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United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2022/513)

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I. Introduction

1 . The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2603 (2021), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, and Council resolution 2366 (2017), in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the mandate of the Mission every 90 days. The present report covers the period from 26 March 20 22 to 27 June 2022.

2 . The report includes important developments during a period marked largely by the presidential elections. With a view to the coming transition in administration, it aims to provide an overview of the progress, the challenges and the lags in the implementation of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace and to highlight matters that merit priority attention for the consolidation of peace.

II. Major developments

3 . Colombians cast their vote to elect a President for the second time since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016. The first and second rounds were held on 29 May and 19 June, respectively, in mostly peaceful conditions, with a voter turnout of 58.09 per cent in the second round, compared with 54 per cent in 2018. To address problems with vote counting faced during the congressional elections held in March 2022, authorities took additional measures leading to a smooth process and the prompt release of results.

4 . Gustavo Petro (Pacto Histórico) won the second round with over 50.4 per cent of the vote (11.28 million votes) and will be sworn in on 7 August. Francia Márquez was elected as the first Afro-Colombian Vice-President in Colombian history. Rodolfo Hernández (Liga de Gobernantes Anticorrupción) came in second with 47.3 per cent of the votes. Owing to the statute of the opposition, a provision of the Final Agreement, Mr. Hernández is entitled to a seat in the Senate and his running-mate,
Marelen Castillo, also Afro-Colombian, is entitled to a seat in the House of Representatives. During the campaign, both candidates pledged to continue to implement the Agreement. In his acceptance speech, the President-elect, Mr. Petro, called for national unity and said that peace would be a central goal of hisadministration. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Colombia and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia had previously met with both campaigns to discuss the peace process and reiterated the support of the United Nations for the implementation of the Agreement.

5 . Electoral authorities have certified the election of all 187 members of the House of Representatives, including 50 women (26.7 per cent). The Senate results are still under review, in view of claims by political parties of irregularities during the initial count.

6 . In a major step for transitional justice in Colombia, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace carried out its first public hearings on acknowledgement of truth and responsibility as part of Case 01 (on hostage-taking, other serious deprivations of liberty and other concurrent crimes committed by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP)) and Case 03 (on killings and forced disappearances presented as casualties in combat by State agents) regarding crimes committed in the Catatumbo region. During the hearings, the indicted individuals voluntarily and publicly acknowledged their responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

7 . In April, with regard to Case 03, 10 former members of the military, including a former general, and one civilian who had already recognized their responsibility in writing in 2021, asked for forgiveness and stated that the victims did not belong to any armed group and that they had falsely been reported as guerrilla members killed in combat. Thirty-five victims participated and, while acknowledging the perpetrators’ contribution to the truth, asked for further information on the responsibility of higher-ranking officials. At the request of the victims, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace ordered the former general to expand upon his acknowledgement of responsibility in another public hearing in July.

8 . In June, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace convened a hearing on Case 01, during which seven indicted former top FARC-EP commanders acknowledged their responsibility, asked for forgiveness, and provided further details on the crimes committed. Over the course of three days, the former commanders listened to the accounts of 29 victims and their families, recognized the damage caused, and reaffirmed their commitment to the process conducted by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. Among other things, several victims asked for additional information on the whereabouts of their kidnapped relatives who are still missing. The hearing was held after being postponed on three occasions, including owing to security concerns raised by the former commanders, which was questioned by some of the victims. In addition, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace called on another 52 former members of the FARC-EP to provide individual and collective voluntary accounts.

9 . Following those historic hearings, which are an important step towards the issuance of restorative sentences, the Judicial Panel for Acknowledgement of Truth and Responsibility of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace is expected to present its conclusions on both cases and determine whether the acknowledgement of responsibility and contributions to the truth by those indicted are sufficient to make them eligible for restorative sentences.

10 . The security situation remained of concern in areas historically affected by conflict. A major controversy arose after 11 persons were killed in a military operation in Putumayo in March. While the Government reported that the operation was conducted against an illegal armed group, local communities and civil society organizations later reported that civilians were among the victims, including a 16-year-old child, indigenous and community leaders. Criminal and disciplinary investigations are ongoing. The Mission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have jointly followed-up on the authorities’ investigations and response, including through field missions.

11 . Also in May, Colombian authorities extradited “Otoniel”, the top leader of the Clan del Golfo (also known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia), to the United States of America on drug trafficking charges. Legal actions by victims’ organizations to prevent the extradition, claiming that it would affect their rights to reparation and truth regarding conflict-related crimes, were overruled. In March, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace had denied a request by Otoniel to be subject to its jurisdiction.

12 . After the extradition, the Clan del Golfo carried out a five-day armed strike, with reports of widespread violence affecting 178 municipalities in 11 of Colombia’s 32 departments. According to the Investigation and Accusation Unit of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, there were over 300 acts of violence against civilians, including the killing of 24 persons, and 22 attacks against public security forces, killing two of their members.