Colombia’s Senate approved a Justice and Peace Law reform that tightens the parameters for demobilized paramilitary to be released from jail, in some cases significantly extending their prison sentences.
Demobilized paramilitary members, originally incarcerated with Justice and Peace Law benefits, will now remain in prison under new restrictions that were passed on Wednesday.
The reform means that if the State discovers that former paramilitary have not collaborated with the justice system, told the truth about their crimes, or compensated their victims by 2014, their case will go to regular court and they could face an additional 30 to 40 years in prison, according to newspaper El Tiempo.
This is a change from the original Justice and Peace law which in 2005 granted paramilitary members an eight year sentence in exchange for demobilizing, in most cases regardless of crimes that included mass killings and other gross acts of violence.
According to Caracol, the law will also extend the sentences by two years, therefore prolonging the potential mass release of demobilized troops in 2013 until 2014 and giving the government more time to accept or reject the new postulates.
The reform also included that the Prosecutor General would have the ability to prioritize and punish more serious crimes committed by demobilized paramilitary, newscast CM& reported.
Colombia’s Justice and Peace law has been controversial since its inception in 2005 due to fears that it would benefit human rights abusers and increase impunity in the country. The law intended to assist the peace process in Colombia by granting procedural benefits to paramilitaries who agreed to demobilize.
“This is the last opportunity to ensure truth, justice and reparation,” said Senator Juan Cristo.