The United Nations has blasted limitations imposed by Colombia’s Congress on the country’s war crimes tribunal that could see military commanders and politicians get away with war crimes.
The Democratic Center, the party of President Ivan Duque, successfully proposed changing some of the powers of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a war crimes tribunal set up after a 2016 peace deal with the FARC to try the tens of thousands of war crimes committed during the decades-long war between Marxist former rebels and the State.
Congress approved to set up a special chamber to deal with military suspects tied to war crimes, many of which were committed when CD party leader Alvaro Uribe was president between 2002 and 2010.
The UN’s Human Rights office in Colombia wrote the Constitutional Court, which is currently considering the legality of the law, that the changes approved by Congress could again “limit the capacity” of the JEP to try war crimes committed by the military.
The high court in August already threw out previous limits to the war crimes tribunal that had been approved last year by Congress, which has seen dozens of former members disappear behind bars because of their ties to paramilitary death squads.
The UN warned the Constitutional Court that the latest changes are “contrary to the international obligations of the Colombian State to investigate, judge and punish serious conduct and violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law.”
Duque, who took office in August, has said he also supports changes to the war crimes tribunal’s powers.
Many of the president’s political allies and sponsors have alleged ties to paramilitary groups who, like the guerrillas, carried out horrific crimes during the half-a-century armed conflict with the FARC.
The JEP was founded under a 2016 peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It will run for 15 years and hopes to give justice to the millions of Colombians who were victimized either by the FARC or the security forces.