After the Inter-American Court of Human Rights IACHR concluded that the state allowed the systematic extermination of the leftist Patriotic Union UP party in the 1980s and 90 s, Colombia pledged to pay reparations to victims.
The UP was a political party created in 1985 out of a peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces FARC guerrillas but 6,000 of its members were wiped out by rightwing narcos and the Colombian military.
The eradication of the movement caused the Farc to retake arms, perpetuating the deadly conflict in Colombia that spanned six decades, killing 450,000 people and displacing 8 million. After a new peace process in 2016, most Farc fighters laid down their weapons. This week, the IACHR found that the Colombian state's role in the tragedy amounted to crimes against humanity.
The ruling comes after three decades of judicial campaigning from victims and was celebrated by President Gustavo Petro who promised to bring reparations to victims.
Culture Minister Patricia Ariza, a survivor of the UP movement, said she was moved to tears by the catharsis of the court ruling.
Justice will survive, and affection will survive. "We, the victims and survivors, will keep the memory alive," Ariza tweeted.
The UP was founded to give the Colombian left a peaceful and legitimate political representation after the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party had rotated power since the mid 19th century.
The regional rights tribunal found that the Colombian state allowed the UP rank and file as well as elected politicians to be picked off with impunity and even used its own forces in the political genocide.
The court confirmed systematic violence against the members and militants of the Patriotic Union, which lasted more than two decades and extended to almost the entire Colombian territory, the IACHR said in a statement.
The tribunal condemned successive Colombian governments for failing to investigate the thousands of cases of forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture used to stamp out the movement.
Roy Barreras, the president of Congress, said that Colombia will follow the court's recommendations to commemorate the legacy of the UP.
The extermination of the UP is symbolic of the cyclical history of Colombia in which a succession of leftist leaders have raised hopes of reform only to be killed before they can effect change.
Fourteen UP members were elected senators and representatives in 1986 as the movement gained popularity but 247 of its members, including several elected legislators, were killed that year.
Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla with the M- 19 rebels, broke the historic trend in June 2022 when he was elected the country's first leftist president, though there were fears that he would be assassinated before he could reach the Casa de Nari o.
The ruling is of enormous judicial significance not only for Colombia but for the whole world, said the senator Iv n Cepeda, whose father Manuel Cepeda was assassinated on his way to represent the UP Congress in 1994. Democracies are often defined by mechanisms and formalities but they mean more than just regular elections and the supposed freedom of the press: they must also protect the lives of the opposition.