Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday before the UN defended his administration’s efforts to seek peace with rebel group FARC, calling on international bodies to not challenge a possible amnesty for the guerrillas.
Santos made his call among worries over possible legal steps by the International Criminal Court if Colombia fails to respect international law regarding the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
These worries have been strengthened by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who had warned the South American country not to be too lenient in granting amnesty for crimes against humanity or face a possible intervention of the global court.
Santos had already denied that FARC crimes would go unpunished and added on Tuesday that his country wants its search for peace respected by other countries and international bodies.
Right to peace
“The right of Colombia, and all nations, to seek peace must be respected,” said the Colombian head of state. “We ask that you continue to accompany us, but respecting our decisions and our way to make peace.”
“We want to end this conflict without abandoning justice, and much less the truth and victim reparation,” Santos assured.
According to the president, “Colombia is, maybe, the first country on the planet to begin a process of this nature during the validity of the Rome Statute” of the International Criminal Court that binds Colombia to respect the international court’s jurisdiction in case a member country refuses or proves unable to adequately prosecute war crimes.
Colombia is notorious for its failing justice system and has been criticized fiercely over the inadequate application of justice after the demobilization of the AUC, the country’s then largest paramilitary organization. Human rights organizations additionally fiercely criticized legislation that granted the military to prosecute and judge its own members for crimes committed during service — the Colombian army is investigating for executing a staggering 4,000 civilians in order to present them as guerrillas killed in combat.
However, according to Santos, the situation in his country has changed. “This is not about sacrificing justice in order to reach peace,” he said, stressing again that “there will be no impunity for the crimes against humanity or war crimes that were committed systematically.”
The FARC and the government have been negotiating a peace accord since November 2012 and have been given a deadline at the end of the year to successfully conclude talks. If this is unsuccessful “we condemn our nation to many more years of blood and pain,” warned Santos.