Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Colombia for enacting a law that seeks to compensate victims of human rights violations, injustice and deprivation in the South American country, saying the legislation is a fundamental step towards resolving the conflicts that Colombians have endured for decades.
The Victims' Rights and Land Restitution Law focuses on the rights of victims, rather than on how to deal with perpetrators and seeks to overcome obstacles that could have resulted in discrimination, Mr. Ban said when he attended the signing of the legislation into law by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón in the country's capital, Bogota, yesterday.
The law reinforces the right to remedy for lands seized illegally and recognizes the different needs of different victims, especially women, children and displaced people. It lays the foundation for justice for some 3.5 million displaced people and estimated 500,000 victims of human rights abuse.
”This ambitious, complex piece of legislation has taken Colombia closer to realizing the rights of victims.
But let us not overlook where it can be strengthened. I urge you to send a powerful message that under no circumstances will human rights violations be tolerated,” said the Secretary-General.
Mr. Ban stressed that no one who had been subjected to human rights violations should be excluded from the benefits of the law, including members of illegal armed groups, and especially those who were recruited as children.
The effectiveness of the land programme will also depend on adopting comprehensive protection measures.
“The proper and timely implementation of this law will determine whether expectations raised are met,” said Mr. Ban.
“The United Nations in Colombia stands ready to support your Government and civil society in this challenging task. It will be important for the Government to maintain close dialogue with victims and their representatives,” he added.
In the Colombian city of Cartagena on Saturday the Secretary-General attended the signing of the “Prosperity Agreement” on development cooperation between UN and the Colombian authorities.
“The context for our dialogue and cooperation is the United Nations Development Assistance Framework under which we are focusing on four areas – poverty reduction sustainable development governance and human rights and peace, security and reconciliation.
“With your agreement, we are adding a fifth priority, namely humanitarian and emergency assistance,” said Mr. Ban. Those are the tools the UN use to help Colombia achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and improve welfare for all its citizens, he added.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General yesterday met with María Emma Mejía, Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
Mr. Ban congratulated Ms. Mejía on her appointment as UNASUR Secretary General and thanked her for UNASUR support for Haiti. He and Ms. Mejía discussed UNASUR's plans and possible areas of collaboration.