Law professor appointed as consultant in Colombia peace talks

Author: Michael O. Garvey

Douglass Cassel Douglass Cassel

Douglass Cassel, professor of law and adviser to the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR), has been appointed by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos to a bilateral working group in the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The Colombian government and FARC, the country’s largest rebel group, resumed peace talks in 2012 to negotiate an end to the country’s half-century-long civil war, the longest such conflict in the world’s history. Colombia’s low-intensity war has caused more than 250,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 5 million people within its borders.

The six-member working group, or subcomisión, to which Cassel has been appointed includes three members named by FARC and meets in Havana. The group’s task is to develop proposals for legal mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible for the most serious acts of violence committed by both the government and the rebel forces during the war.

“It is critical to find a pathway to peace that is also respectful of the rights of victims,” Cassel said. “We need to give those victims justice for the war crimes of which both sides have been accused.”

Cassel, who served as director of CCHR from 2005 to 2012, has also served as a consultant to the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the U.S. State Department. From 1992 to 1993, he served as legal adviser to the U.N. Commission on the Truth for El Salvador. He has filed several amicus curiae briefs in the United States Supreme Court involving the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo, and he has represented victims of human rights violations in Guatemala, Peru and Venezuela, in cases heard by the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Contact: Douglass Cassel, 574-631-7895,