Colombia’s demobilized FARC guerrillas on Wednesday celebrated a decision by the war crimes tribunal to release former guerrilla leader “Jesus Santrich” while the party of President Ivan Duque rejected the decision.
Via a phone call from his cell in La Picota prison in Bogota, Santrich celebrated the decision by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), claiming that the ruling confirms his claim that the drug trafficking charge made by US authorities was a hoax.
The decision of the JEP has been the final blow that collapses the dirty set-up that the US State Department and the Prosecutor General’s Office made against me… I hope that the government, the Prosecutor General’s Office and other instances respect the JEP’s decision.
“This places a light of hope, gives a chance to continue to open the way for the implementation of the Havana Agreement,” said Santrich, whose arrest last year plunged the peace process in crisis.
The FARC’s former military chief and current party leader, Rodrigo Londoño, told Channel 1 news that he hopes that Santrich will assume the congressional seat he was forced to abandon after his arrest, adding that his release was the only reasonable legal decision the tribunal could have taken.
We were always confident that this was going to be the final result and that’s why even in the midst of this situation that is being presented with the murders, I tell you that here we are going for peace.
FARC president Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. “Timochenko”
Members of the “pro-peace” coalition did not celebrate the release of Santrich, who is expected to stand trial for war crimes, but did rejoice the resignation of Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who had become the personification of corruption since he took office in 2016.
The chief prosecutor furiously resigned after the JEP ordered the FARC leader’s release.
“It is excellent news that a corrupt [official] leaves. Let’s hope [President Ivan] Duque and the Supreme Court don’t appoint another,” said Senator Gustavo Petro, who was a guerrilla in the 1980s and has since become one of the opposition’s leaders on the left.
Green Alliance Senator Juanita Goebertus, a centrist opposition politician and peace advocate, expressed reservations about the court’s decision, but said that “in a State governed by the rule of law judicial decisions must be respected and complied with.”
Why Colombia’s war crimes tribunal rejected a US extradition request and released a former rebel chief
Members of Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party, who have opposed the peace process since the beginning, reacted with “horror” and “pain” over the JEP’s decision not to extradite Santrich due to a lack of evidence and irregularities in the process.
According to Senator Paloma Valencia, the decision effectively ends the extradition of alleged drug traffickers.
We receive this news with great pain because of what a decision like this means for Colombia. One cannot help but feel immense pain because the war against drug trafficking is being lost. This shows how extradition has been repealed and we will see how the criminals will be rewarded.
Senator Paloma Valencia
Santrich’s case became a point of controversy when the United States government in April last year requested his extradition on unsubstantiated claims that the FARC leader conspired to traffic drugs between 2017 and 2018.
Originally, the JEP only had the power to block the extradition of FARC members if the allegations related to events that took place before the former guerrillas signed peace in late 2016.
But as Duque refused to sign off on the statutory law defining the powers of the transitional justice court and evidence indicated Santrich could have been the victim of a false claim, the constitutional court granted the JEP’s the power to demand evidence.
Using this power, the JEP decided to bin the US drug trafficking claim and order the release of the FARC leader, who should now be able to take seat in the House of Representatives.