Human rights advocates requested Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday to broaden the powers of the country’s war crimes tribunal to include businessmen and politicians accused of war crimes.
According to the Jose Alvear Lawyer’s Collective, multiple human rights groups filed the petition that requests the court to overrule an article in the statutory law of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) limits the court’s powers to summon only members of the military or the demobilized FARC guerrilla group.
The human rights defenders wants the court to have the authority to summon the thousands of businessmen and politicians who have been accused of being complicit in paramilitary war crimes committed also to appear.
According to the prosecution, some 2,300 businessmen “particularly from the cattle, agriculture and hydrocarbon sectors” and 3,300 state officials, including “mayors, governors, judges, magistrates, prosecutors, congressmen, deputies and council members” colluded with the paramilitary organization AUC that killed more than 100,000 civilians between 1997 and 2006.
Colombia to seek charges against 2300 civilians and 3300 state officials over ties to paramilitary death squads
The current statutory law allows the court only summon members of the FARC and the military to appear and confess their crimes in return for reduced sentences.
The so-called third-party actors are allowed to submit to the JEP voluntarily. The human rights advocates want to make this compulsory, considering that the country’s ordinary justice system has chronically failed to call these alleged war criminals to court.
The appearance of businessmen and non-combatant state agents is fundamental to the rights of the victims and Colombian society, which hopes to have a complete account of the patterns, structures and interests that acted behind all the serious human rights violations. This truth is a historical debt that must be settled either by the ordinary justice system as a matter of priority or by transitional justice.
Human rights advocates
The article that bans the JEP from summoning businessmen and politicians allegedly involved in war crimes to submit is unconstitutional and ought to be eliminated, according to the human rights defenders.
Colombia’s ordinary justice system has been notoriously inefficient in taking the powerful businessmen and politicians accused of war crimes to court.
Former President Alvaro Uribe, for example, was charged in February last year with tampering witnesses who have testified about his alleged leading role in the foundation of a death squad that left more than 4,000 victims in his home province Antioquia.
The Supreme Court, however, has yet to set a court date while evidence of Uribe’s alleged war crimes reportedly has been destroyed or made useless.