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Statement by Ms. Paula Gaviria Betancur, Head Director of the Unit for Attention and Reparation of Victims of Colombia, at the official presentation of the Guidance Note of the Secretary General: "Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence".

New York, August 1st 2014


It is a great honor for the Colombian State to be here today as part of this international stage for the introduction of the "Guidance note on reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence", issued by the Secretary General. We happily find that, in agreement to the guide, the Victims and Land Restitution Law in Colombia provides a legal framework in accordance with the specific acknowledgement of what happened to the victims of the conflict, the damages in their lives, and the comprehensive reparation measures as a basis to a peace-building process, guarantees for the exercise of human rights, and the application of international humanitarian law.

In every single measure of attention, assistance, and comprehensive reparation, thus acknowledging all those victims who are subject to special protection because they have been exposed to greater risks, and specially acknowledging the particular damages and forms of violence that have affected more than 3 million women currently included in the Single Registry of Victims.

The Victims and Land Restitution Law is a way for victims to rebuild their life projects, and places them as a priority for the Colombian State's actions, by means of comprehensive reparation, which includes: satisfaction measures, rehabilitation, compensation, restitution, and guarantees of non-repetition.

In relation to this, we strongly believe that the passing of this law in Colombia is both a great opportunity, and a very demanding task -regarding inter-institutional coordination- so as a comprehensive response can be really achieved for victims to effectively exercise their rights.

The Victims Law provides guarantees for the rights of the victims of the armed conflict

• It establishes an administrative program that allows victims to massively access to comprehensive reparations, and places the burden of proof on the State.

• It creates new institutions only and exclusively dedicated to guarantee victims' rights: the Land Restitution Unit, the Historical Memory Center, and the Unit for Attention and Reparation of Victims.

• It creates the National System of Attention and Comprehensive Reparation of Victims, which gathers 53 national entities, monitoring bodies, mayors' offices, governorates, and the roundtables for the effective participation of victims.

• It consolidates the Single Registry of Victims, both individual and collective ones, as a trusted source of information on the scale of victims caused by the internal armed conflict, disaggregated by all the differential approaches.

• It creates environments and effective tools for the victims to directly influence in the institutional bodies where the implementation of the public policy that benefits them is defined.

• It includes measures to comprehensively repair victims of forced displacement, dispossession or forced abandonment of lands, homicide, kidnapping, torture, forced disappearance, recruitment of children and youth, landmines, and sexual violence in the framework of the armed conflict.

• Prior-consultation proceedings are established as a mechanism and a tool to guarantee the rights of ethnic communities.

The implementation of the Victims Law has made huge progress from a gender and women's rights perspective, since as the Constitutional Court has mentioned, the conflict in Colombia has had a disproportionate impact in women's lives, something that we can see in our registry, where women represent almost 50% of the victims. Therefore, a whole institutional system has been set to make progress and guarantee women's rights.

Acknowledgement of victim women as main policy actors, and subjects with rights

• The Single Declaration Format (FUD) was adapted after some recommendations from the institutions and civil women organizations, on the characterization of those who declared themselves as victims of crimes against sexual freedom and integrity within the framework of the internal armed conflict. From a women's rights perspective, some of the changes introduced to the Single Declaration Format focused on (i) the assessment criteria related to the applications for inclusion in the Single Registry of Victims, and (ii) the extension of the list of sexual crimes, in which the following were included: forced abortion, sexual abuse, rape, harassment, forced contraception, forced pregnancy, sexual slavery, forced sterilization, sexual and commercial exploitation of children and youth, servile marriage, sexual mutilation, forced birth-control, child pornography, forced prostitution, forced household services, human trafficking, other violent sexual events.

• Regarding the number of victims of conflict-related sexual violence, there are 5,706 people included in the Single Registry of Victims, out of which 4,914 are women, representing 84%.

Guarantees to participate under equal conditions

• The participation protocol is the only tool in Colombia to include criteria based on equal representation, which in practice means new leaderships, generational exchanges and diversity. This enriches the process and, above all, facilitates more women to access the different levels of the participation roundtables.

• More than 300 victim women were elected to be part of the regional spaces of participation.

• The Colombian State makes a constant effort to strengthen organizations, which leads to effective and guaranteed participation.

For the institutions, it is a priority to comprehensively repair all the victims of crimes against sexual integrity and freedom.

• Crimes against sexual freedom and integrity were set as one of the gradualness and progressiveness criteria established by the Colombian State to access to comprehensive reparation.

• As per the compensation measures, to this day the government has invested 2.4 trillion Colombian pesos (around 1.3 billion dollars) for 400,000 victims (specifically 2,300 victims whose victimizing event was 'crime against sexual freedom and integrity').

The government is decided to contribute to the construction of a life project with the victims. For that reason, it has developed a program to support the adequate investment of the resources that they receive as compensation. As part of this program, a total of 46,057 victims (65% of them women) have participated in financial education days that aim to provide victims with guidance on their investments.

• In the Unit for the Victims, we have a tool that allows us to update victims' information, and identify their needs and abilities, thus coordinating the institutional availabilities to offer. By now, we have elaborated 213,796 plans of attention, assistance, and comprehensive reparation, out of which 1,053 were focused on women who suffered from sexual violence.

• The Colombian government has promoted satisfaction measures that have an impact in society as a whole. They seek both to preserve and dignify memories by listening to victims' testimonies, and to recover socio-cultural practices by means of homage, dignifying events, and commemoration of important dates.

The State now has rules, a budget, and entities responsible for the implementation of the public policy on victim women within the framework of the internal armed conflict

• Regarding the criminal military code of laws, a reform was approved, and it establishes that the following are excluded from the military criminal justice: crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, and sexual violence.

• It is important to mention that President Juan Manuel Santos recently passed a law to guarantee the right to access justice for all the victims of sexual violence, especially for those victims of conflict-related sexual violence (Law 1719/2014).

In spite of all this, we are aware that there is a long road to walk, and we will keep on working on the main challenges that the Colombian government faces. It is a priority for us to repair the victims of the internal armed conflict, specially the women. We will continue to develop actions so as crimes against sexual freedom and integrity are not under-recorded any more. It is necessary to keep on promoting participation of women in the forthcoming post-conflict and peace scenarios, and last but not least, we will strengthen institutions for all these activities I have mention are continued.