of the victims, end the conflict and achieve peace. Therefore, the agreement reached on the Commission cannot be understood as definitely closed or isolated from the system we are committed to building and which still has not been completed. We will continue working to agree on other mechanisms that allow us to guarantee the rights of victims to truth, Justice and Reparation, besides contributing to guarantee the non-repetition of the conflict to all Colombians. As part of the discussion on the comprehensiveness of the system and its judicial and extrajudicial mechanisms, we will agree the topics, whose materialization depends on the relationship between the various mechanisms of the system. 

The Commission will meet three key objectives.

First, the Commission should help clarify what happened, according to the elements of the mandate described below, and provide a broad explanation of the complexity of the conflict, so that a shared understanding by the whole society is promoted especially of the least known aspects of the conflict. In this regard, we welcome the visit and the statement made ​​during this round of talks by Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Sexual Violence in Conflict, and we pledge to address her recommendations. 

Secondly, the Commission must promote and contribute to recognition.That means the recognition of the victims as citizens who had their rights violated; voluntary recognition of individual and collective responsibility by all those directly or indirectly involved in the conflict as a contribution to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition; and, in general, recognition by the whole society of that legacy of violations and breaches as something that deserves the rejection of all and which should and can not be repeated. 

And thirdly, the Commission will promote coexistence in the territories.Therefore, it will promote an atmosphere of dialogue and create spaces in which victims will find dignity, individual and collective responsibility will be recognized, and, more generally, respect and trust in each other, cooperation and solidarity, social justice, gender equity and a democratic culture that cultivates tolerance and won’t allow us to be indifferent to the problems of others, will be consolidated.This is how the foundations for non-repetition, reconciliation and the construction of a stable and lasting peace will be laid.For these reasons it is necessary to understand the construction of truth also as an essential part of peace-building.

The success of the Commission depends on the commitment of all sectors of society to the process of constructing the truth, and the recognition of responsibility by those directly and indirectly involved in the conflict. Therefore, both the National Government and the FARC-EP undertake to contribute decisively to the clarification of the truth about everything that happened in the conflict, including serious human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law.

  1. Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition

Guiding criteria:

Centrality of victims: The efforts of the Commission will focus on ensuring the participation of the victims of the conflict, ensuring their dignification and contributing to the satisfaction of their right to the truth in particular and in general of their rights to justice, comprehensive reparation and guarantees of non-repetition, always bearing in mind pluralism and equity. All this must also contribute to the transformation of their living conditions. 

Impartiality and independence: The Commission is an impartial and independent mechanism with full autonomy to develop its mandate and fulfill its functions. 

Transitory nature: The Commission will be exceptional and will operate for a limited period so that its conclusions and recommendations can contribute effectively to the construction of a stable and lasting peace.  

Participation: The Commission will start a process of broad, pluralistic and balanced participation during which the different voices and visions will be heard, in the first place of the victims, who find themselves in that condition for any kind of reason related to the conflict, both individual and collective, and also of those who participated directly and indirectly in it, as well as other relevant actors. 

Territorial approach: The Commission will be an institution of national level but it will have a territorial approach in order to achieve a better understanding of the regional dynamics of the conflict and the diversity and characteristics of the areas concerned, and in order to promote the process of construction of truth and contribute to the guarantees of non-repetition in different territories. The territorial approach will also consider individuals and populations that were forcibly displaced from their territories.

Differential and gender approach: In developing its mandate and functions, the Commission will take into account the different experiences, differential impact and particular circumstances of people on grounds of sex, gender, age, ethnicity or disability status, and populations or sectors in vulnerable conditions or particularly affected by the conflict, among others. Special attention will be given to the victimization suffered by women.  

Coordination with other peace-building measures: The Commission will coordinate with the mechanisms that will be put in place for the implementation of the Final Agreement. In particular, there will be coordination, wherever possible, with the peacebuilding plans and programs that will be put in place in the territories, as a result of the implementation of the Final Agreement.

Rules of procedure: The Commission will previously establish procedures to ensure due guarantees to those involved in it, and a just, dignified and non-discriminatory treatment. 

Guarantees for the commissioners: Regarding their work in the Commission, the commissioners won’t be obliged to testify in court; they shall be exempt from the duty to report, and their opinions and conclusions cannot be judicially challenged. 

Security conditions: The Commission will assess the security conditions necessary for the development of its activities and it will coordinate with state authorities the implementation of the security measures necessary for both the commissioners as for those involved in the activities of the Commission.

Coexistence and reconciliation: To contribute to the objective of non-repetition and reconciliation, the activities of the Commission in implementing its mandate will be aimed at promoting coexistence among Colombians, especially in areas most affected by the conflict and violence. To this end, the Commission shall ensure that the spaces or hearings serve to strengthen respect and tolerance, citizen trust in each other and in the rules that guarantee the validity and respect of human rights.Thus the Commission will also help to lay a solid foundation for building peace. 

Methodology: The Commission will take all necessary measures to ensure the greatest amount of objectivity and impartiality possible for the development of its activities. Therefore, it will adopt procedures to contrast and verify the quality of the information it  collects, including its reliability, and to identify the false information that may have been supplied in bad faith to the Commission.The Commission shall make public its methodology.

Extrajudicial mechanism: The Commission will be an extra-judicial mechanism. In this sense, its activities won’t be of a legal nature, nor may involve criminal charges against those who appear before it. The information received or produced by the Commission may not be transferred by it to the judicial authorities to be used in order to assign responsibilities in judicial proceedings or to have probative value; nor may the judicial authorities ask for it.


The Commission’s mandate will be to clarify and promote the recognition of: 

• Practices and acts that constitute serious violations of human rights and serious breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL), particularly those that reflect patterns or have a massive nature, which took place during the conflict, as well as the complexity of the contexts and the territorial dynamics in which they occurred.  

• The collective responsibility of the State, including the Government and the other public authorities, of the FARC-EP, of the paramilitaries, and of any other national or international group, organization or institution which has had any involvement in the conflict, practices and facts referred to in the previous paragraph.

• The human and social impact of the conflict on society, including the impact on the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, and the different ways in which the conflict affected women, children, adolescents, youth and elderly people, people with disability, indigenous peoples, peasant communities, Afro-Colombian and black population, the LGBTI population, displaced and exiled persons, human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, farmers, farmers, traders and businessmen/ women, among others. 

• The impact of the conflict on politics and the functioning of democracy as a whole, including the impact on political and social parties and movements, especially from the opposition.

• The impact of the conflict on those who were directly involved in it as combatants and on their families and environment. 

• The historic context, origins and multiple causes of the conflict, taking into account the reports of the Historical Commission of the Conflict and its Victims, among others. 

• The factors and conditions that facilitated or contributed to the persistence of the conflict, taking into account the reports of the Historical Commission of the Conflict and its Victims, among others. 

• The development of the conflict, in particular the role of the State, the guerrillas, paramilitary groups and the involvement of different sectors of society. 

• The process of strengthening the social fabric of communities and the experiences of individual and collective resilience. 

• The processes of positive transformation of organizations and institutions throughout the conflict. 

The period that will be studied by the Commission (temporal scope):

To address the various elements of its mandate, the temporal scope of  the Commission will be the period of the conflict.As this is a long time frame, the Commission will need to set priorities of investigation within this temporal scope.However, in order to comply with the purpose of elucidating the origins and multiple causes of the conflict, the Commission may explore historical events prior to it, taking into account as a basic input, among others, the reports of the Historical Commission and Conflict victims.


To fulfill its mandate, the Commission will have the following functions:

• All the elements of the mandate through methodologies and ways of collecting and analyzing information necessary to this purpose, considering those methods that are generally accepted by social sciences, applying a gender perspective and taking into account past efforts for the Construction of the truth, including as a basic input, among others, the reports of the Historical Commission of the Conflict and its Victims. 

• Create spaces at the national, regional and territorial level, especially thematic, territorial, institutional, organizational public hearings about emblematic situations and cases, among others, to listen to different voices, first those of the victims, both individual and collective, and to promote the participation of different sectors of society to contribute to a joint reflection on what happened and the causes and effects of severe violence experienced by Colombia. 

• These spaces may include public arenas for discussion and reflection or cultural ceremonies, in order for those who participated directly or indirectly in the conflict to do acts of acknowledgment of responsibility and apologize, in its various dimensions, for the harm and suffering caused to the people, as well as for the political and social impact of their actions; and therefore provide explanations on the actions that have been carried out, contribute to the reparation, make commitments of non-repetition and peacebuilding, among others. This should help to get to know the truth and to peaceful coexistence in the territories.

• Prepare a final report, that should take into account the different contexts, reflect the research on all components of the mandate and contain the conclusions and recommendations of its work. 

• Guide victims and victimized communities that participate in the Commission on the institutional and other offers that exist to satisfy their rights and the mechanisms to demand them. 

• Relations between the Commission and the victims and their organizations: Design and implement a strategy of active relationship in place with the victims and their organizations. 

• Implement a strategy of dissemination, education and active relationship with the media, in order to report on the progress and developments in the implementation of all functions of the Commission while it is working, and to ensure the widest possible participation.The Government will take the necessary measures for the Commission to have broad access to public media.The final report, in particular, will have the most possible comprehensive and accessible dissemination, including the development of cultural and educational initiatives, such as promoting exhibitions and recommend its inclusion in the educational system. 

• Take steps to file the information collected within the framework of its duties and, at the end of its mandate, take the necessary measures to ensure its preservation. The Commission will define the body that will safeguard and custody these files. 

• Ensure gender mainstreaming in all work areas of the Commission, with the creation of a gender workgroup to contribute to gender-specific tasks, be them technical work, research or the preparation of gender hearings, among others. This workgroup will not be the only one to address the issue, but it should be responsible for reviewing methodologies, so that all instruments of the Commission will have a gender approach, and for the coordination with women’s and LGBTI organizations. The foregoing is without prejudice to the necessary autonomy of the Commission in defining its structure and working methods.

• Society should be informed periodically, at least every six months, on the activities and efforts developed in order to fulfill all its functions. 

• Establish its own rules of procedure and working program. 

Selection process:

The Commission will be comprised of 11 commissioners. To select them, a procedure of application and selection will be started, which offers guarantees of legitimacy, impartiality and independence to all of Colombian society and in particular to the victims.The process of nomination of candidates will be broad and pluralistic, ensuring that all sectors of society, including victims’ organizations, among others, may nominate candidates.

The commissioners will be elected by a selection committee.This committee will be composed of 9 members. The Government and the FARC-EP, in agreement, will select, through the mechanism we agree, 6 members of the selection committee.The remaining 3 members will be delegates of 3 people or organizations that will be agreed by the Table.All members of the selection committee should inspire confidence in Colombian citizens.  

The selection will be based solely on the nominations and the election will take into account individual selection criteria as suitability ethics, impartiality, independence, commitment to human rights and justice, the absence of conflicts of interest, and the knowledge of the armed conflict, international humanitarian law and human rights, and proven track record in some of these fields.The selection of commissioners should also take into account collective criteria as gender equality, pluralism, interdisciplinarity and regional representation.

The selection committee will be able to select foreign commissioners but in no case can there be more than 3.

The selection committee will have up to three months to select the commissioners, starting from the end of the application phase.

The selection of the commissioners should be adopted by a 2/3 majority of the members of the selection committee.

President of the Commission:

The president of the Commission must be Colombian and should be elected by mutual agreement between the National Government and the FARC-EP, according to a mechanism we agree.The president of the Commission will be its main public spokesman, he will coordinate the work of the commissioners, facilitate good internal functioning and direct its work, preferably seeking consensus in the internal decision making process.The role of the president of the Commission is important because it is both a national and international reference. 


The Commission will run for three years, including the preparation of the final report.The Commission will have six months to prepare everything necessary for its operation.The publication of the final report will be done ​​during the month following the conclusion of the work of the Commission. 

Commitments to contribute to clarification

The National Government, as the executive power, and the FARC-EP undertake to contribute decisively in the process of uncovering the truth and recognize their respective responsibilities before the Commission.

The Government will take all necessary measures to ensure the contribution of other State bodies and promote the participation of third parties in the Commission, in order to contribute to the clarification and recognition of responsibilities, as part of the necessary guarantees for non-repetition.

In accordance with applicable laws, the Government undertakes to facilitate the consultation of the information required by the Commission to fulfill its functions, and the Commission, for its part, will give it the corresponding legal treatment.


The National Government undertakes to ensuring the timely financing of all the functions of the Commission, so that it can fulfill its mandate and functions autonomously and continuously, including the publication and widespread dissemination of the final report.The Commission shall take the necessary measures so that the spending of its resources will be transparent, trying to guarantee expenditure restraint.Citizen control over the spending of resources will be promoted by providing the necessary guarantees for it.

Follow-up and monitoring committee of the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission:

A follow-up and monitoring committee of the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission will start operating once the final report has been published.  To fulfill its task, dialogue with different victims’ and human rights organizations, among others, will be facilitated. This committee will comprise representatives from different sectors of society, including victims’ and human rights organizations, among others. The Commission will establish the how long the committee will be working.The committee shall render periodic reports to follow up the recommendations.These reports will have a territorial, differential and gender approach.The committee will take the necessary steps to widely disseminate its reports in national and regional media.The Government will ensure funding for the committee to carry out its functions.

2. Search Mechanism

To help meet the rights of victims and the whole society to the truth, and without prejudice to the procedures of clarification that might exist or can be created during the  peace talks, we agreed that once the conflict has ended, it is necessary to multiply the efforts of search, location, identification and recovery of remains of people killed or reported as missing in the context and because of the conflict, under any circumstances.To do this, we will work on a new mechanism that will work in coordination with the Commission.

3. Victims’ participation and society in relation to Item 5

Within the 10 principles for the discussion of Item 5 – “Victims”, agreed at the Table, the “Participation of victims” occupies a very important place.We are convinced that peace-building requires active participation of the victims, and in general of the communities in the territories, which ultimately are the ones who will benefit from the changes sought by the agreements we have reached.

For the Table it has been a fundamental objective to achieve the greatest possible participation and receive the highest possible number of proposals related to the discussion of Item 5.The advances of the agreement on Item 5 we present today, are based precisely on hearing the victims who came directly to the Table and reading the proposals sent to us by thousands of people through the different mechanisms of participation.

Firstly and for the first time as part of a peace process, the Conversation Table heard directly and received proposals from a group of victims of the conflict. The selection process of these victims was conducted by the UN and the National University, accompanied by the Episcopal Conference, who under the principles of pluralism, balance and common sense, sought to reflect the total universe of human rights violations and breaches of IHL that have taken place in the conflict, taking into account the different social sectors and populations, and the regional approach. The delegations were composed of 12 victims and the Table heard a delegation in each round, during round 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 of talks.

Among the victimizing events that were represented, we heard testimonies on forced displacement, murder, torture, forced disappearance, kidnapping, sexual violence, extrajudicial executions and forced recruitment of minors, among others.All victims who visited Havana in order to express their testimonies, their suggestions and expectations regarding the peace process and the implementation of the agreements before the two delegations in the talks, highlighted the need to end the conflict. 

Additionally, between July and August 2014, 3 regional forums (in Villavicencio, Barrancabermeja and Barranquilla) and a National Forum in Cali on Item 5, were organized. 3,162 people participated, of which 51.7% were men and 48.3% women.These forums were attended by more than 600 organizations of victims.

Finally, to date we have received 24,324 contributions on the item of victims, with over 59,000 references to different aspects of this point, including more than 8,600 on the issue of “truth.”

Also read: Press release FARC-EP end of round 37

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