The ICRC Warns About The Resurgence Of Violence In Colombia In 2019

In Colombia there were at least 987 violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) in 2019, according to a balance presented this Wednesday by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that reveals a resurgence of violence in the last three years despite the agreement peace signed in 2016. The radiography prepared by the ICRC on the continuing violation of IHL demonstrates the Committee’s difficulties in approaching communities and engaging in dialogues with armed groups. “In 2019 the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated for the civilian population: displacements, confinement continue and we record a worrying development in the number of people affected by improvised explosive devices,” said Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, at a press conference. The picture is complex due to the situation of extreme poverty, unmet needs and disputes between armed groups in departments such as Chocó, Nariño, Arauca and Córdoba. “The resurgence of armed actions indicates that the promises of peace have not yet materialized in the most vulnerable regions where there has not been an integral consolidation of the presence of the State and where the arrival of migrants implies new challenges,” the report said. 77% of the 987 violations that the 13 ICRC offices in the country knew first-hand were threats, homicides, acts of sexual violence and recruitment of minors. The figures, according to the ICRC, show that “the abuses of war have not diminished and have a different configuration in each region of the country.” EXPLOSIVES, AT LEAST ONE PERSON AFFECTED EACH DAY In 2019, the ICRC registered 352 victims of explosive devices and antipersonnel mines, including 159 civilians, figures that clearly worry the Committee because “they destroy families, life projects and have a permanent effect in the lives of the victims. ” “These weapons do not discriminate between civilians and the military, which is why they are so serious because we have a significant increase in 2019 compared to 2018,” Harnisch said. The disappearance of people continues to be a titanic challenge in the country, since only in 2019 the International Committee of the Red Cross documented 93 cases. “It is very worrying when we compare this to the discussion we have had in the last four years about the need for the search for missing persons. That is not a phenomenon of Colombia’s past, it is a phenomenon of the present,” said Harnisch. The report revealed that although in many of the areas where the ICRC works, institutional organizations have a willingness to help missing persons and their families, the effort remains insufficient. According to the balance sheet, the disappearance dimension includes more than 83,000 victims and shows no signs of stopping. “Although we had information on 913 of the 2,158 people we are looking for, only 116 cases were resolved, that shows that finding the missing people is a titanic task,” the balance sheet said. LIVING WITHOUT FEAR, A PENDING DEBT The outlook with the groups with which the ICRC seeks to dialogue on humanitarian principles is today more complex because communities cannot identify them or are afraid of reprisals by combatants against the civilian population. Given the conditions, the possibility of protecting the civilian population is even more difficult for the ICRC, it takes more time and limits the ability to respond to human rights violations. “We see that the picture today is more complex than last year. The armed groups are more fragmented and the conflict has new dynamics, the victims are silent for fear and living without fear is a pending debt for Colombia,” Harnisch added. He also said that “there is fear that something might happen after talking with the ICRC. If we do not have, as humanitarian actors, the trust of the civilian population, that population will not give us information about what is happening in the areas.” MORE THAN 25,000 DISPLACEMENTS Although last year the cases of mass displacement decreased, as they totaled 25,303 compared to 27,780 in 2018, the figure is still significantly higher than that of 13,809 in 2016, the year in which the peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas. The departments with the most victims were Nariño, Chocó, Córdoba, Valle del Cauca and Norte de Santander. The reduction of cases, the ICRC explained, can be explained by another equally serious phenomenon: the confinement that affected 27,694 people in 2019. “When a population is confined for weeks, this changes people’s lives negatively, according to our observations the picture has become much more complex than in the past,” Harnisch added. AGGRESSIONS AGAINST MEDICAL MISSION Despite the many efforts of the Government, Harnisch said that the national scene is so critical that even health personnel and health infrastructure are victims of constant aggressions, in fact in 2019 there were 281 incidents according to the Ministry of health. “The lack of respect for medical staff, medical resources and facilities is very worrying,” said Harnisch. These attacks threaten the ability of humanitarian agencies to save lives, as there are threats against doctors, nurses, physical attacks and effects on health structures. ”