Colombia’s chief prosecutor on Wednesday criticized several aspects of a transitional justice deal between the government and Marxist FARC rebels currently debated in Congress.
Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez sharply questioned the validity and legal security of some of the transitional reforms proposed by the Special Jurisdiction on Peace as the government aim to fast-track the legislation to coincide with the implementation of the peace accords.
The prosecutor general claimed that there are “voids and gray areas that can generate a new conflict in Colombia,” in the first debate of the First Committee of the House of Representatives, reported RCN Radio.
Martinez criticized the wording of the reforms whereby the benefits of transitional justice appear to be extended to “all” members of organizations that sign peace agreements with the government, which he warned does not exclude dissidents who should be subject to ordinary jurisdiction.
It is necessary to clarify that the jurisdiction will only shelter those members of the FARC who have effectively demobilized, not dissidents or those who do not comply with the peace agreement.”
Prosecuror General Nestor Humberto Martinez
The prosecutor general also held that crimes such as illegal possession of arms, recruitment of minors and forced disappearance committed after the 1 December 2016, when the definitive date of the peace agreement came into effect would have to be investigated by the prosecution and not by the new judicial bodies.
Martinez claimed that the success of the transitional justice mechanism would hinge on the manner in which laws are written, with an accuracy that would avoid any gray areas or possible misinterpretations.
In these matters you can not be light, you can not improvise. In these matters it is indispensable that the pen of legal excellence inspire the regime of the Special Jurisdiction, to accommodate with legal certainty, with certainty for all the parties concerned, to the regime of transition.”
Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez
For example, Martinez highlighted the issue of repeat offenders and the necessity for the law to stipulate that they cannot avail of the special terms under the transitional justice mechanism including those who fail to fulfill the commitments of full truth, reparation and non-repetition agreed in the peace deal.
“This is a legally required precision, and it is fundamental to deter those called to repeat the crime,” said the Prosecutor according to El Tiempo newspaper.
He added that “Colombia has to make a safe transit to peace with unambiguous rules (…). These are not rules for retaliation, they can not be: they have to be rules for the reconciliation of all Colombians. ”
Meanwhile the FARC’s “Ivan Marquez” has launched a scathing attack on the Prosecutor General following his criticism of the transitional justice mechanism.
Marquez took to his Twitter account to claim that the Prosecutor “is hell-bent on destroying what has been built with so much effort in Havana. For some time he has wanted to damage the Special Jurisdiction on Peace and the peace deal,” reported Caracol Radio.
The transitional justice deal as a whole has come in for severe criticism in many quarters with many claiming that it does not go far enough to punish those involved in war crimes during Colombia’s conflict.
Disregarding the seriousness of a war crime or atrocity, a convicted war criminal can receive no more than 5 to 8 years’ “effective restriction of freedoms” if he or she collaborates with justice.
This restriction of freedom could effectively amount to community service but explicitly shields collaborating war criminals from going to prison.
Those who refuse to cooperate would face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
The Government announced that it will take into account the concerns of the Prosecutor’ General’s Office and that they will be analyzed in the light of the forthcoming debates, reported El Tiempo.