Tag: JEP

Power Rivalries Put Pressure on Colombia’s Peace Treaty

By: Mariano Aguirre, WOLA Board Member
(Cross-posted from chathamhouse.org)
(Versión en español disponible en esglobal.org)

The creation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP in Spanish) as part of the 2016 Peace Treaty between the Colombian State and the guerrilla group FARC has seen its work much criticized over claims from certain powerful factions that it has a hidden agenda to free former FARC leaders and imprison senior military commanders.

Investigations carried out by the JEP have been a major success of the peace agreement and the process that followed. But most of the right-wing section of governing party Centro Democrático have been working to cut its funding and complicate the implementation of the peace deal.

Founded on the principle of transitional justice, the JEP works by recognizing accountability for past crimes from the conflict and establishing alternative sentences. This does mean some powerful people – politicians, businesspeople, and landowners – may feel threatened because its investigations may reveal their past connections to both official and nonofficial repression unleashed upon trade unionists, peasants, politicians, and civilians in the name of defeating the FARC.

Ariel Avila, from the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, states that as transitional justice moves forward ‘victims will be more at risk. As ex guerrilla members, military officers, parapoliticians, begin to tell the truth, they will inform on those who supported them, those who benefitted from the war, people who, for the most part, are within the scope of legality’.

Hostages and human rights violations

The JEP recently accused seven FARC leaders for promoting kidnapping as a systematic practice and inflicting human rights violations on hostages, and also announced it will investigate and prosecute state security forces for war crimes, as the Colombian army stands accused of allegedly murdering at least 6,402 innocent civilians under what is called ‘false positives’ – counting them as guerrilla fighters to give the impression they were winning the war against the FARC.

Almost 80 per cent of those crimes were committed between 2002 and 2008 when right-wing political leader Álvaro Uribe was president and, since the JEPs’ creation in 2017, he and some of his followers – known as ‘Uribismo’ – along with Iván Duque’s current government have been persistently critical of the body.

This has led the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to express concern about ‘persisting public statements questioning the suitability of the JEP and their staff, and about the legislative proposals to abolish the Special Jurisdiction for Peace’, and the damage being done to the JEP was revealed in a detailed report from 14 senators of different opposition parties in the Colombian Congress, led by Senator Juanita Goebertus (Green Alliance Party). 

The main targets of the attacks by the government and Uribistas are the reforms in the rural sector, voluntary coca crop eradication, and the implementation of transitional justice, which the peace treaty committed the government to achieve. Returning land to thousands of peasants displaced by violence would reverse gross inequalities in land distribution, as would the political strengthening of local communities.

“The main targets of the attacks by the government and Uribistas are the reforms in the rural sector, voluntary coca crop eradication, and the implementation of transitional justice.”

But rural elites strongly oppose these moves and the state has been largely absent in these rural areas, contributing to a rise in illegal mining, illicit crops, and now the killings of social leaders and ex-FARC guerrilla combatants. The president of the JEP recently claimed ‘a social leader is killed every 41 hours’ and, according to a report by the Colombian Commission of Jurists along with other local groups, these killings are being committed by hit men, FARC dissidents, organized crime, and even members of the armed forces.

Most cases are not being solved and the Inter American Commission for Human Rights indicates most government investigations focus on the material authors of the crime, not those who gave the order. Human Rights Watch says that, because of such state shortcomings, investigations and prosecutions are facing significant hurdles particularly with regard to the ‘intellectual authors’ of many killings.

Rural communities under pressure from criminals

OHCHR estimates 513 human rights defenders and 248 former FARC combatants were killed between 2016 and the end of 2020 but this is disputed by the government. Many of those who died had accepted the peace agreement, committing themselves and their communities to stop harvesting coca in exchange for receiving state financial assistance and shifting to producing legal goods. But Duque’s government, believing alternative crops do not work, froze the scheme alleging a lack of funds.

This put communities under renewed pressure from organized crime and guerrillas to produce coca again, an option made easier by the ban on the coca fumigations which were used by the US government between 1994 and 2015 to keep crop levels down and reduce drug production.

Fumigations were ended in 2015 by the Colombian Supreme Court due to evidence that the crop spraying harmed the environment as well as human and animal health, but the risk of cuts to aid and loans from the Donald Trump US administration recently pushed Duque to try and lift these restrictions.

His government has launched military-civil stabilization operations in areas of high conflict and illicit crop production, but peasants and indigenous communities see fumigation as another breach of the peace treaty and they intend to resist it.

They also consider stabilization to be too dependent on the military, and various experts also consider this approach to be inefficient and a poor substitute for the lack of a proper state presence in rural Colombia.

“Peasants and indigenous communities see fumigation as another breach of the peace treaty and they intend to resist it.”

Now with the change of administration in the US, Joe Biden has already expressed interest in the protection of human rights and appears less likely to be supportive of restarting fumigation as well as any ongoing resistance of the Colombian government to the peace agreement, especially as key Democrats in the Obama administration and Congress supported the negotiation and approval of the peace deal and many are now in the Biden administration.

The trick for Duque now – and Uribe – is to successfully balance their own partisan policy preferences with the country’s need for long-term military, strategic, and economic ties to Washington.

Tags: False Positives, FARC, Illicit Crop Eradication, Indigenous Communities, JEP, Military and Human Rights, Politics of Peace, Special Jurisdiction for Peace, Transitional Justice

March 15, 2021

July 30, 2020

The JEP declares “precautionary measures” for ex-FARC members among its defendants, who are facing increased security threats. The transitional justice tribunal calls on the High Commissioner for Peace and the Presidential Counselor for Stabilization to convene bodies created by the peace accord to guarantee ex-combatants’ security, among other specific recommendations.

Tags: Demobilization Disarmament and Reintegration, High Commissioner for Peace, High Counselor for Stabilization, JEP, Protection of Excombatants, Transitional Justice

July 30, 2020

June 4, 2020

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) rejects former top paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso’s petition to participate in the FARC peace accords’ transitional justice system as a “third party.” As a paramilitary leader, Mancuso—who was extradited to the United States in 2008 and imprisoned for drug trafficking, but who completed his sentence in early 2020—falls within the “Justice and Peace” transitional justice system set up for the paramilitaries’ post-2006 demobilization. The JEP denies that Mancuso, one of the most senior leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), could possibly have qualified as an outside supporter of paramilitaries during the pre-AUC era (late 1980s and early 1990s).

Tags: Extradition, JEP, Paramilitarism, Transitional Justice

June 4, 2020

June 1, 2020

In a special hearing, Maximum FARC party leader Rodrigo Londoño asks the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to grant protective measures (medidas cautelares) to former guerrillas, nearly 200 of whom have been killed since the peace accord’s signature. Londoño says that 40 percent of those killed have been ex-guerrillas who were released from prison upon demobilizing; 39 more have suffered assassination attempts; and 177 have received threats since 2017. He adds that the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) has only “clarified” (identified the responsible actor) in 11.4 percent of cases.

Photo source: FARC.

Tags: Fiscalia, JEP, Protection of Excombatants

June 1, 2020

May 15, 2020

Citing health and COVID-19 concerns, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) grants conditional release from prison to retired Gen. Jesús Armando Arias Cabrales, who led the Army’s Bogotá-based 13th Brigade during the 1985 M-19 guerrilla takeover of, and subsequent military assault on, the Palace of Justice in the city’s center. Gen. Arias Cabrales had been jailed for the torture and disappearance of civilians during that operation.

Tags: Civil-Military Relations, JEP, Military and Human Rights, Transitional Justice

May 15, 2020

April 30, 2020

Citing their vulnerability to COVID-19 while imprisoned, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) orders house arrest for 25 people accused of committing war crimes while serving in the security forces. On April 22, the JEP’s Legal Situations Chamber denied release to two former senior officers, Colonels Joaquín Correa López y Jorge Eliécer Plazas Acevedo, both over 60 years old. The JEP mandated that they be granted humanitarian protective measures while detained.

Tags: Civil-Military Relations, JEP, Military and Human Rights, Public Health, Transitional Justice

April 30, 2020

Colombia en riesgo de impunidad: Puntos ciegos de la Justicia Transicional frente a crímenes internacionales de competencia de la CPI

Publicado por la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos y el Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo el 26 de abril de 2020.

Raises concerns about persistent impunity for human rights violations committed by state actors, and calls on the International Criminal Court to remain vigilant.

Tags: Civil-Military Relations, False Positives, Human Rights, International Criminal Court, JEP, Military and Human Rights, Transitional Justice

April 26, 2020

April 21, 2020

The JEP amnesties Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, three alleged members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who had fled Colombia in 2004 while appealing a sentence for teaching FARC members how to build improvised bombs. The JEP finds that the men had committed an amnistiable political crime.

Tags: JEP, Transitional Justice

April 21, 2020