904 social activists and 276 former combatants killed: Transitional Justice System

Colombia’s transitional justice system has released new information into the shocking scale of violence impacting the country. According to the findings, 904 social activists and 276 FARC former combatants since the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016. The entities of the transitional justice system warned the violence was impeding their crucial work and called on the National Ombudsman’s Office to take action to address the crisis.

Created in the peace agreement to investigate the conflict and achieve justice for victims, the transitional justice system is formed of three entities: the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the court charged with prosecuting major human rights violations committed in the conflict; the Truth Commission (CEV), which aims to create a factual record of what took place; and the Search Unit for the Disappeared (UBPD), set up to locate the remains of some of the more than 80,000 victims of forced disappearance.

‘The Ombudsman’s Office is asked to … issue a resolution in which it makes recommendations to state institutions and society to stop this serious situation’ said a petition issued by the Transitional Justice System on Monday 19 April. It said that, of the 904 killings, 290 were committed last year. Killings were committed in a quarter of all national municipalities, of which just 17 accounted for almost a third of cases.

The statement said that the vast majority (92 per cent) of FARC former combatants killed had entered the JEP, under which they could be called to provide testimony into their role during the conflict. In addition to the 276 murders of former combatants, there were 40 cases of threats, 22 attempted murders, 15 forced displacements, eight kidnappings, two disappearances and two acts of torture.

‘The violence against social leaders and those who signed the Final Peace Agreement is becoming a barrier to access transitional justice,’ said the statement. It added that the agreement was still not being properly implemented, and that the state still has not met its ‘historic debt’ to development, social investment and policies, a reference to the historic marginalisation of large sectors of the population. The peace agreement stipulates development of rural regions, many of which are today seeing high levels of violence.

The three entities said that intervention by the Ombudsman would improve collaboration between national, regional and municipal authorities to implement effective means of tackling the violence. ‘The Ombudsman is asked to identify the causes, [and to] evaluate current measures, possible forms of prevention and the risks facing the country if adequate measures are not taken,’ the statement said.