, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 287-301
Date: 13 Sep 2012

Forgiving Perpetrators of Violence: Colombian People’s Positions

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Abstract

Colombian people’s positions regarding the granting of forgiveness to persons who have been more or less actively involved in the violence that ravaged the country during the past 60 years were examined. Four hundred lay people living in Bogota were presented with 48 concrete cases in which a former perpetrator of violence (a member of the guerillas, the paramilitary, the military or a drug cartel) asked for forgiveness from a victim’s family. These cases were constructed using a three-factor orthogonal design: Degree of Responsibility × Severity of the Negative Acts Committed × Apologies. Four basic positions were found. The most common one, which was shared by nearly 40 % of the sample, mostly people from the wealthier segments of society, was “no forgiveness under any condition”. Eighteen percent of the participants, mostly from the poorest segments of society, considered that forgiveness could be granted each time the former perpetrators expressed true repentance (and, in the case of former organizers, if they have offered adequate compensation and had not committed very severe crimes). This was the most frequently observed attitude when perpetrators were former members of the paramilitary. Fifteen percent of the participants considered that forgiveness should be systematically granted. Finally, 28 % of the participants were undecided about the issue.