A former ideologue of Colombia’s demobilized FARC rebels has halted his hunger strike after 41 days after a court order to suspend extradition procedures, a FARC representative said Saturday.
Seuxis Hernandez, a.k.a. “Jesus Santrich,” said in a letter that he was “temporarily suspending” the hunger strike he began on April 9 after he was arrested at the request of the United States.
According to US prosecutors, the long-time FARC ideologue tried to export 10 tons of cocaine, but FARC leaders have denied this and said Hernandez was the victim of a “set-up.”
The extradition request, arrest and hunger strike triggered a major crisis in Colombia’s ongoing peace process, which has been marred by violence, corruption and delays.
War crimes tribunal JEP, which was put in place to try alleged war criminals, suspended the extradition procedures on Thursday and ordered the prosecution to present evidence that would merit an extradition.
All members of the military and the FARC that agreed to cooperate with the JEP are shielded from extradition over crimes that are committed before the signing of the peace deal in November 2016.
Crimes allegedly committed after the peace deal are sent to ordinary courts after the JEP has verified they were committed after the peace deal. The Supreme Court ultimately decides whether or not to grant an extradition request.
The US prosecutors claim that Hernandez conspired to traffic drugs in 2017. Colombia’s chief prosecutor, Nestor Humberto Martinez, said the JEP was overstepping its bounds by ordering the suspension of extradition procedures.
According to Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, the extradition of FARC commander “seriously risks impeding they will ever be held accountable for war crimes. Yet that is a risk the Supreme Court and ultimately the president should analyze.”
“The … ruling on Santrich is legally weak and comes at an unfortunate time, a few days ahead of the presidential elections. The Special Jurisdiction hardly had jurisdiction to address Santrich’s possible extradition now, let alone to suggest it can review the legality of his arrest,” the HRW executive was quoted as saying by Associated Press.
Santrich will remain in custody while the JEP verifies his case and authorities continue with the peace process that seeks to end more than half a century of armed conflict.