Colombia: a restorative response to armed conflicts

Pablo Romero

Pablo Romero·– 03/12/2024 6:26am

Contextualizing the armed conflict in Colombia

The Colombian armed conflict, one of the longest-running conflicts in Latin America, began in the mid-20th century as a result of political, social, and economic tensions. Rooted in issues such as land inequality, political exclusion, and the presence of guerrilla groups, notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the conflict has caused significant suffering and displacement for millions of Colombians over the decades. Efforts to negotiate peace agreements have been made throughout the years, including the 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC, which aimed to end hostilities and address issues of land reform, political participation, and drug trafficking. Despite this landmark agreement, challenges remain, including the presence of other armed groups, such as paramilitaries and criminal organizations, ongoing violence in certain regions, and the slow implementation of peace initiatives. Today, Colombia continues its journey towards lasting peace and reconciliation, facing the complexities of post-conflict reconstruction and the pursuit of justice for victims while striving to address underlying social and economic inequalities.

The establishment of the JEP: a very relevant step towards reconciliation

In this context, a very relevant milestone was the establishment of the Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP) in 2018, which marked a significant step towards addressing past atrocities and achieving reconciliation in the aftermath of conflict. The JEP is a transitional justice mechanism created as part of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. It is tasked with investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating crimes committed during the country's decades-long armed conflict.

The JEP operates under the principles of restorative justice, aiming to uncover the truth, provide reparations to victims, promote accountability, and facilitate the reintegration of former combatants into society. It offers various pathways for perpetrators to acknowledge their responsibility, express remorse, and contribute to reconciliation efforts, including providing testimony, participating in community service projects, and supporting victims' initiatives.

Problems and potential solutions to achieve an effective victim participation in post-conflict scenarios: the role of technology

However, despite the JEP's ambitious goals and efforts to involve victims in restorative processes, challenges persist in ensuring their meaningful participation. One of the main problems hindering victim involvement is the geographical distance and logistical barriers faced by victims, particularly those living outside of Colombia. Many victims residing abroad find it difficult to access information, attend hearings, or engage in the proceedings due to travel constraints and limited communication channels.

Furthermore, linguistic and cultural barriers impede effective communication and understanding between victims, their representatives, and the JEP authorities. This lack of inclusivity can lead to feelings of marginalization among certain victim groups, undermining the legitimacy and effectiveness of the restorative justice efforts.

However, technological solutions offer promising avenues for overcoming these challenges and enhancing victim participation in post-conflict reconciliation processes. By leveraging digital platforms and communication tools, such as video conferencing, online forums, and multilingual resources, the JEP can facilitate greater access and engagement for victims, regardless of their location.

Additionally, the development of user-friendly mobile applications or web-based portals can provide victims with real-time updates, educational materials, and opportunities to submit testimonies or participate in virtual hearings. These technological innovations not only promote transparency and accountability but also empower victims to have a more active role in shaping the restorative justice process.

In conclusion, while the JEP represents a crucial mechanism for addressing the legacy of conflict in Colombia, ensuring meaningful victim participation remains a pressing challenge. By embracing technological solutions tailored to the needs of victims, especially those living abroad, the JEP can overcome barriers to participation and foster greater inclusivity, trust, and healing within post-conflict communities, thereby contributing to a more sustainable peace in Colombia while being .