Colombia’s congress is on a collision course with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court after it agreed to ban elected judges for a war crimes tribunal and failed to ratify a political reform.
The country’s legislative branch has until Thursday to approve key elements of a peace deal between the state and Marxist FARC guerrillas in 2016.
Among the pending bills are a Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and a political reform, in particular the reservation of 16 congressional seats for areas that have traditionally been neglected by Bogota.
The United Nations has warned Congress that failing to ratify the key elements would have international consequences.
If the country’s government either fails to install the transitional justice system or impose the political reform, the state will effectively fail to execute the peace process and fail international obligations.
Political reform stuck in Senate
The political reform consists of elements agreed with the FARC and additional anti-corruption measures proposed by the government of President Juan Manuel Santos.
The Senate on Wednesday will have its final debate after failing to find consensus. A failure to to approve the bill, “would not be understood or accepted by the international community,” the United Nations has said.
Failure to comply with this essential commitment, after the surrender of weapons, would have very serious repercussions for the process and would not be understood or accepted by the international community.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman
Thursday is the last day of a transitional period in which Congress is allowed to “fast-track” legislation.
The United Nations observes the country’s peace process after disarming more than 12,000 FARC guerrillas. The international organization is also monitoring counter-narcotics efforts.
#HOY Jean Arnault, Jefe @MisionONUCol, estará en #ETCR Pondores en La Guajira, con el enviado especial de la UE para la paz en Colombia @EamonGilmore, para conocer los proyectos productivos que se están adelantando en la zona, como avance del proceso de #Reincorporación ?️?? pic.twitter.com/xRzABdKd4C
— Misión ONU Colombia (@MisionONUCol) November 28, 2017
Congress suspends war crimes tribunal judges
The conflict that began in 1964 left more than 8.5 million victims. A war crimes tribunal and truth commission have been waiting on congressional approval to proceed.
With more than 60 members sentenced to prison for war-related crimes over the past decade, there has been unrest in Congress over transitional justice system JEP.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has pressured Colombia’s Prosecutor General to adequately prepare cases related to many thousands of state crimes.
Impunity for war crimes has long been estimated above 95%.
According to Senator Horacio Serpa (Liberal Party), the Conservative Party and Radical Change congressmen in the conciliation commission revived a controversial article that would retroactively ban JEP judges already elected by an independent commission of judicial experts.
This article bans judges with experience in conflict-related court cases. President Juan Manuel Santos, who must sign the bill into law, has said to reject this initiative.
The Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights considers that the approval of the statutory bill of the JEP, by the Congress of the Republic, is fundamental for the effective compliance with international obligations regarding rights humans.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Colombia
Following a Constitutional Court ruling that shields the country’s business and political elites from prosecution by the JEP, the FARC requested an interview with ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
The Santos administration has mentioned the possibility of declaring a state of emergency if Congress fails to ratify key elements of the peace deal before Thursday.
Meanwhile, the situation in the FARC’s vast former territories is delicate as security forces fail to assume control over regions.
Some former territories have seen turf wars after security forces failed to prevent a power vacuum.
The process seeks to end more than half a century of violence between the Marxist group and the state that killed more than 265,000 people and displaced more than 7 million.