Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe could end up appearing before a post-conflict transitional justice tribunal and even in prison over allegations he helped found paramilitary groups while governor, according to the country’s top prosecutor.
Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre told Caracol News that Uribe “could be investigated and tried for issues preceding his presidency, when he was governor of Antioquia” between 1995 and 1997.
In order to end more than 50 years of conflict, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel group FARC agreed to a post-conflict tribunal that will assume court cases related to conflict-related crimes in the event of peace.
Uribe, who has vociferously opposed the peace talks and the agreements made with the FARC, played a key role in the conflict as president and governor of the Antioquia province.
The country’s Supreme Court is currently investigating the former president for the alleged illegal promotion of paramilitary groups and his alleged complicity in a massacre carried out by these paramilitaries while Uribe was governor.
The remark of the prosecutor general infuriated Uribe, who accused the Santos administration of “handing over the country to the FARC to throw me in prison.”
Uribe’s political party, the Democratic Center, also fiercely rejected the possibility of their ideological leader ending in prison over war crimes and warned that Santos could also end up before the tribunal over thousands of civilian killings committed by the military while Santos was Defense Minister and Uribe president.
Uribe and his political party, the Democratic Center, have long accused the government of “surrendering the country to terrorism,” refusing any participation in peace talks that have been ongoing since 2012.
Political opponents of the former president have long alleged Uribe’s ties to criminal groups like Pablo Escobar‘s Medellin Cartel and the AUC, which was formed in 1997 by defected members of the cartel.
The brother of the former President, Santiago Uribe, is currently on trial for founding his own paramilitary group, the 12 Apostles, that sought to violently remove leftist elements from Antioquia politics in the 1980s.
Uribe’s cousin, Mario Uribe, spent years in prison for using paramilitary drug money and intimidation to get elected to Congress.
More than 65 congressmen and seven governors have so far been convicted for their ties to the AUC, and organization responsible for tens of thousands of human rights violations.
In the event of end Colombia’s armed conflict, an international tribunal will begin investigating alleged war crimes committed by FARC guerrillas, members of the military, politicians and civilians alike.
This court could convict war criminals to five to eight years of “restricted liberty” if the defendant fully collaborates with justice, but can also impose sentences as high as 20 years in prison if a convicted war criminal refuses cooperation.