When the fight against mines revives hopes for peace

On the 4th and 5th of June 2004, the “First International Forum on Landmines, Non-State
Actors and Humanitarian Agreements” was held in Bogota. This forum, organised by Geneva
Call and the Colombian Campaign Against Mines, considered the use of mines by Colombian
guerrillas and previous experiences with humanitarian agreements and explored the potential
for initiating similar agreements on landmines.

During the two day event, testimonials by communities suffering because of the presence of
mines, including victims and their families, enabled participants to understand the realities of
those living in mined areas. International organisations, such as the mine action agencies
FSD, MAG and GICHD, as well as the OAS and the ICRC, spoke about potential assistance
for mine actions programmes. The European Union reaffirmed its full commitment to the
fight against mines and to any process of dialogue. Discussion on humanitarian agreements
highlighted the need to obtain the government’s acceptance of, and respect for, agreements
between local communities and the guerrillas.

The Vice-president of Colombia, Dr. Francisco Santos, opened the conference with a
declaration entitled “Time to cease the hostilities.” He recalled the will of the government to
give priority to the fight against mines and to authorise Geneva Call to hold discussions with
the guerrillas on this issue. He also announced that the Colombian government was ready to
open peace negotiations with the ELN.

In an exceptional move, the Colombian government authorised Francisco Galan,
spokesperson for the ELN, who has been imprisoned for several years at the high security
Itagui prison in Medellin, to leave prison for a few hours to give a statement at the forum.
Francisco Galan also met with the Ambassador of Mexico to discuss the possible role of the
Mexican government as negotiator in a potential peace process.

In front of hundreds of people and journalists, Francisco Galan read a statement from the
central Command of the ELN concluding that:

“The ELN proposes to work on a humanitarian agreement to find an accord on the limitation
of utilisation of mines and IEDs, a general amnesty for political prisoners and war prisoners
and a temporary bilateral cease-fire. Agreements that could, in the whole, open the way for a
political solution that every Colombian dreams of. We invite Geneva Call and the Colombian
Campaign Against Mines to accompany us in the process of building a humanitarian
agreement.”

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