- The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) refuses to admit former top paramilitary leader Carlos Mario Jiménez alias “Macaco,” who was extradited to the United States in 2008 and returned to Colombia in 2019. Macaco’s war crimes, the JEP contends, are already covered by the Justice and Peace transitional justice system set up for the AUC paramilitaries’ 2003-06 demobilization. However, the JEP holds out the possibility that Jiménez might participate in order to be held accountable for crimes he committed as a paramilitary supporter, before he joined the AUC.
Chapter 5, Article 1.2 of the 2016 Peace Accord created the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) as the justice component of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition (Sistema Integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y No Repetición, SIVJRNR). The Special Jurisdiction’s mandate, which cannot last for more than 20 years, is to administer transitional justice and uncover the crimes committed before December 1, 2016 in the context of the armed conflict. The JEP began operating after approval by the Senate on November 15, 2017 and was further strengthened on March 9, 2018 through the Acuerdo 001 of 2018, which regulated and structured its functioning.
Since it started operating and as of January 23, 2020, 12,493 individuals have come before the JEP—77.9% of them are former FARC members and 21.2% are members of the Armed Forces. It has held 96 hearings and has heard 249 individual testimonies. Notably, the JEP has granted 183 amnesties to former FARC combatants, one guarantee against extradition, 313 transitory, conditional, and anticipated parole to members of the Armed Forces or third actors, and 171 to former FARC combatants.
The JEP’s work is concentrated on seven macro-cases:
Case 001, Illegal Detentions of Individuals by the FARC
On July 4, 2018, the JEP opened case 001 to investigate the high number of kidnappings that took place throughout the armed conflict. The JEP is basing its preliminary investigations on a report by the Prosecutor’s Office that identified 8,163 victims, in cases allegedly committed by the FARC. During the case’s first stage: “recognition of truth, responsibility and determination of facts and conduct,” the JEP’s Sala de Reconocimiento has held multiple fact-finding and truth-telling sessions with former FARC members. Through these sessions, the JEP is seeking to expand the collective testimony that it received last September from 10 delegates of FARC’s former Estado Mayor. These sessions are organized territorially, based on the areas where the FARC’s Blocs operated, and held in the former Territorial Training and Reincorporation Spaces (Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación, ETCRs). On December 3, 2019, former FARC members from the Occidental Bloc testified in Popayán (Cauca). Next on the list are the testimonies in Pondores (La Guajira) by the Caribe Bloc, and in Miravalle (Caquetá) by the South Bloc and the Teófilo Forero Mobile Column. Additional to these collective territorial testimonies, the JEP has also received 33 individual testimonies and will soon begin hearing from the victims. As of December 12, 2019, the JEP had accredited 1,709 victims in this case.
Case 002, Territorial Situation of the Tumaco, Ricaurte, and Barbacoas Municipalities (Nariño)
Opened on July 10, 2018, this case centers on investigating the human rights abuses and the violations to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) perpetrated by former FARC members and members of the Armed Forces in Nariño. Initially, the JEP is only investigating cases that occurred between January 1, 1990 and December 1, 2016. By restricting its attention to the Tumaco, Ricaurte, and Barbacoas municipalities, the JEP is taking unprecedented steps to acknowledge the environment as a victim of the armed conflict, especially in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous territories. As such, the JEP is investigating the “socio-environmental and territorial” harm that Afro-Colombian Community Councils (Consejos Comunitarios) and Awá and Eperara Siapiadaara Reservations suffered in the region. Along with these, the JEP is also investigating other crimes such as internal displacements, assassinations, sexual violence, torture, and forced recruitment. On November 2019, the JEP accredited Tumaco’s Campesino Association (Asociación Campesina de Tumaco)—a group of more than 5 thousand families—as collective victims. A week later, it recognized the Katsa Suterritory and 32 Awá cabildos as victims, more specifically as collective subjects of rights.
Case 003, Illegitimately Perpetrated Deaths Presented as Combat Casualties by Agents of the State
The JEP opened this case on July 17, 2018 to investigate the so-called false positive cases. Case 003 focuses on specific areas of the country: Cesar, Antioquia, Catatumbo (North Santander), Casanare, Meta and Huila. The evidentiary basis for the case came from a report by the Prosecutor’s Office, which identifies 2,248 victims in cases that occurred between 1988 and 2014. According to documents from the Ministry of Defense, 1,944 members of the Armed Forces have already expressed willingness to appear before the Special Jurisdiction. By December 5, 2019, the JEP had heard 156 testimonies of individuals involved in these crimes. Notably, in December 2019, the JEP ordered General Mario Montoya Uribe, former commander of the National Army, to testify. Various reports obtained by the JEP, as well as multiple testimonies by members of the Armed Forces, implicate General Montoya in cases of false positives. Also noteworthy, several testimonies in the past year led the JEP to a mass grave in Dabeiba, Antioquia apparently filled with victims of false positives. So far, the JEP has exhumed 54 bodies. The JEP’s Sala de Reconocimiento is expected to release its preliminary conclusions and begin the process of hearing from the victims later this semester.
Case 004, Territorial Situation in the Urabá Region
On September 11, 2018, the JEP opened case 004. This case focuses on crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated in the Urabá region between January 1, 1986 and December 1, 2016. Ten municipalities are at the center of the investigations: Turbo, Apartadó, Carepa, Chigorodó, Mutatá and Dabeiba (Antioquia) and El Carmen del Darién, Riosucio, Unguía and Acandí (Chocó). Reports by the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Center of Historic Memory, and social organizations such as the Reiniciar Corporation and the Popular Research and Education Center (Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, Cinep) cite 3,523 crimes relevant to case 004. These include cases of massacres, internal displacements, illegal land takings, gender-based violence, and sexual violence. Among the individual and collective victims identified by the JEP thus far are Unión Patriótica leaders, the Embera-Katío, Embera Chamí, and Tule o Kuna Peoples, the Afro-Colombian Community Councils (Consejos Comunitarios) of Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó, and San José de Apartadó’s Peace Community. As of February 21, 2019, the JEP had accredited more than 1,700 victims, including the most recent accreditation of 37 victims, for the “La Chinita” massacre. The JEP is expecting to hear the testimonies of 100 former members of the Armed Forces and 74 former FARC members who have some degree of responsibility for the crimes in case 004.
Case 005, Territorial Situation of the Northern Cauca and Southern Cauca Valley Regions
The JEP opened this case on November 8, 2018. Case 005 investigates 2,308 “victimizing acts” that occurred in seventeen municipalities in Northern Cauca and Southern Cauca Valley between January 1, 1993 and December 1, 2016. The significantly high number of victims that these acts produced makes this case notable. Among them are 344,333 victims of internal displacement, 1,038 victims of kidnappings, 828 victims of confinement, 260 victims of anti-personnel mines, 2,105 victims of forced disappearance, 26,861 victims of threats, 213 victims of forced recruitment, and 3,885 cases of attacks against the civilian population. On January 21, 2020, the JEP made history when it accredited the largest number of victims in any case related to the armed conflict— 124,785 victims. These victims comprise of the 31 Nasa Reservations and Cabildos part of Cauca’s Indigenous Regional Council (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca, CRIC) and of North Santander’s Association of Indigenous Cabildos (Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, ACIN). Additionally, the JEP also accredited 20,205 victims who are members of 47 Afro-descendant Community Councils (Consejos Comunitarios). Some of these Councils form the Association of North Cauca’s Community Councils (Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios del Norte del Cauca). Others are part of different organizations from Southern Cauca Valley.
Case 006, Victimization of Patriotic Union (UP) Members by the Armed Forces
The JEP opened this case on February 24, 2019 to investigate between 1,620 and 6,000 instances of victimization suffered by UP members. Among the cases are the 67 assassinations of UP leaders, which were declared crimes against humanity. Throughout last year, the JEP conducted multiple sessions to hear from UP victims in exile; it gathered 16 testimonies. By October 2019, 72 members of the Armed Forces and state agents had requested to be accepted in the JEP. These members claim to have knowledge relevant to case 006. Recently, on January 13, 2020, the JEP’s Appeals Section rejected requests from General and former DAS Director Miguel Maza Márquez to have his case taken up by the Special Jurisdiction. Maza Márquez is currently serving a 30-year sentence for the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán.
Case 007, Recruitment of Children in the Armed Conflict
On March 1, 2019, the JEP opened case 007 to investigate cases of child recruitment from January 1, 1971 to December 1, 2016. The Prosecutor’s Office has identified 5,252 victims of child recruitment thus far. However, this phenomenon is notable for its high degree of impunity—there are only 10 convictions out of the 4,219 investigations opened by the Prosecutor’s Office. During the first stage of the investigation, the JEP applied the April 1997 Declaration of Cape Town Principles’ definition of child recruitment. The Declaration defines a child soldier as any individual under the age of 18 who forms part of an armed group in any capacity other than being a family member. According to reports received by the JEP, during the FARC’S Seventh National Guerilla Conference in 1982, the group adopted a policy that allowed recruitment of children starting at the age of 15. Moreover, the JEP has also found that such policy was not strictly applied and almost half of FARC’s child recruits were 15 years of age. These facts, according to the JEP, may suffice to attribute responsibility for these crimes to former FARC leaders. Indeed, between December 2, 2019 to January 30, 2020, the JEP summoned 14 former FARC-EP members to provide their version of the facts. Initially, the JEP only planned to summon former members of FARC’S Estado Mayor or Secretariat from 1978 to 2007.
- The JEP requires former police general Mauricio Santoyo to stand trial for his role in the 2000 disappearance of two members of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared (ASFADDES) in Medellín. Santoyo stands accused of working with the paramilitaries who disappeared Claudia Patricia Monsalve and Ángel José Quintero when he was commander of the Medellín Police anti-kidnapping unit. He later went on to be the chief of then-president Álvaro Uribe’s security detail before being extradited to the United States to face drug charges. He was returned to Colombia in 2019.
An infographic responding to some of the concerns raised by victims and by the general public after the FARC’s initial testimonies about its practice of mass kidnapping during the conflict.
Investigators from Colombia’s transitional justice tribunal have established that many bodies in a laboratory at the University of Antioquia are those of conflict victims. Something similar may be the case nationwide, wherever unidentified bodies are buried in cemeteries. Accompanies a Semana article.
- One of the FARC’s most prominent former hostages, ex-senator Ingrid Betancourt, sends a strongly worded letter to the chief judge of the JEP’s Chamber for Recognition of Truth, Responsibility, and Determination of Acts and Conducts. She is responding to a news report about some of the FARC’s testimony to the JEP, in which the guerrillas attempt to play down the severity of Betancourt’s six years in jungle captivity. “It is not up to the FARC to issue good-behavior certificates for its victims. Nor is it up to us to agree with what they do.” Betancourt objects strongly to the FARC defendants’ insistence on using the word “retention” as a euphemism for kidnapping.
- JEP personnel investigating “false positive” killings have extracted about 54 bodies of possible Army victims from a mass grave in the town cemetery of Dabeiba, Antioquia. In this historically conflictive municipality, the practice of killing civilians and claiming them as combat deaths may have gone on for 25 years. Victims have had little or no recourse until the JEP’s effort began.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace has been helping find bodies in Dabeiba, Antioquia, believed to be victims of “false positive” killings by the Colombian Army.
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and USAID Mission Director Larry Sacks visit the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, Colombia’s post-conflict transitional justice body.
Forensic investigators from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace at a mass grave in the town cemetery of Dabeiba, Antioquia, where they have uncovered more than 50 bodies. Many are believed to be victims of Army killings.
- The Special Peace Jurisdiction (JEP) amnesties Marilú Ramírez, a FARC member who infiltrated the Nueva Granada Military University in Bogotá in order to set off a car bomb there in 2006. The attack wounded 33 people; Ramírez was sentenced to over 27 years in prison in 2015. After two years of deliberation, the transitional justice tribunal determines that the school was a legitimate military target, and the attack was therefore amnistiable under the peace accord.
- “Let’s eliminate the JEP, the Democratic Center Party has said so for a long time,” tweets the governing party’s founder, former president and current Senator Álvaro Uribe.
- Gen. Mario Montoya, who headed Colombia’s army between 2006 and 2008, testifies for two days before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). At least 41 victims are in attendance, others gather outside to protest.
- The JEP is holding hearings for its “macro-case” about so-called “false positive” killings, in which military personnel murdered thousands of civilians and claimed them later as combat kills. Eleven military witnesses have signaled Gen. Montoya as playing a key role in creating the incentives for these killings.
- The law governing the JEP dictates that when a person has been implicated by a report or testimony, the JEP will give that person the opportunity to give his or her version of what happened. At that opportunity, the person may recognize or deny the allegations.
- In 40 minutes of comments, Gen. Montoya denies any responsibility for the “false positives,” and invokes his “right to remain silent,” responding vaguely to magistrates’ questions.
- Gen. Montoya’s silence causes an outcry among victims. They particularly object to Montoya’s response when magistrates ask him how to prevent “false positive” killings in the future. Montoya reportedly replied by citing most soldiers’ low social class origins. “We have to teach them how to use the bathroom, how to use silverware, so it’s not easy.”
- On February 18, active-duty Col. Álvaro Amórtuegi tells Caracol Noticias that in 2001, Montoya had ordered him to kill some people captured by paramilitaries, adding that he would send him some armbands with which to pass them off as guerrillas. When he refused, the colonel alleges that Montoya replied, “You’re a coward, you disgust me and I spit on your boots… If you’re afraid, go kill an idiot or a crazy person, or take them from the morgue.”
- Some victims’ groups call on the JEP to expel Gen. Montoya for his non-cooperation, which would send his case to the regular criminal justice system.
As former army chief Gen. Mario Montoya appears before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in a hearing about “false positive” killings, victims hold a vigil outside.
Alarmed by the deteriorating human rights situation and the return of violence to rural Colombia, 23 International Civil Society Organizations released a public statement demanding action from the Colombian government. With over 40 years of experience working on peace-building in Colombia, the organizations condemn the government’s delays and reneging on peace accord implementation, attacks to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP), and violence against social leaders and human rights defenders. The article makes reference to the recent New York Times’ article exposing military directives demanding increased body counts, the murder of former FARC combatant Dimar Torres on April 22, and the 62 social leaders murdered so far in 2019.
The May 30 statement demands Duque sign the JEP’s statutory law and abstain from promoting members of the military who have links to extrajudicial killings. On June 6, the president signed the law as asked and the Senate voted in favor of promoting General Nicasio Martínez despite the objections of human rights organizations. The statement also calls for the investigation of the murders and attacks on social leaders, the extended presence of the UN Verification Mission and renewal of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights among other requests.
Here is the full statement translated into English:
International Civil Society Organizations Express their Serious Concern for the Grave Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Colombia Jeopardizing the Sustainability of the Peace Accord
The International Civil Society Organizations signatory of this statement, in reference to our mandates, have been committed to the respect for human dignity, the guarantee of rights, the construction of peace, and the negotiated termination of the Colombian armed conflict for over 40 years.
We recognize the importance of the agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerilla signed on November 2016, as well as the dialogues with the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional), now sadly stagnant due to lack of political will.
The reneging and delays on the commitments made in the Final Agreement (FA), the permanent attacks against the Integral System for Truth, Justice, Reparations, and no Repetition (Sistema Integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y no Repetición, SIVJR) – particularly towards the decisions of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP), place the lives and lawfulness of those participating under this jurisdiction at risk, including members of the FARC.
This along with the murders, threats, intimidations, and stigmatizations against human rights defenders, environmentalists, and persons participating in voluntary illicit-use crop substitution, place the possibility to consolidate peace under serious threat.
According to the Center for Research and Education’s Program for Peace (Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, CINEP), their 2018 category for political violence reports 648 murders, 1151 death threats, 304 injured, 48 attacks, 22 forced disappearances, three cases of sexual assaults, and 243 arbitrary detentions. So far, 62 social leaders have been murdered in 2019.
The annual report of the We Are Defenders Program (Programa Somos Defensores), published this year on April, states that in 2018 there were 16 women human rights defenders murdered, surpassing the murder rate of male human rights defenders.
The New York Times recently exposed a military directive that could bring back the infamous “false positives” within the Colombian Armed Forces, as seen in the case of demobilized FARC-EP member Dimar Torres, who was murdered by an active member of the military on April 22, 2019. Dimar’s murder in the Colombian northeast was confirmed as a military killing by general Diego Luis Villegas.
The government’s response to these reports is worrying. Among these are the Defense Minister’s recent statement denying the existence of said directive, and the inflammatory remarks made by a government party congresswoman, which forced the article’s author and photographer to leave the country.
The Colombian government has the obligation to guarantee Human Rights, honor the commitments made in the peace accords with the FARC-EP, and respond effectively to protect the life and dignity of those who are put at great risk for advancing peace and Human Rights.
Thus, we demand the Colombian government to:
- Order government officials to abstain from making speeches that stigmatize those who defend peace and Human Rights, as well as civilians.
- Order the respective authorities to carry out investigations and sanctions towards the material and intellectual authors of the murders, attacks, and threats against Human Rights defenders and FARC-EP leaders who seek reintegration into civilian life.
- Ratify the statutory law of the JEP and comply with its decisions. In this regard, investigate the facts surrounding the recapture of Mr. Seuxis Paucias Hernández, establish its legality, the truth about his situation, and guarantee him his right to due process.
- Abstain from promoting high ranking members of the military that have been admitted to the JEP, or have open judicial cases, as a measure to guarantee non-repetition to the victims of conflict.
- To the President, as commander in chief of the military, that he ensure that all orders, manuals, and operational documents of the military comply with national and international law as well as Human Rights and International Human Rights Law.
- Extend the presence of the UN Verification Mission and renew the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as recognition to the work of the international community on Human Rights.
- Guarantee the right to information by protecting free and independent journalism.
We request that the diplomatic apparatus, international community, and guarantor countries of the peace process demand the Colombian government honors the Final Agreement and takes the necessary measures so that its implementation is not bloodier than the conflict it aims to overcome.
As civil society organizations, we reiterate our compromise to the construction of complete peace in Colombia and we will keep on working alongside victims, rural communities, persons on transit to civilian life, and the Colombian civil society at large.