Colombia’s Senate forwarded a transitional justice system to the House of Representatives after months of delays in approving the key element of an ongoing peace process.
If ratified by the House, the war crimes tribunal and truth commission will be put in charge of seeking justice for tens of thousands of war crimes committed during more than half a century of armed conflict.
Additionally, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) will contain a commission to look for tens of thousands of missing Colombians and a special unit to dismantle ties between the state and paramilitary groups.
The bill will be debated by the House ahead of the final vote next week, almost a year after the approval of a peace deal with the now-disarmed FARC guerrilla group.
Watered down justice
The approved JEP is a watered down version from the one agreed with the FARC as businesses and politicians have been exempted from obligatory participation.
Leaders of the FARC, which has become a political party, will need a certification from the JEP confirming they are cooperating with justice if they want to enter Congress after next year’s elections.
The bill as approved by the senate would also disqualify several appointed judges for having taken part in court cases related to the armed conflict in the past five years.
Foreign assistant judges will not be allowed to take part in debates within the court.
FARC rejects amendments
Also FARC leader “Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. “Timochenko,” rejected the amendments approved by the senate, claiming the legislative body was trying to guarantee impunity for war crimes not committed by the FARC.
Senators who had supported the transitional justice system, however, expressed satisfaction that the legislative chamber found a compromise after months of resistance.
According to Green Alliance Senator Claudia Lopez, the approval was “another step to turn this page of violence and towards the defeat of corruption.”
“Today’s victors are the victims,” said Interior Minister Rodrigo Rivera.
If approved by the House and ratified by the Constitutional Court, the JEP will take force and begin examining the tens of thousands of war crimes committed during the hemisphere’s longest internal armed conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries.