In this episode of UpFront, we challenge Nobel Peace laureate and former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos on the status of his peace deal with the FARC rebel group, and question him on his record in government.
And in a special interview, we talk to scholar and human-rights activist Maung Zarni about Aung San Suu Kyi‘s appearance at the International Criminal Court at The Hague where she defended Myanmar against genocide accusations.
Juan Manuel Santos: FARC peace deal is ‘not dead’
In 2016, Juan Manuel Santos, then-president of Colombia, was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his agreement with the Marxist FARC rebel group, which ended the country’s more than 50-years-long civil war.
But three years after that deal was signed, former FARC leaders announced a “new stage of fighting”, saying the government betrayed them.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s current president, Ivan Duque, who won the presidency on a promise to modify the deal, is now trying to dismantle parts of it, arguing it is too lenient on former fighters.
Despite these problems, Santos insists the agreement that he is now famous for negotiating is working.
“It’s not dead. On the contrary. As the commander of the FARC has said, 95 percent or more of the people who demobilised are with the agreement. They’re complying with the agreement,” Santos said.
“Nobody promised that Colombia would be a paradise after the signature of the peace. There’s always, in every peace process, a backlash. And we are suffering that backlash. The drug trafficking, which is not Colombia’s fault, it’s the fault of the world, the demand in the United States, in Europe,” he added.
In 2015 Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the killing of thousands of civilians by Colombian security forces between 2002 and 2010.
Known as the “false-positive scandal”, it involved military personnel dressing up corpses as guerillas, in order to boost the FARC body count. Santos was defence minister from 2006 to 2009 but said he was the one who stopped the practice.
“It happened at the beginning of my watch and I stopped it and it went down to zero. I stopped the false positives,” Santos said.
This week’s Headliner is former Colombian president and Nobel Peace laureate Juan Manuel Santos.
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Defending the indefensible’
This week Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to defend her country against accusations of genocide, in a lawsuit brought by The Gambia.
The Nobel peace laureate rejected the allegations that Myanmar’s military – that for 15 years kept her under house arrest – committed genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority in her country as “incomplete and misleading”.
Burmese human rights campaigner Maung Zarni has lived in exile for more than 20 years and was one of the first people to accuse Myanmar of genocide. He believes Suu Kyi is “defending the indefensible” and wants to see her in the dock at the International Criminal Court.
“She is not a puppet. She is proactively defending, passionately and defiantly defending the indefensible, she is fully culpable. She is criminally responsible,” Zarni said.
Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine state has forced more than 700,000 people to flee and the UN estimates some 10,000 people have been killed. Rights groups, along with the UN, say the army has been involved in murder, mass rape and the razing of entire villages.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is not simply defending the Burmese military, which is only an organ of the state. Aung San Suu Kyi is there defending Myanmar as a member state and its racist society,” Zarni said.
Zarni said he was extremely saddened that Suu Kyi still has a lot of support inside the country; tens of thousands of people attended rallies in Myanmar as she departed for the Netherlands.
The ICJ tribunal has no enforcement powers, but Zarni believes this is a milestone in the struggle by Rohingya Muslims to gain recognition for the crimes they’ve been subjected to.
“Facts on the ground are not likely to change. However, this is one of the very, very few venues for pressure, accountability and justice,” Zarni said.
This week’s special interview is with Burmese rights campaigner Maung Zarni.