In late 2013, with the support of the University of San Buenaventura and independent experts, Geneva Call held an International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) course for ten ELN (National Liberation Army) members in the Bellavista prison in Medellín. The ELN is the second largest insurgent group in Colombia.
The participants, several of whom were high-ranking commanders, had previously operated in different regions of Colombia. Over eight daily sessions, they debated the normative framework of IHL, IHRL and transitional justice with the trainers, and the challenges in applying it in the Colombian context.
“Any trainer who thinks they will be coming here to give a normal lecture has no idea of the immense challenge that awaits. This is a table of dialogue, an eye opener,” said one of the trainers. Although discussions were sometimes challenging, trainees agreed that “As an armed group, we must progressively apply the rules of IHL, not just conform with existing internal regulations, but go beyond that and protect the people.”
Trainees also agreed to review internal ELN regulations in light of international norms and make recommendations to the leadership for improvements.
Geneva Call would like to thank the Colombian authorities, especially the Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario (INPEC), for making the training possible.