Remember back when Colombian officials said that the FARC peace negotiations sought to “put victims at the center” of the process?
Colombia’s Congress just finished work on the legislation that would implement transitional justice, the process of punishing the worst human rights violators and making them provide reparations to victims. They did serious damage, putting together a system that benefits the powerful and deforms the spirit of the peace accords. It will be up to Colombia’s top courts, or the International Criminal Court, to minimize the harm.
Here are seven flaws that I’ve identified in a piece that WOLA posted to its website this morning. Follow the link to read the whole thing: I tried to explain this in plain English, not human rights legalese.
- The choices of judges and magistrates for the new justice system were excellent. But the law would undo these by disqualifying anybody who has done human rights work or accompanied victims during the past five years.
- The law does not define how austere the conditions of “restricted liberty” will be for those sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- The law includes a watered-down standard of “command responsibility,” which could allow dozens of top military commanders to avoid accountability. It may also make Colombia a top priority for the International Criminal Court.
- The law stripped key language from the peace accord which would have compelled civilian third parties to appear and confess. There is now little hope of holding accountable landowners, narcotraffickers, local officials and other politically influential individuals who sponsored armed groups or even planned killings.
- The law leaves unclear whether “false positive” killings will be tried within the JEP, even though most were unrelated to the armed conflict.
- War criminals may still be able to hold office. Or maybe not.
- The timeline for setting up the JEP is excruciatingly slow. In the meantime, thousands of guerrillas and soldiers are in a legal limbo.