Colombia: An analysis of the new 'Victims Law' by Hasan Dodwell

This article was originally published on Insight on Conflict

In any civil war, there will be victims. How to deliver justice to these victims is of fundamental concern to any efforts being made to advance a war-torn state towards peace.

Can laws be developed in a conflict zone in order to bring about justice and advance the possibility of peace? What are the essential requirements of these laws?


Is it possible to adopt laws offering compensation to the victims of crimes committed in the context of a civil war whilst the conflict and the conditions causing it continue to exist?

In Colombia, a civil war has raged for several decades. It is a conflict that has left literally millions of victims. The number continues to grow. In Colombia, the civil-war is not just an armed confrontation between rival groups, it is an armed, social and political conflict in which the state has been involved both implicitly and explicitly in much of the violence against the civilian population. It is a war that continues. For the Colombian state and in the Colombian context therefore, these questions are indeed pertinent ones.

In August 2010, Juan Manuel Santos was elected as the new Colombian president. His government has pushed forward a new victims law that according to the law’s creators will offer compensation to around 4 million victims of the Colombian conflict. It is being hailed as a major step for Colombia.

There are however concerns from certain sectors, particularly from human rights and victims organisations. We speak with the legal human rights organisation Yira Castro about the law and its capacity to address successfully the issue of the victims of the Colombian conflict.


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Tags: Colombia


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Comment by Luis Antonio Ordonez on September 1, 2011 at 11:29am

Joel, Craig, thanks for sharing. Although there´s so many to do around this new law, it is a good start. It has to be better shaped and addresses topics as the private economic interests among many, but most importantly, the causes of the conflict itself.

Otherwise, although new laws are created, this internal rooted conflict will perpetuate. Colombia has a history of creating new laws, great in paper but weak in reality. As far as I know, the country has one of the most comprehensive environmental laws, but it hasn´t been implemented as it should. I hope the current GOC improves its efforts to better shape and implement this law in order to intervene the main cause of the Colombian and other conflicts in the world, land distribution.

Comment by Andres Macias on August 25, 2011 at 12:12pm

Dear Joel Gabri,

Thank you very much for posting this video.

I believe it is great to expose to the world what is going on internally Colombia. There are not many reports or researches in English or with English translations (or subs) regarding current issues, a situation that makes this video even more important.

I wanted to let you know that on a specific section of the video, where you ask Claudia about the link between private economic interests and the evolution of the internal armed conflict, there is a research done by Camilo Echandia, a professor and researcher at Universidad Externado de Colombia in Bogota, dealing precisely with that topic.

I am also a professor and researcher and Universidad Externado. My research topic (for PhD research) is related to the privatization of security (PMSCs) and its impact in the internal armed conflict in Colombia.  That is why I know about Professor Echandia's work and also why your post is interesting for me.

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