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Last Updated:1/12/02
Letter from U.S. non-governmental organizations, January 11, 2002

January 11, 2002

Dear President Pastrana,

As international observers of Colombia's peace process we urge both the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in the strongest possible terms to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace process.

We are saddened by the imminent collapse of peace talks between the two parties. While we acknowledge the many frustrations that have plagued negotiations since they began three years ago, we echo the sentiments of Jan Egeland, former U.N. special envoy for peace in Colombia, that an imperfect peace process is preferable to a perfect war. We hope that both parties can reflect upon the consequences of an escalation of violence, especially for the civilian population in Colombia, and renew their commitment to a negotiated settlement.

As we write, time is running out for both sides to agree on the future of the talks. We commend the efforts of the 'Group of Friends' countries to support and strengthen the peace process and call upon the FARC and the Colombian government to utilize this opportunity for international participation in the negotiation process. We ask both sides to urgently consider a renewal of talks mediated by the United Nations and other members of the international community. Should the demilitarized zone remain as a site for negotiations, international bodies such as the UN can play an important role in monitoring the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law within the zone.

We call on the United States to support Colombia's efforts to reach a negotiated settlement as well as the participation of the 'Group of Friends' countries, and the role of Colombian civil society in this process. A year after the implementation of Plan Colombia, it is clear that an intensification of military action and an increase in military aid by the United States has not brought the country closer to a lasting peace. At this critical moment, it is crucial that the United States take a leadership role in supporting the negotiations and the role of the UN within that process.

Failure by both sides to make concrete, lasting concessions in the name of peace has brought the talks to the brink of collapse several times. We strongly commend you for all your efforts to support an ongoing process despite these setbacks, and urge you to continue those efforts. We call upon all Presidential candidates to reaffirm that a negotiated peace settlement forms an integral part of Colombian state policy, and will do so for the foreseeable future.

In the event of the zone being lifted and occupied by the Colombian armed forces, we call on the government to rigorously fulfill its obligations, under Colombian and international law, to protect human rights of the civilian population who live in the region, in particular against possible reprisals by paramilitary forces. The armed conflict in Colombia has historically trapped civilians between armed actors, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of non-combatants and the displacement of nearly two million Colombian citizens.

We commend the work of the many individuals, ordinary Colombians, academics, social leaders and members of the government, who have remained committed to the peace process as the only viable solution to decades of conflict.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Jeffery
Director
US Office on Colombia

Kimberly Stanton, Ph.D.
Program Director for Latin America and Africa
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Adam Isacson
Senior Associate
Center for International Policy

Sandra C. Alvarez
Global Exchange
Colombia Program Coordinator

Martha Honey
Director
Peace and Security Program
Institute for Policy Studies

Kevin B. Zeese
President
Common Sense for Drug Policy

Martha Honey
Director
Foreign Policy in Focus
Institute for Policy Studies

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

David Moczulski, OFM
Executive Director
Franciscan Washington Office for Latin America

Bill Spencer
Deputy Director
Washington Office on Latin America

Kathryn Wolford
President
Lutheran World Relief

Bill Frelick
President
US Committee on Refugees

Cc
Camilo Gomez, High Commissioner for Peace
Gustavo Bell, Defense Minister

Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Curt Strubble, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Micheal Parmly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Marc Grossman, Undersecretary for Political Affairs
Thomas Shannon, Director for Andean Affairs
Danika Walters, International Relations Officer, Bilateral Affairs Office, Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Senator Chafee
Senator Dodd
Senator Feingold
Senator Leahy
Senator McConnell
Senator Wellstone
Representative Ballenger
Representative Kolbe
Representative Lowey
Representative McGovern
Representative Menendez
Representative Pelosi
Representative Schakowsky

James LeMoyne, UN Secretary General's Special Representative on the Peace Process in Colombia

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