Colombia atrocities ongoing despite peace deal: Red Cross

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An international humanitarian aid organization has warned of ongoing hardships and atrocities in Colombia despite recent peace accords reached between the government and leftist rebels.

In its annual report for 2016 published on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had “documented 838 possible violations of international humanitarian law and other humanitarian principles that have affected more than 18,600 people.”

Forty percent of the violations last year – which included torture, rapes and killings — targeted women and children, it said.

The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a revised peace deal late last year, ending decades of fighting.


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (L) and head of the FARC group Timoleon Jimenez shake hands during the signing of a historic peace agreement in Cartagena, Colombia, Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

 

Under the peace deal, thousands of FARC fighters moved to demobilization zones across the country where they were disarmed under the supervision of monitors from the United Nations.

The government has also launched formal peace talks with the remaining Colombian rebel force, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN).

ICRC, however, claimed that the peace deals alone “will not be enough to end the violence in Colombia.”

“Building peace requires an effort by everyone and will take decades,” it said.

Christoph Harnisch, the ICRC chief in Colombia, said the ongoing violence is taking a heavy toll. It is continuing to displace civilians who get caught in the crossfire, with nearly 86,000 people currently missing, he said.


Christoph Harnisch, ICRC chief in Colombia (Photo by AFP)

 

UN officials have warned that as leftist guerrillas leave areas traditionally under their control, a power vacuum would be created in the conflict zones.

Remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups and organized criminal gangs running drug trade in the region are reportedly taking advantage of the vacuum.

Colombian authorities say the conflict has killed 260,000 people and displaced 6.9 million since it started with a leftist uprising in 1964.

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