The representative to Colombia for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] Thursday reiterated his call for a peaceful solution to the country's ongoing armed conflict. Christian Salazar made his remarks at a press conference following an announcement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] stating plans to move forward with the unilateral release of hostages currently being held by the paramilitary rebels. Last month a military offensive led to the deaths of four FARC hostages who were killed by their captors during the fighting, but Salazar stated he believed FARC's plan to release other hostages signaled a new phase of hostage liberation that might help lead both sides to a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict. However Salazar recognized at the press conference that at this point even talking about the armed conflict in Colombia was "extremely sensitive." To that end Salazar also praised the actions of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos [official website, in Spanish], who has maintained an open line of dialogue between FARC and the Colombian government, which Salazar held as important to preventing a longterm "spiral of violence" in the country. The rebels announced their plans [letter, PDF, in Spanish] for the upcoming hostage release in a missive to former Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba earlier this month.
In June Santos signed the Victims' and Land Restitution Law [Senate backgrounder, in Spanish], legislation that had been created to compensate victims of the country's armed conflict and had been approved by the Senate [JURIST reports] a month earlier. The law seeks to compensate millions of individuals by providing damages to relatives of those killed during the armed conflict, which has spanned over 40 years, as well as help to return land stolen throughout the conflict to its rightful owners. The US federal court system has heard several lawsuits seeking compensation for victims of Colombian violence. In February, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] revived a wrongful death lawsuit [JURIST report] brought against Drummond Company [corporate website] in which it is alleged that the company successfully hired the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [CFR backgrounder] to break up a new Drummond union and murder its leaders. In April 2010 victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia filed suit against Chiquita Brand International [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The plaintiffs were 242 Colombians who alleged that they had been seriously injured or had family members killed by the AUC, which received funding from Chiquita. In 2007, Chiquita was fined $25 million [JURIST report] after it admitted to making payments of around $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004 to the AUC.