As many of you remember, in 2006 Colombia embarked on the so-called “Justice and Peace process” after 32,000 members of the paramilitaries (the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia or AUC) demobilized. (A top ex-paramilitary leader recently said that as many as 12,000 of those weren’t even paramilitaries, just people rounded up at the last minute.)
At their late-1990s and early-2000s height, the AUC was committing more human rights abuses than the guerrillas. While the FARC and ELN led in categories like kidnapping, landmine use, and child recruitment, paramilitaries—often working with the military’s acquiescence—were committing more murders, massacres, displacements, and torture.
Of the 32,000 demobilized “paras,” a subset believed to have committed war crimes was to undergo full judicial confessions, and then to pay a reduced sentence of up to eight years in prison.
So whatever happened? This paragraph, from an April 2017 report by Colombia’s Antonio Nariño Project (PAN), is devastating.
As of December 26, 2016, 7,531 applicants [for lighter penalties in exchange for full confessions in the Justice and Peace system] had given confessions, and 49 sentences had been handed down. According to the Prosecutor-General’s Office [Fiscalía], there are 76,981 technical records of these confessions. However, in accordance with the law [Law 975 of 2005, known as the Justice and Peace Law], only people directly involved in the events described may have access to these technical records. Journalists and media outlets are excluded. Sebastián Salamanca, the PAN’s coordinator, says that “the hearings’ video archives are rotting in offices and we citizens can’t access them; those documents, necessary to know the truth about what happened in the war, today are moth food.”
Hat tip to scholar Camilo Tamayo Gómez for pointing this out in a recent column in Medellín’s El Colombiano.