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The 5 keys to the longest-running bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian state and the ELN

The 5 keys to the longest-running bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian state and the ELN

Caracas.- The national bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) comes into effect this Thursday, which at 180 days is the longest ceasefire agreed with the guerrillas.

From the time the agreement was signed in Havana on June 9th to this day there has been much speculation and controversy about how it will work and what it consists of. Here are five keys to this cessation of hostilities:

1. What does the ceasefire include?

The agreement signed in Havana — and subsequent protocols — includes the suspension of “offensive operations against each other,” including “intelligence operations,” and the two parties will be able to maintain “defense measures.” All this with the aim of “reducing the intensity of the conflict”.

There is no list of specific acts that are permitted or prohibited, but both parties agree not to “perform acts prohibited by International Humanitarian Law (IHL),” the international regulation that establishes the rules of war.

In other words, both parties agree that they will not relentlessly engage in acts already prohibited, as these are serious violations and war crimes that no actor should commit, even if at war.


With so much ambiguity, there has also been much controversy as to whether actions such as kidnapping constituted a violation of a cessation of hostilities. After the agreement was signed, the ELN’s chief negotiator, “Pablo Beltrán”, said almost after getting up from the table that “withholdings (as the guerrillas call kidnappings when not necessary) will not be made.”

But what does international humanitarian law say about kidnapping? Well, the basic premise of the IHL is that an armed actor can have a person in his power and always treat him with dignity if he considers him to be a threat, that is, if he belongs to another side, for example.

However, kidnapping a civilian unrelated to the conflict in exchange for money or some other favor is hostage-taking and a non-amnestable war crime — with or without a ceasefire.


This Thursday, when the ceasefire officially begins, the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MMV) will also come into force, which will have a national core but also instances in 9 regions and 22 municipalities.

The national body consists of at least four members of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, three members of the government, three members of the ELN and two members of the Bishops’ Conference.

The tasks of the MMV include, among other things, monitoring and verification tasks, making recommendations to the dialogue table, making concepts on the facts that represent possible occurrences during the hiring process, and submitting periodic evaluations.

Also “in the event of deprivation of liberty” of persons on either side or of civilians, the national MMV is informed that “it will assess the situation, take follow-up action and, if necessary, make recommendations.”

The MMV sends monthly management reports to the peace dialogue table, one report 90 days later and one 20 days before the end. The MMV spokesperson will be the delegate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.


Both the leadership of the ELN and Colombian President Gustavo Petro gave their ranks the order to stop offensive actions against the other side from July 6th.

However, the ELN did so after several days in which it intensified its missionary actions in the areas where it has the greatest power (Arauca and Catatumbo) and kidnapped several members of the security forces, including a female sergeant and her two children, who after a year were released a few days.

In Chocó, too, the ELN has called armed strikes several times this year, during which a large part of the population has been imprisoned and expelled. Kidnappings and actions like this will be vital to the goodwill of the guerrillas.

For its part, the ELN criticizes the fact that the security forces can join forces with other groups to wrest control of their territories and also points out that the government is not cooperating with the agreement on the treatment of its detained “political prisoners”. .

5. Waiver of Termination

The protocol signed in Cuba clarifies that “no incident alone will result in a unilateral violation of the ceasefire agreement.”

Only the Dialogue Table, after receiving the MMV’s reports and recommendations, can make “decisions to continue or suspend” the ceasefire.

With information from EFE

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