Colombia's JEP transitional justice programme in crisis after congressional attacks

Justice For Colombia News | on: Thursday, 30 November 2017

Colombia's peace process is in crisis after the National Congress made major changes to the transitional justice mechanism, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), that was agreed as a core element of the bilateral peace agreement between the government and the FARC.

The JEP is designed to bring justice to conflict victims by identifying those guilty of major human rights violations during the conflict. The original agreement applies this to both sides, while offering lighter sentences in return for confessions. It is hoped this will establish clarity over many unanswered questions around the conflict, not least relating to thousands of victims of forced disappearance.

However, with many in Colombian politics implicated in human rights abuses, there have been strong attempts to impede the JEP or to undermine it completely. In contravention of the terms of the peace agreement, the Constitutional Court recently ruled that civilians would not face the JEP, thereby exempting business and political figures suspected of sponsoring right-wing paramilitaries which committed the vast majority of human rights violations in Colombia's conflict. Furthermore, high-ranking military officials will also now be exempted from the JEP if they profess ignorance over subordinates' actions in the field.

The court also determined that judges could not serve on the JEP if they had previously worked in human rights cases. As some judges have already been selected, they will now be reviewed and possibly replaced if they have human rights backgrounds.

The attacks on the JEP appear designed to protect establishment figures who would be at risk of conviction under the terms agreed. Transitional justice is a vital tool in developing the truth and reconciliation that helps post-conflict societies transition into stability. Sadly, the political right-wing in Colombia is determined to ensure this does not happen.

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