Social Indicators Research

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 287–301 | Cite as

Forgiving Perpetrators of Violence: Colombian People’s Positions

  • Wilson López-López
  • Claudia Pineda Marín
  • María Camila Murcia León
  • Diana Carolina Perilla Garzón
  • Etienne Mullet


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.


Forgiveness Colombia Paramilitary forces Guerrilla Drug dealers 


  1. Aguayo Quezada, S., & Trevino Rangel, J. (2006). Neither truth nor justice: Mexico’s de facto amnesty. Latin American Perspectives, 33, 56–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahmed, R., Azar, F., & Mullet, E. (2007). Interpersonal forgiveness among Kuwaiti adolescents and adults. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 24, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allan, A., Allan, M. M., Kaminer, D., & Stein, D. J. (2006). Exploration of the association between apology and forgiveness amongst victims of human rights violations. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 24, 87–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, N. H. (2008). Unified social cognition. New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  5. Azar, F., & Mullet, E. (2001). Interpersonal forgiveness among Lebanese: A six-confession study. International Journal of Group Tensions, 30, 161–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Azar, F., Mullet, E., & Vinsonneau, G. (1999). The propensity to forgive: Findings from Lebanon. Journal of Peace Research, 36, 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barreto, I., Borja, H., Serrano, Y., & López-López, W. (2009). Legitimacy as a process in political violence, mass media and peace culture building. Universitas Psychologica, 8, 737–784.Google Scholar
  8. Bonnin, J. E. (2009). Religious and political discourse in Argentina: The case of reconciliation. Discourse & Society, 20, 327–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Borja Orozco, H., Barreto, I., Sabucedo, J. M., & López López, W. (2008). Building a discourse to delegitimize the opponent: Government and paramilitarism in Colombia. Universitas Psychologica, 7, 571–583.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, R. P., Wohl, M. J. A., & Exline, J. J. (2008). Taking up offenses: Second hand forgiveness and group identification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1406–1419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cámara, H. (1971). Spiral of violence. London: Sheeds and Ward.Google Scholar
  12. Cehajic, S., Brown, R., & Castano, E. (2008). Forgive and forget? Antecedents and consequences of intergroup forgiveness in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Political Psychology, 29, 351–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cotte Poveda, A. (2012). Estimating effectiveness of the control of violence and socioeconomic development in Colombia: An application of dynamic data envelopment analysis and data panel approach. Social Indicators Research, 105, 343–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crocker, D. (2003). Reckoning with past wrongs: A normative framework. In C. A. L. Prager & T. Govier (Eds.). Dilemmas of reconciliation. Cases and concepts (pp. 39–63). Toronto: Wilfried Laurier University Press.Google Scholar
  15. David, R., & Choi, S. Y. P. (2006). Forgiveness and transitional justice in the Czech Republic. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50, 339–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dussich, J. (2008). Afrontamiento psicosocial: un modelo teórico para la comprensión de la comprensión de la victimización general y para facilitar la recuperación. In W. López-López, A. Pearson, & B. P. Ballesteros (Eds.), Victimología: aproximación psicosocial a las víctimas (pp. 59–70). Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.Google Scholar
  17. Gibson, J. L. (2007). Truth and reconciliation as social indicators. Social Indicators Research, 81, 257–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. González, F., Bolivar, I., & Vázquez, T. (2002). Violencia política en Colombia. Bogotá: CINEP.Google Scholar
  19. Granada, S., Restrepo, J., & Vargas, A. (2009). El agotamiento de la política de seguridad: evolución y transformaciones recientes en el conflicto armado colombiano. In J. Restrepo & B. Aponte (Eds.), Guerras y violencias en Colombia (pp. 27−124). Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.Google Scholar
  20. Hewstone, M., Cairns, E., Voci, A., McLernon, L., Niens, U., & Noor, M. (2004). Intergroup forgiveness and guilt in Northern Ireland: Social-psychological dimensions of “the troubles”. In N. Branscombe & B. Doosje (Eds.), Collective guilt: International perspectives (pp. 193–215). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hofmans, J., & Mullet, E. (2011). Towards unveiling individual differences in different stages of information processing: A clustering-based approach. Quality and Quantity. doi:10.1007/s11135-011-9529-7.
  22. Kira, I. A., Lewandowski, L. A., Templin, T. N., Ramaswamy, V., Ozkan, B., & Mohanesh, J. (2009). The effects of pots-retribution inter-group forgiveness: the case of Iraqi refugees. Peace and Conflict, 15, 385–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kpanake, L., & Mullet, E. (2011). Judging the acceptability of amnesties. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 28, 291–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leach, M. M., Baker, A., & Zeigler-Hill, V. (2010). The influence of Black racial identity on the forgiveness of Whites. Journal of Black Psychology, 20, 1–25.Google Scholar
  25. Lopes Cardozo, B., Kaiser, R., Gotway, C. A., & Agani, F. (2003). Mental health, social functioning, and feelings of hatred and revenge of Kosovar Albanians one year after the war in Kosovo. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16, 351–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McGlynn, C., Niens, U., Cairns, E., & Hewstone, M. (2004). Moving out of conflict: The contribution of integrated schools in Northern Ireland to identity, attitudes, forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal of Peace Education, 1, 147–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McLernon, F., Cairns, E., & Hewstone, M. (2002). Views on forgiveness in Northern Ireland. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 14, 285–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moeschberger, S. L., Dixon, D. N., Niens, U., & Cairns, E. (2005). Forgiveness in Northern Ireland: A model for peace in the midst of the “Troubles”. Journal of Peace Psychology, 11, 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mukashema, I., & Mullet, E. (2010). Reconciliation sentiment among victims of genocide in Rwanda: Conceptualizations, and relationships with mental health. Social Indicators Research, 99, 25–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mukashema, I., & Mullet, E. (2012). Unconditional forgiveness, reconciliation sentiment, and mental health among victims of genocide in Rwanda. Social Indicators Research. doi:10.1007/s11205-012-0085-x.
  31. Myers, E., Hewstone, M., & Cairns, E. (2009). Impact of conflict on mental health in Northern Ireland: The mediating role of intergroup forgiveness and collective guilt. Political Psychology, 30, 269–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nadler, A., & Liviatan, I. (2006). Intergroup reconciliation: Effect of adversary’s expressions of empathy, responsibility, and recipients’ truth. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 459–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Noor, M., Brown, R., Gonzales, R., Manzi, J., & Lewis, C. A. (2008). On positive psychological outcomes: What helps groups with a history of conflict to forgive and reconcile with each other? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 819–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reed, A., & Aquino, K. F. (2003). Moral identity and the expanding circle of moral regard toward out-groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1270–1286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shnabel, N., Nadler, A., Ullrich, J., Dovidio, J. F., & Carmi, D. (2009). Promoting reconciliation trough the satisfaction of the emotional needs of victimized and perpetrating group members: The needs-based model of reconciliation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1021–1030.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Staub, E., Pearlman, L., Gubin, A., & Hagengimana, A. (2005). Healing reconciliation, forgiving and the prevention of violence after genocide or mass killing: An intervention and its experimental evaluation in Rwanda. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 297–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tam, T., Hewstone, M., Cairns, E., Tausch, N., Maio, G., & Kenworthy, J. (2007). The impact of intergroup emotions on forgiveness in Northern Ireland. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 10, 119–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wohl, M. J. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2004). Assignment of collective guilt and forgiveness for the Holocaust. In N. R. Branscombe & B. Doosje (Eds.), Collective guilt: International perspectives (pp. 284–305). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wohl, W. J. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2005). Forgiveness and collective guilt assignment to historical perpetrator groups depend on level of social category inclusiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 288–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Worthington, E. L., Kurusu, T. A., Collins, W., Berry, J. W., Ripley, J. S., & Baier, S. (2000). Forgiveness usually takes time: A lesson learned by studying interventions to promote forgiveness. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 28, 3–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wilson López-López
    • 1
  • Claudia Pineda Marín
    • 1
  • María Camila Murcia León
    • 1
  • Diana Carolina Perilla Garzón
    • 1
  • Etienne Mullet
    • 2
  1. 1.Pontificia Universidad JaverianaBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Institute of Advanced Studies (EPHE)ParisFrance

Personalised recommendations