The demobilization process made available to paramilitaries starting in 2005 failed to deliver justice to victims of armed conflict or truth to the country, said the vice-president of Colombia’s Supreme Court, in an interview with Caracol Radio Thursday.
The 2005 Justice and Peace Law gave paramilitary combatants and leaders access to fixed and dramatically reduced sentences in exchange for their weapons and full compliance with justice investigations. Those who made use of the statute would serve no more than seven years in prison, provided they divulged any knowledge they possessed of criminal activity or crimes committed against humanity to investigators.
Supreme Court Vice President Leonidas Bustos told Caracol Radio Thursday, however, that imprisoned leaders of the disbanded AUC paramilitary block have withheld information and failed to cooperate in good faith with the relevant authorities, obscuring the full extent of political collaboration with Colombia’s paramilitary groups.
“We know the fact, we have them all, but we have yet to expose what the factors of local power really were that influenced paramilitary activity. The court has made its contributions and has figured out the relation these groups had with the political class, but in that sense not everything has been said.”
Less than a month ago Justice Minister Alfonso Gomez also spoke out against the “half-truths” the demobilization process has brought forth, saying that justice for the “truly heinous atrocities” committed by Colombia’s paramilitary groups still proved elusive.
The AUC was one of the primary actors in the armed conflict that still continues in Colombia today. Between the mid 1990s and early 200s, the group was responsible for thousands of human rights violations, including murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, and forced displacement on a massive scale.
Officially, the AUC demobilized in 2006. Many of its key members, however, have since gone on to form offshoot neo-paramilitary organizations, which currently control the country’s international drug trade and continue to engage in acts of political violence.
Of the several hundred paramilitary combatants who turned themselves in under the Peace and Justice statute, only 16 have been formally prosecuted. The first of the seven-year sentences are set to expire later this year, and all of those imprisoned under the law are scheduled to be released in the near future, whether they have been convicted of a crime or not.