Bulletin #16: Series about victims' rights and the application of Law 975
Three initiatives of law on earth make difficult the right to reparation
The government has presented two law proposals to the Congress that allow
the legalization and misappropriation of lands by paramilitary groups, and
the destination of the state's budget to finance 'productive' projects on
the land.These measures endanger the right of restitution as a way of
reparation for all the misappropriations to millions of victims that have
been exposed to violation of human rights; they also go against the
principal purpose for why Law 975 was supposedly funded on the first place.
Some projects have promoted or taken advantage of the systematic
misappropriation of lands developed by the paramilitary groups, just as the
"Defensoria del Pueblo" stated it in its resolution # 39 on June 2nd, 2005.
According to the "Defensoria", there have been vast cultivations of African
palm on misappropriated territories at Bajo Atrato (Choco); whole communies
have been forced abandon the area by paramilitary groups. In the same
resolution, the "Defensoria" also reported that paramilitary groups, during
their incursion in the lands, stated that "they were the owners of the
territories and that they would establish more cultivations of the palms".
The statement was supported by the Paramilitary Head Vicente Castaño who
later added: "We have palm crops in Urabá. I was the one who contacted the
investors to intervene in those projects that are long-lasting and
Many lands that were violently misappropriated by paramilitary groups are
now in the hands of people that are economically exploiting them. Thanks to
normative changes inherent in the new proposals, the expropriators could
consolidate and strengthen economic benefits derived from blood and
One of these proposals is the "Rural Development Status", that among other
aspects, aims to award benefits for the purchase of lands, as well as for
the execution of agro-industrial projects that present high productivity.
With this criteria, large-scale projects of agro-industrial exploitation
will obtain new advantages and will be backed up by big corporations.
Another project proposed was the "Project of Rural Development" (article
122), which argued that even if someone did not have a property "fair
title", the ownership of properties could be demonstrated with any other
proof; this could have led to the legalization of territories that had been
previously misappropriated illegally. Luckily, thanks to the opposition of
many control organisms and social organizations, this particular article was
excluded from the law project. Even though article 122 was abolished, it has
been replaced by another law project known as "Healing of the property
titles". This project aimed to make the process for land titles more
"flexible" for the people who lacked the "fair titles". This project not
only encourages an incredibly easy process for property legitimation, but
also denies the original land owners (who are currently in a state of
displacement) the right of restitution of the lands they were forced to
Another program which has already been approved called "Agro Ingreso Seguro"
(Secure Agricultural Income), grants economic benefits to some sectors of
agricultural production. It ignores the fact that in many cases the
development of "Agro-Industries" has been made through crimes that violate
human rights, such as murder and forced abandonment of lands.The program
basically consists on a large-scale cultivation that limits the victims'
rights to get their lands back because it does not establish mechanisms that
lead to an analysis of which properties were misappropriated by paramilitary
In such conditions, the initiatives already mentioned could lead to the
systematic plunder of rural lands by paramilitary groups. Under the state's
financial support to strengthen the Agro-industrial exploitation, there is a
good chance that there will be no restitution of lands to the victims who
were subject to violent misappropriation.
The United Nations Committee for Economic, Social, and Cultural rights has
suggested the Colombian state create efficient solutions to fight against
the problems that deal with poverty and inequality in the rural areas. In
order to pursue this goal, it is necessary to protect the farmers'
properties and to insure restitution of lands that have been taken away
illegally. On the other hand, the existing projects fail to create integral
reparations and denies the country any possibilities of peace and justice.
Bogotá, March 26, 2007