President Ivan Duque signed off on a bill defining the powers of Colombia’s war crimes tribunal on Thursday after months of resistance.
The coming into force of the statutory law of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is one of the biggest defeats of Duque’s far-right Democratic Center (CD) party, which has opposed the country’s peace process for years.
Duque’s party and in particular CD Senate President Ernesto Macias have gone at lengths to prevent the bill coming into law at a major political cost.
The Constitutional Court is currently investigating Congress for alleged illegal attempts to alter the legislation and has been asked to also approve congressional seats for victims that were rejected using similar arguments used by Macias to prevent the senate approval of the JEP’s statutory law.
The CD’s opposition to the war crimes tribunal virtually paralyzed Congress as the majority “pro-peace” coalition refused to debate any legislation until after being allowed to reject the objections filed by Duque in March.
The law defines which crimes committed during the conflict fall under the jurisdiction of the transitional justice system and which remain under the jurisdiction of the ordinary justice system.
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The JEP, which came into force last year already, is investigating crimes committed during the armed conflict that has victimized more than 8.5 million Colombians.
As much as logistically possible, the transitional justice court hopes to try those responsible for the mass victimization of victims.
Thousands of members of the FARC and the military have submitted to the JEP and will be able to evade or end prison sentences in exchange for their full collaboration with justice and an end to their criminal activity.
Politicians and businessmen who took part in war crimes can also submit to the transitional justice system if they want to evade investigations by the ordinary justice system that does not offer benefits.