Colombia’s Conservative Party on Wednesday surprisingly withdrew its support for a transitional justice system, further threatening a peace process to end more than half a century of armed conflict.
The decision became clear in a debate that was suspended after one third of senators showed up to vote on the transitional justice system that was expected to take force this month.
Local media have accused coalition senators of trying to blackmail the government into allocating more funds to their districts ahead of the 2018 elections.
The transitional justice has long been opposed by hard-right opposition party Democratic Center (CD).
Support for transitional justice in Congress
The three parties do not have the majority in Congress to reject the bill, but are effectively supported by individual lawmakers from the governing coalition who have stayed away from voting rounds.
On Wednesday, only 36 of 102 senators were present in Congress to vote on some 150 objections proposed by opposition Senator Jose Obdulio Gaviria (CD), a cousin of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar.
According to political news website La Silla Vacia, the government has run out of slush funds to secure the necessary congressional support.
The United Nations warned Congress earlier this week it could be in violation of international human rights law if it fails to implement the war crimes tribunal.
Also the International Criminal Court has urged the prosecution of top military officials accused of murdering civilians.
The transitional justice system seeks to end decades of impunity for war crimes committed by both state and guerrilla forces.
More than 60 congressmen have already been sent to prison for having aligned with paramilitary death squads to coerce voters. Others are still under investigation.
Hundreds of soldiers who were either charged or convicted of war crimes have asked to be released from prison while awaiting trial before the transitional justice court.
Dozens of judges have already been elected for the comprehensive justice system. A Truth Commission is currently being formed.
The FARC leadership, which will take seat in Congress next year, will also have to stand trial for the scores of human rights violations committed by the guerrillas.
Colombia’s half-a-century armed conflict has left more than 8 million victims.