Colombia’s prosecutor general on Monday said that perpetrators of the extrajudicial murders known as “false positives” will not fall under the jurisdiction of transitional justice.
“The false positives cases were not committed in [the context of] a direct link to the armed conflict…and in my opinion the false positives cases should not enter into the framework of transitional justice and if they enter we will be exposing ourselves to an intervention by the International Criminal Court (ICC),” said Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre.
The “false positives” moniker refers to the extrajudicial killing of thousands of civilians by the armed forces, who presented their victims as left wing guerrillas killed in combat. With his statement, Montealegre signaled that any impunity provided by the transitional justice system to perpetrators in Colombia’s armed conflict would not be extended to those involved in the false positives murders.
FACT SHEET: False positives
Within the context of peace talks between the Colombian government and left-wing rebel group FARC, the debate over the parameters of transitional justice has become all the more pressing. Detractors, from politicians to human rights groups, have claimed that many guerrillas would go unpunished for their crimes under the framework for peace laid out.
In a country which has been ravaged by a decades-long armed conflict involving countless instances of human rights abuses, the prospect of prosecuting all perpetrators is, realistically, beyond the institutional capability of the State. However, the balance between judicial and non-judicial justice is a difficult one to strike.
Transitional justice attempts to strike such a balance through a combination of criminal prosecution, reparation to victims, institutional reform and other measures dependent upon the particular context of the conflict situation.
The issue was vigorously debated in the city of Medellin in March, when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) held a forum to discuss the challenges facing Colombia’s transitional justice system.
Among the panelists were Montealegre and the director of Colombia’s transitional justice system, Catalina Diaz. Both acknowledged the difficulty of achieving satisfactory results given the existing financial and institutional limits restricting the process. These restrictions left them advocating for the prosecution of “macro-criminals”involved in large-scale human rights abuses, along with a combination of compensation, restitution and institutional reform.