The United States ambassador dealt another major blow to Colombia’s peace process on Monday, stating his government supports Colombian President Ivan Duque’s latest attempt to sink a war crimes tribunal.
In an interview with Blu Radio, US Ambassador Kevin Whitaker said he supported Duque’s decision to ignore the Constitutional Court and return a statutory bill that defines the powers of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to Congress.
Duque’s decision triggered a constitutional crisis and plunged the peace process into its biggest crisis since April last year when the US government requested the extradition of FARC leader “Jesus Santrich” on an unsubstantiated drug trafficking claim.
Whitaker tried to downplay the latest crisis and claimed that Colombia’s hard-right president “did a very rigorous and refined analysis to find the problems he objected to.”
Experts have asked which war criminals Duque is trying to protect in his latest and most devastating attempt to sink the tribunal that seeks to bring justice to the country’s more than 8.5 million victims of the armed conflict.
Whitaker audaciously turned against the victims, who have consistently opposed the extradition of alleged war criminals accused of drug trafficking by the US.
The extradition of 18 paramilitary leaders in 2008 and 2011 blocked investigations into crimes against humanity and left more than 200,000 victims without justice, according to victim organizations and judicial experts.
According to these organizations, US authorities have failed to facilitate Colombian court hearings of war criminals in US prisons, effectively obstructing justice in Colombia.
The US government… policy of inaction… has led to the obstruction of attempts made to continue with human rights investigations in Colombia. The result is at least 239,758 Colombian victims who remain without truth, justice and reparation.
The US ambassador dismissed the victims’ grievances, and claimed that the US government had facilitated investigations into war crimes.
There is an element in the law objected to by the president that says that the needs of victims overrule extradition, for me this is an easy dilemma: we have been able to respond to the needs of victims even when the perpetrators, the defendants, are in the US. You can do both things at the same time.
US Ambassador Kevin Whitaker
The extradition forms part of the Colombian government strategy, consistent with using all means at its disposal, to frustrate the rights of victims, and promote impunity for those most responsible for the crimes committed by paramilitary groups over the past 25 years: politicians at local, regional and national level, members of the Colombian Armed Forces, State officials, corporations and large landowners.
More than 100 politicians, victim representatives, scholars, social leaders and former guerrillas on Monday called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to inform the Security Council of the crisis.
But the United States’ support for Duque’s move that sank the country’s troubled peace process into another crisis makes it virtually impossible for the Security Council to adopt any resolution that would condemn the Colombian state for its chronic failures to honor the 2016 peace agreement with FARC guerrillas and conflict victims.