Colombia sentenced for exterminating political party

(Image: Aida Avella)

Colombia’s State is responsible for the extermination of the leftist Patriotic Union (UP) party that began in 1984, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ICHR) ruled Monday after a 28-year process.

In its sentence, the international court said that the State-sponsored terror campaign left more than 6,000 victims.

The court was able to confirm that 3,170 leaders and members of the leftist party were assassinated, 521 were forcibly disappeared and 285 survived assassination attempts.

Another 1,596 UP members were forcibly displaced, 64 were tortured, 19 were sentenced for crimes they didn’t commit and 10 were assaulted.

The decision was celebrated by surviving members of the UP who have been seeking justice for 28 years.

What is the State responsible for?

According to the ICHR, state agents were directly involved in the systematic assassinations and persecutions of members of the UP, which was founded in 1985 as part of a peace deal with the now-defunct guerrilla group FARC.

State institutions additionally neglected to protect the leaders and members of the UP or effectively take action that would allow the effective prosecution of those involved in the extermination campaign.

To add insult to injury, the National Electoral Council dissolved the political party, claiming that the UP lacked the popular support in 2002.

This controversial decision was revoked in 2013 and war crimes tribunal JEP is investigating the political extermination campaign as part of the ongoing peace process in Colombia.

Colombia’s war crimes tribunal: 5,700 killed in political extermination

The consequences of the sentence

The international court ordered the Colombian State to repair the victims of its extermination campaign by publicly recognizing its responsibility in the extermination campaign.

The court also ordered to create a national monument and plaques in multiple cities in memory of the UP members who were killed in the past decades.

Last but not least, the State must effectively investigate the crimes committed as part of the extermination campaign and punish those responsible.

The most prominent crimes

Jaime Pardo

These investigations would include the unresolved or partially resolved assassinations of multiple presidential candidates and elected congressmen that followed the 1986 congressional elections.

Within months of these elections, assassins took the lives of elected Congressmen Leonardo Posada, Octavio Vargas and Pedro Nel Jimenez.

These assassinations were followed by the assassination of presidential candidates Jaime Pardo in 1987 and his successor, Bernardo Jaramillo, in 1990.

The 1994 assassination of Senator Manuel Cepeda, the father of Senator Ivan Cepeda, ended the UP’s representation in Congress.

Why the UP matters

The 1985 peace deal between President Belisario Betancur and the FARC sought to end Colombia’s armed conflict by allowing a leftist party challenge the political hegemony of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party.

These two parties had been in power since their creation in 1848.

The UP’s success in the congressional elections of 1986 and the local elections of 1987 made it the first to successfully challenge the unpopular bipartisan system.

The “anti-communist” extermination campaign brutally ended the attempt to make Colombia more democratic and spurred an escalation of violence, particularly by the FARC, which subsequently decided to overthrow the State.

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