Resolution of Justice and Peace crime cases could take up to 25 years if Colombia continues at such a clumsy and chaotic rate, claimed lawyers at a conference in a report by El Nuevo Siglo on Monday.
The conference, held in Miami, was attended by various Colombian legal personnel who indicated that the Colombian Government was not attending to justice efficiently and as a result former bosses of criminal groups were having to be extradited to face trial.
The lawyers highlighted the fact that since Colombia’s Justice and Peace law (a peace agreement between the AUC paramilitaries and the government) was introduced four years ago, of the 200,000 cases being investigated involving victims of paramilitary crime only one had been resolved and this one case had been annuled in August.
Furthermore, this statistic did not include the high stagnation rate of cases of ex-paramilitaries who demobilized in order to cooperate with the Government in the explanation of massacres, hostage-taking and dissappeared persons.
“The Colombian government wanted significant progress but did not consider the consequences,” said Jose Abad Cano Zuleta, responsible for the representation of former AUC members in the city of Medellin.
“When the government realised what it was getting into it extradited the main suspects to the U.S. and a process [Justice and Peace] that once worked like a clockwork, began to fail,” Zuleta added.
Zuleta referred to the cases of 14 former AUC bosses who were extradited to the U.S. in May 2008, stating that there is not enough legal personnel in Colombia to deal with investigations while logistical issues clog up progress.
One official at the conference went so far as to suggest that the situation had become so overwhelming that it could provoke the concept of ‘forgive and forget’ in order to move on.
Allegedly Colombia’s Obudsman has 150 lawyers assigned solely to Justice and Peace cases but some 1,700 more are required, reported El Nuevo Siglo.
Lawyers emphasized that the situation was further complicated by the fact that a high percentage of the Justice and Peace cases involved clients who had been both victim and perpetrator of paramilitary activities throughout Colombia’s armed conflict and investigation was a perpetual headache without sufficient personnel and inadequate services.