Colombia’s prosecution on Wednesday said that it would seek criminal charges against more than 2,300 civilians and almost 3,300 state officials for their alleged ties to paramilitary groups.
The bombshell bulk of criminal charges are the consequence of almost 17,000 investigation orders issued by judges of the “Justice and Peace” transitional justice process that followed the demobilization of paramilitary organization AUC between 2003 and 2006.
For two years, 50 researchers and analysts from the Directorate of Support for Research and Analysis for Citizen Security and the Directorate of Transitional Justice carried out a rigorous evaluation which, in its first phase, confirmed that during the investigations of Justice and Peace a total of 16,772 orders were sent out as a result of the testimonies received in the trials against paramilitaries.
According to the prosecution, among the 2,311 civilian suspects are businessmen and individuals linked to “different economic activities, particularly from the cattle, agriculture and hydrocarbon sectors.”
Among the 3,252 state officials are 1,417 members of the security forces that have yet to be brought to justice and 1,835 state officials, including “mayors, governors, judges, magistrates, prosecutors, congressmen, deputies and council members.”
The announced bulk of criminal charges are part of the state’s obligation to dismantle structures that tie Colombia’s public and private sector with paramilitary groups.
According to the constitutional court, non-combatants who are suspected of involvement in war crimes must be investigated by the ordinary justice system unless they voluntarily submit to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) that is part of an ongoing peace process with the FARC.
So far, only a few dozen politicians and businessmen have submitted to the JEP, which could now be flooded by submission requests from businessmen and state officials trying to evade prison, and commit to telling the truth and compensate their victims.
According to the National Center for Historical Memory, the paramilitary groups are responsible for murdering more than 100,000 civilians or 83% of all homicides committed during the conflict. Some 120,000 people are still missing, including people who were kidnapped by guerrillas and were never returned.