In what is being called the worst terrorist attack in Turkey's history, two suicide blasts went off amid a peace rally in Ankara Oct. 10, killing some 100 and injuring more than tiwce as many. The rally was called by leftist groups that support the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to demand an end to fighting between government forces and Kurdish rebels in the country's east. The rally brought together both Kurds and ethnic Turks. Witnesses told the BBC that police fired tear-gas on the shocked survivors "as soon as the bomb went off," and "would not let ambulances through." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the blast a "loathsome" act of terrorism. But HDP leader Selahettin Demirtas blamed the Turkish state for the attack and condemned the government as "murderers" with blood on their hands.
The Tunisia Quartet civil activist group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 9 for its pivotal role in channeling the country's revolution in a secular and democratic direction. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013, composed of four civil society groups—the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT); the Tunisian League of Human Rights; the Bar Association; and the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts. It led what is called the National Dialogue, bringing together the country's fiercely adversarial political parties to forge a new democratic process. The groups opened the dialogue process amid an alarming political crisis, marked by political assassinations and turmoil. As other Arab countries were descending into civil war, Tunisia came back form the brink, adopting a secular constitution, thanks to a "vibrant civil society with demands for respect for basic human rights," in the words of the Nobel Prize Committee. (HRW, Oct. 9)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader leader "Timochenko" announced in Havana Sept. 24 that they have set a six-month deadline to sign a peace deal, which will include establishment of a special justice system to try human rights abusers. "We're not going to fail! This is the chance for peace!," President Santos said. "On March 23, 2016 we will be bidding farewell to the longest-running conflict in the Americas." Timochenko later posted on the rebels Twitter feed: "Let's join efforts to achieve peace." But terms of the proposed justice process are meeting controvery, within Colombia and internationally.
Colombians made history March 8, as tens of thousands took to the streets in cities and towns nationwide—joined by Colombian ex-pats and immigrants in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere—to show their support for peace talks between the government and FARC guerillas. The "March for Life" was organized by Bogotá’s ex-mayor Antanas Mockus and was embraced by President Juan Manuel Santos, who joined the march in the capital. Since then, there have been some encouraging signs that the country's multi-decade armed conflict is really coming to an end. (EuroNews, March 9;AP, Colombia Reports, March 8)
Colombia's army accused the FARC on Dec. 19 of killing five soldiers only hours before confirming a unilateral and indefinite rebel ceasefire to start the next day. The combat took place in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca, where a local army patrol was ambushed by members of the FARC’s 6th Front and its Teofilo Forero elite unit. One more soldier is missing in action and may have been taken prisoner by the guerrillas. The same FARC unit had earlier that day blown up the Panamerican highway at Caldono, leaving a lane-wide crater. Additionally, presumed FARC guerillas left Valle del Cauca's Pacific port city of Buenaventura without electricity after blowing up a key transmission tower on Dec. 18.
The European Parliament on Dec. 17 passed a resolution supporting recognition of Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The resolution also launches a "Parliamentarians for Peace" initiative to bring together MEPs and MPs from the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments. The resolution passed by 498 votes to 88, with 111 abstentions. The statement said the parliament reiterated "its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law." (Ma'an, Dec. 17)
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Dec. 12 that she has suspended investigations into alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur, citing the UN Security Council's inaction in the case. "I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases," Bensouda told the Security Council, rebuking the UN body for failing to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Presenting her 20th report to the Council on Darfur, Bensouda stated that without action, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted suspects would remain deadlocked. "What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects," Bensouda told the Council, or there would be "little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future." She also emphasized that the conflict is not over, saying that "massive new displacements" have taken place this year in Darfur.
A Colombian activist for restitution of usurped lands who was supposedly under special government protection was killed April 9. Colombia's official human rights ombudsman said Jesús Adán Quinto—who had previously reported that agents assigned to protect him had failed to show up—was killed by sicarios (hitmen) as he stepped outisde his home at Turbo in Urabá region of Antioquia department. Quinto was a leader of the displaced population from Cacarica (Riosucio muncipality, Chocó department), a self-declared "peace community" where the Afro-Colombian campesinos have been massively targetted by paramilitary forces since announcing their non-cooperation with all armed actors in 1999. Quinto's fellow activist Carmen Palencia told AFP news service that the people now occupying the lands of the displaced are hiring assassins to terrorize those those who demand return of usurped properties. She said there have been 70 people associated the peace community killed in similar circumstances since 2005. The violence-torn region of Urabá straddles the north of Antioquia and Chocó departments. (AFP, El Espectador, Justicia y Paz Colombia, April 9)