Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has again promised that under the terms of the Special Justice for Peace, there will be no impunity in relation to the most serious crimes committed in the armed conflict.
On Monday, President Santos installed 30 of the 38 magistrates to oversee the Special Justice for Peace, as the government waits for the Constitutional Court to rule on the terms of the justice process.
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Of greatest concern to human rights groups is that this special justice process could grant impunity to those actors who have committed crimes against humanity. Santos has emphasized that the Special Justice for Peace will not be a court that grants impunity, and much less a court favorably disposed to the FARC.
“There are crimes so serious that neither the law nor our conscience allow us to grant amnesty, serious war crimes, genocide, and in general the serious violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, all these crimes will be judged and punished under the auspices of the new jurisdiction,” the president explained.
To date the leaders of the guerrilla group are free to participate in the electoral process, without having been subject to judgment by this legal authority; in addition, there remains the possibility that they could receive legal judgment, and still hold elected office in Colombia, unless explicitly prohibited by the terms of their sentence.
Santos again voiced support for the legitimacy of the legal protections granted by the Constitutional Court to the agreement with the FARC, which grant the agreement special legal protections for three presidential terms, or twelve years, in the future. This aspect of the agreement has generated considerable controversy in Colombia.
“The agreement will not be revoked, despite the fact that some politicians want the opposite,” he added. “The victims are more interested in truth than seeing their victimisers behind bars. Victims are better served by reparations than revenge.”
The legal authority of the magistrates until now remains unclear, because there has been no fundamental decision on the part of the Constitutional Court. Some political sectors have suggested that the government rushed through the appointment of said magistrates before the legal statutes of the Special Justice for Peace had come into effect.
The Executive Secretariat of the Special Justice for Peace has also faced criticism for its use of international donations; it received USD $4.7 million from seven countries last year and spent USD $3.7 million on its operations. Despite this funding, it has as of yet failed to ensure the implementation of the judicial component of measures that mandate truth, justice, and reparations as the key guiding principles for the Santos-FARC agreement.
The new magistrates will now be charged with interpreting the new Amnesty Law, which was previously the domain of criminal judges, but will now become the responsibility of the specialized court.
Meanwhile, former prosecutor and presidential candidate Alejandro Ordóñez said that Santos continues to do what he wants. “To grant impunity to his accomplices from the FARC, goes above and beyond. Today there are magistrates who should be disqualified for left-wing militancy. Just like in Venezuela!” he said.