The justice minister has drafted a bill that would regulate the demobilization of illegal armed groups like the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), a.k.a. “Clan del Golfo.”
The AGC announced its wish to surrender earlier this month, making it clear that the government has yet to propose bills that could prevent a repetition of the failed demobilization of AUC successor group ERPAC in 2011.
When this illegal armed group demobilized, many alleged members desisted and formed two group that have since taken control of drug trafficking activity in eastern Colombia.
The bill currently being considered by Justice Minister Enrique Gil, Post-Conflict Minister Oscar Naranjo and Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez seeks to include elements that, for example, would disallow new groups to simply take over vacant criminal rackets.
The government has given the formulation of legislation priority as it could be included in legislation related to a peace process with the FARC and secure quick progress to dismantle what is now the country’s largest armed group and primary drug trafficker.
According to newspaper El Colombiano, which had been given a copy of the draft, the bill would be applicable to armed groups “with a defined structure and command unity, whose purpose is the pursuit of profit through the permanent carrying out of criminal activity and control illicit income inside a specific territory.”
This formulation would apply to groups that are either a criminal organization, like a drug cartel, or a group that is willing to waive its claimed political goals, like the AGC.
The bill would allow the Prosecutor General’s Office to negotiate specifics of groups’ safe demobilization, the surrender of intelligence and prevent the surging of new groups financed by the crime rackets abandoned by the demobilized group.
Other government officials would also be allowed to open talks without being accused of conspiracy.
Furthermore, it would allow the group and authorities’ to use illicit assets to seek the integral reparation of victims, effectively relieving individual members of this judicial burden.
While the members of illegal armed groups wouldn’t collectively be allowed shorter sentences, individual members could use the collective demobilization to bargain a lower sentence with the prosecutor in their case.
Additionally, members would be allowed special attention in prison to facilitate their effective rehabilitation.
These benefits would support the government’s policy that disallows successors of guerrilla or paramilitary group to claim the political purpose of their predecessors.
Nevertheless, the benefits would allow a group to safely leave a life in crime with reasonable chances of reintegration.
In the case of the AGC, the post-conflict minister and the prosecutor general are now likely to seek contact with the group to convince them to agree to the conditions as laid out by the justice minister.