Colombia’s war crimes tribunal considering penalties for fugitive FARC leader

Colombia’s war crimes tribunal is studying whether to revoke judicial benefits granted to fugitive FARC Congressman “Jesus Santrich” who has been missing for two months.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) announced the decision on Tuesday, a day after the former guerrilla leader failed to appear at the court to expose what he knows about the FARC’s mass kidnapping of civilians during the armed conflict.

The kidnapping investigation is only the first of multiple war crimes investigations against more than 30 of the FARC’s top commanders.

Santrich’s pending war crime cases

  • Extortion
  • Homicide
  • Sexual violence
  • Kidnapping
  • Forced disappearance

Santrich’s no show was hardly a surprise; the country’s Supreme Court warranted the house representative’s arrest earlier this month after he failed to appear before that court to defend himself against a vague US drug trafficking charge.

Colombia orders arrest of missing FARC leader ‘Jesus Santrich’

Revoking extradition shield?

The JEP ruled in May that Santrich is shielded from extradition, but has the authority to withdraw this judicial benefit and can even expel him from the peace process of which the court is part.

Lighter penalties are more likely because the court is trying to secure the cooperation of as many FARC leaders as possible in the hope it can clarify as many of the former guerrillas’ war crimes as possible.

The kidnapping case against Santrich, for example, ought to contribute to the clarification of what happened to approximately 40,000 people who were kidnapped during the conflict, but never returned from captivity.

Multiple FARC leaders missing

Santrich in one of two top commanders who have gone underground together with about 10 mid-level commanders since the peace process began in late 2016.

Evading justice or death? Colombia’s former rebel leaders in hiding

Some of these FARC members presumably lost faith in the peace process that has been marred by irregularities and state failures to comply. Others have claimed they lack security guarantees.

They are, however, a small minority of the 13,000 former commanders, guerrillas and militia members who signed up for the peace process that seeks to end more than half a century of armed conflict.

More than 2,000 members of the security forces have also submitted before the transitional court, the majority of whom because they are implicated in the mass killing of civilians.

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