Colombia’s election are barely over and the future of the country’s war crimes tribunal that seeks to provide justice for millions of victims is already uncertain.
The delay was rejected by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos, who said on Twitter that “I reiterate my call to approve the procedure of the Jurisdiction for Peace. We owe this to the victims and the international community that has given us so much support to construct peace.”
This peace of legislation now stuck in Congress is crucial for the functioning of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Without clear rules on procedures, the JEP would be left without clear rules on how to prosecute suspects, when extradition requests can be suspended, what the rules are in regards to appeals and how to repair victims.
Considering Duque’s opposition to the peace deal made with the FARC in 2016, fears are that the bill will not be debated at all once the new Congress is inaugurated on July 20.
The optimal functioning of the court is crucial to prevent international intervention; if Colombia’s justice system is unwilling or unable to try crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) could step in.
The JEP itself was approved last year already and has begun investigating more than 4,000 guerrillas and almost 2,000 soldiers over their alleged involvement in war crimes. Multiple state officials have also asked to be tried before the JEP over their role in the mass human rights violations committed during the conflict.
Without clear rules, the court can not really begin cases or issue rulings without risking an almost constant barrage of lawsuits and controversies.
Duque’s political patron, Alvaro Uribe, has fiercely opposed the war crimes tribunal. The hard-right former president has always sought a Nuremberg Trial-type court that would only try crimes committed by the FARC.
The “uribistas” have favored military courts to try members of the military accused of war crimes. These courts, however, have become infamous for failing to effectively impose justice.
Considering that the Colombian military, the country’s elites and their paramilitary allies are accused of more war crimes than the FARC, this would mean that the majority of victims could be left without justice as they have been for decades.