Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday said the government will not “sacrifice justice for peace” while negotiating peace with rebel group FARC. The president was answering questions at a Constitutional Court’s open hearing on the so-called legal framework for peace, which sets the legal boundaries of what the government is and is not allowed to agree to with the rebels.
“We cannot expect to end a 50-year war without thinking about how to deal with the legacy of gross human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law,” Santos told the court.
According to the President, whose administration supported the peace framework, “this model not only makes no room for impunity, it satisfies the rights of the victims to the maximum extent possible.”
The prosecutor general has, however, questioned the ability of his office to prosecute demobilized rebels. Speaking at a senate debate hearing in June, Eduardo Montealegre admitted that his office did not have the “capacity to investigate and prosecute the thousands of fighters that will demobilize if peace talks are successful.” Santos, who already had agreed to extra funds for the public prosecution, said, “we cannot pretend to investigate all acts committed in half a century of violence, but we want to build a realistic strategy, one that meets the rights of the victims in the best way possible.”
The President also acknowledged that the Colombian state has been responsible for “serious human rights violations and breaches of international law.” He stressed that it was his “commitment as president” however, to make these state officials “recognize their responsibility and participate in transitional justice mechanisms.” “As head of state, before you today, I assume responsibility for the successful development of the legal framework for peace” added Santos.
With this framework in place, Santos insisted that Colombia can prosper with a “stronger rule of law and a more vigorous democracy.” The demobilization of paramilitary group AUC between 2003 and 2006 received condemnation from human rights groups across Colombia, insisting that the process amounted to nothing more than impunity.