Victims of war crimes are furious after Colombia’s leading opposition senator, Gustavo Petro, reached an agreement with former President Alvaro Uribe to provide special legal treatment to military war crime suspects.
The compromise between the two political opponents followed an unprecedented private meeting between Petro, Uribe, the FARC and politicians from the center on Tuesday.
By Wednesday, Uribe successfully had convinced one of his most vociferous critics to agree to a special chamber for the military at the country’s war crimes tribunal, which is investigating crimes against humanity committed during the country’s decades-long armed conflict.
The FARC, the political party formed by former guerrillas who also have to stand trial, and victims of the thousands of war crimes committed by the state, bashed Petro’s compromise.
More than a thousand victims, the majority of state agents, campaigned to vote for you in the past elections. We believed you would defend the truth, justice and democracy. Why did you sign in favor of a proposal that seeks impunity for state crimes?
Movement of Victims of State Violence (MOVICE)
Leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda (Alternative Democratic Pole), the founder of MOVICE, also fiercely criticized his fellow-opposition senator, and said that Petro and Uribe agreed to give “guarantees for everyone, except victims.”
Petro defended his decision to sign the agreement to vote for the controversial special chamber for military war crime suspects and stressed the importance of seeking compromises.
I don’t know if I was naive or not, but this country needs to talk to each other more and listen to each other more.
Senator Gustavo Petro
Cepeda agreed that “spaces to negotiate are necessary, but we do not agree with what was agreed,” the senator told Semana magazine.
It is important that all political sectors participate, but the priority is the participation of victims and they are being left out.
Senator Ivan Cepeda
Leftist Senator Alexander Lopez (Alternative Democratic Police) told newspaper El Tiempo that the agreement seeks to modify “the conditions of confession, which is a structural part of the truth.”
“This decision… can seriously affect the proceedings and the reparations of victims,” said Lopez.
Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of war victims in Colombia are victim of crimes against humanity committed by state agents and their paramilitary allies.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is, among many other war crimes, investigating the execution of thousands of civilians by the military who were later presented by the media as guerrillas killed in combat.
Congress will continue debating Uribe’s proposal to grant special privileges to alleged and convicted military war criminals, but is now likely to be approved.
The Constitutional Court will be the ultimate instance that will have to ratify the latest changes to the JEP, which is monitored closely by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Holland.