A precarious time for Colombia’s transitional justice system
On a roundtrip to several European countries, a delegation from Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace visited the NCHR to inform about its work and current challenges facing transitional justice in Colombia.
Hernando Salazar, Patricia Linares and Eduardo Cifuentes from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia together with NCHR's Stener Ekern and Hilde Salvesen. (Photo: UiO)
The President of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP in Spanish) judge Patricia Linares Prieto, expressed concerns about current changes approved by the new Congress that risk undermining the intention of the peace agreement. After parliamentary elections earlier this year, Centro Democrático, a party opposed to the peace agreement, gained majority.
According to the peace agreement, JEP should investigate, judge and sanction crimes and serious violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law committed by FARC ex-combatants and members of State security forces alike. One major purpose is to establish the truth about what happened during the more than 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia. Those who immediately recognise the truth and their own responsibility are subject to reduced penalties.
With the current changes in the legislation, only the FARC ex-combatants are obliged to present themselves for the tribunal, whereas the members of the state security forces can do so voluntarily. A special unit will be established under the JEP in order to treat the cases of state security forces. This is a breach of the peace agreement and Linares fears that the process of constructing a stable and lasting peace is at risk. The only hope is that these changes are considered unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, but that will take time. Meanwhile, JEP is fulfilling its mandate and intends to call on both ex FARC commandants as well as members of state security forces.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is part of the newly created Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-repetition agreed in the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP and included in the Colombian Constitution in 2017.