“When preparing a report, an assessment or a survey, it seems as though the first thing examined is which country is being observed, rather than the actual reality,” he said.
Santos blasted critics of Colombia’s Justice and Peace law, in which demobilized paramilitaries are given reduced sentences in return for testifying on human rights crimes. In December, the UN Rapporteur on judicial independence said after visiting Colombia that the Justice and Peace law was “very slow and the tribunal … has not issued a single sentence.” A UN human rights report released in March 2009 was also critical of the reparation process.
Santos countered that Colombia is a victim of double standards, and that similar courts in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and West Timor have failed to try and to sentence as many human rights abusers as Colombia has within a shorter period of time, or to pay reparations to victims of war.
According to Santos, there are currently 195 trials being processed against ex-paramilitaries in Colombia, involving a total of 16,776 criminal charges. In 2010, $150 million is budgeted for reparations to victims of Colombia’s conflict, he added.
In comparison, he said, a similar “justice and peace” process in Yugoslavia has convicted fewer than 20 human rights abusers in eighteen years.
“Colombia has every right to ask, what kind of international standards are we talking about here?” said Santos.
Critics who used Colombia’s human rights record as reason not to sign a U.S.-Colombia trade agreement were also applying double standards, he added.
The Justice and Peace process has also faced criticism inside Colombia. The national Justice and Peace tribunal released a report this year which said that the prosecutions and convictions of former paramilitaries were proceeding slowly.
A recent study by Berkeley University also found that the Justice and Peace process needed to implement more “efficient and effective” procedures when trying and sentencing ex-paramilitary human rights abusers.