A Colombian Justice and Peace Law that provides ex-paramilitary with shorter prison sentences in exchange for demobilization has been refused to 188 former paramilitary members, creating further controversy.
Dozens of former members of the paramilitary group AUC have been denied their request to the Justice and Peace Law by the Presidential Council for Peace, reported armed conflict foundation, Verdad Abierta (Open Truth).
188 former AUC members have been refused the Justice and Peace Law out of 421 applications over the last six years. 101 of the applications were accepted and a remaining 132 are still pending, according to the Open Truth report.
Allegedly, several judicial officials have warned that the rulings denying ex-paramilitary to the Justice and Peace Law “threatens their collaboration to justice.”
The Presidential Council for Peace which processes the applicants have stood by their rulings, stating that with the Justice and Peace Law came the right of judicial discretion. The Justice and Peace Law rejections allegedly stem from investigating paramilitary crimes committed both during and after AUC demobilization, ultimately determining whether ex-paramilitary have complied with Justice and Peace Law stipulations.
An argument to the Presidential Council justification is that in some instances the Colombian government actually employed paramilitary for their military services. An explicit example is the use of AUC members for Operation Orion, a military offensive to eradicate left-wing rebels in a neighborhood of the country’s second largest city Medellin 10 years ago.
One court official, opposing the denials, was quoted saying that, “the National Government seems to not value the fact that these [Justice and Peace] law applicants can bring to light multiple events of the things in which they participated.”
A lawyer of a former paramilitary whose application was rejected also explained that by denying applications, not only does the judiciary miss out on the possible revelation of truth, but “my client also has ways of compensating the victims but, after the Government’s rejection, he will not deliver anything.”
The contentious Justice and Peace Law was an agreement made between the AUC and the Colombian government in 2005. It was intended to assist the peace process in Colombia by granting procedural benefits to paramilitaries who agreed to demobilize. The law has recently undergone revision by the Senate, and continues to cause controversy.