Uribe administration succeeds at weakening guerrillas and
paramilitaries through the exercise of military power, rumblings of a
post-conflict Colombia have wrongfully started to emerge. Yet, as
Colombia moves towards envisioning a path towards true peace,
justice, and prosperity, it must do so with the understanding that
the current criminal justice system is insufficient to contribute to
the attempt of rebuilding the social fabric of a nation. As such, it
is necessary to embrace models of restorative justice.
wounds that the armed conflict has inflicted on Colombia and its
citizens cannot simply be fixed by blaming and punishing those
responsible for their infliction. In Colombia, such as in many
Western democracies, the criminal justice system is mostly created on
a model of deterrence in which individuals are contained within the
limits of the rule of law through the threat of punishment if they
dare to transgress those limits. Those that act outside the limits
prescribed by the law are punished. Yet, in the Colombian national
reality punishment is not enough to allow for healing.
members of illegal groups face the justice system, Colombia must
adopt a restorative justice model that celebrates the expression of
truth and the willingness to bridge the great divides within civil
justice does not imply that violators shouldn’t be held
responsible for their actions. As a matter of fact, their assumption
of responsibility is a necessary first step for the process.
restorative justice is based on the belief that the further
vilification of individuals that have committed crimes, and who will
eventually complete their sentences and return to civil society, is
far worse than actually preparing them for that re-entry.
country in which law enforcement authorities are not powerful enough
to bring to justice all of those who have committed crimes, it is
important to assure those individuals that come forward that the
justice system is not solely there to punish them, but rather, will
also support them so that they can return to civil society as law
importantly, a focus on restorative justice is not only about
punishing the violators, but also allowing for closure and healing
for victims. Too often in Colombia crimes go unsaid. People suffer
and witness violence without ever being supported by their
government. Many who have seen their entire life projects crumble in
front of their eyes do not even receive appropriate psychosocial
needs to create avenues that allow all of those involved and affected
by the armed conflict to speak their truths. Only then, can those
individuals be part of a process of reconciliation.
victims must not be re-victimized, and while many may not want to
face their offenders, it is important that the justice system demands
violators to speak fully about the actions they have committed, and
that victims, with the appropriate preparation, are allowed to safely
confront those violators, whether public or privately, if they feel
like they need to.
not unlike South Africa, needs its own model of the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, in which the nation can go through a
communal process of acknowledging its violent history and finding
paths to move forward.
justice system and the law ought not to be used as they are
currently. How is it that offering former FARC kidnappers lives
abroad holds them responsible for their actions, and involves them in
the social reconstruction of a nation? How is it that top leaders of
FARC, like Rodrigo Granda, are set free under promises of good will?
How is it that the thousands of demobilized paramilitary have yet to
publicly express their regret for their actions? How is it that FARC
leader, Karina has already become an “agent of peace”
just months after facing the justice system? And, above all, how is
that the continuous extradition of violators of the law allows for
processes of truth and reconciliation?
is very far from ending the active armed conflict, but it is even
farther from fixing the deep wounds that divide its nation. A
post-conflict Colombia will never become a reality until justice is
not only understood as punishment, and until judicial incentives are
not simply understood as reduction of sentences, but rather, when
justice is understood as part of a process of reconciliation, and
when the judicial system not only punishes, but also restores.
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York