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Colombia: Bilateral ceasefire with the ELN, a historic step forward

The announcement of a ceasefire agreement between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government is a historic step forward in efforts towards a just and sustainable peace in Colombia. Peace negotiations must ensure that all responsible for serious violations and abuses of human rights are held accountable, Amnesty International said.

“Colombia is taking yet another step towards an end to a five-decade-long armed conflict that has shattered millions of lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Colombia is taking yet another step towards an end to a five-decade-long armed conflict that has shattered millions of lives
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

“It is imperative that all parties to the conflict end attacks on civilians and other crimes under international law and that the parties prioritise human rights and accountability during peace negotiations.”

The ceasefire has been signed for a four-month period, after which the Colombian government and the ELN will start discussing a potential peace agreement.

The news comes as new reports have emerged of increasing paramilitary activity in areas historically controlled by guerrilla groups, including the ELN and the FARC (the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) – who signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government nearly a year ago.

Amnesty International has documented how armed confrontations between the ELN, paramilitary groups and state forces in the department of Chocó in west Colombia have caused a deterioration in the humanitarian situation of the Wounaan and Embera Indigenous people since the signing of the peace accord in November 2016.

Last month, an indigenous woman was killed after she was caught in the crossfire. Reports have also emerged of forced recruitment of indigenous children, forced displacement and confinement, as well as the presence of land mines which have seriously injured a number of community members.

“Any peace agreement with guerrilla groups will be meaningless unless Colombian authorities ensure that paramilitary groups are no longer operating in the country. Dismantling paramilitary groups and ensuring full respect for human rights must be a top priority in the Colombian government’s agenda,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Any peace agreement with guerrilla groups will be meaningless unless Colombian authorities ensure that paramilitary groups are no longer operating in the country
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International