More than 13,000 cases are currently under way against individuals for allegedly cooperating with paramilitary or guerrilla groups that have been branded terrorist organizations by the government.
Santos made the statement days after former President Cesar Gaviria proposed over the weekend to include civilian actors like businessmen and politicians in a transitional justice program in the event the country’s 50-year conflict with rebel group FARC comes to an end.
Gaviria said that “if we want to build peace in Colombia, after a possible agreement with the FARC, we have to think about extending the transitional justice to these all sectors involved in the war, including ‘non-combatants’.”
Santos said that this process of prosecuting ‘non-combatants’ who were involved in the war is important. He explained that leaving these cases open would involve a “high cost for justice, for impunity and for the country.”
Among the alleged civilian actors in the conflict are more than a hundred former congressmen and governors who are suspected of having benefited from paramilitary drug money or intimidation of the electorate.
The government is currently engaged in peace talks with rebel group FARC that would likely include amnesty for guerrillas who decide to lay down their weapons and reintegrate into society.
The possibility for amnesty has raised the alarms with Uribe and members of his conservative opposition party Democratic Center who have said that amnesty for guerrillas would constitute impunity.
According to Gaviria, the opposition’s resistance to amnesty for the FARC is understandable as it has been unclear whether for example members of the military or civilian actors would be paying a full prison sentence.
However, there are fears among government officials that if the net is widened in terms of who can be prosecuted and who is responsible, then high level politicians may be at risk themselves.
A court order to investigate Uribe for his alleged complicity in a paramilitary massacre that was issued last month demonstrates how politicians are vulnerable to prosecution because of their involvement in the armed conflict.