Attorney General’s Office committed illegal acts in Jesús Santrich case: JEP

The Colombian Attorney General’s Office committed illegal actions in its attempts to extradite the peace negotiator and former FARC guerrilla Jesús Santrich, according to a report by the transitional justice court, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). The JEP was created in the 2016 peace agreement to investigate and prosecute major human rights violations committed during the armed conflict.

Santrich was arrested in April 2018 after a New York court issued a warrant for his extradition on charges that he plotted to traffic a large quantity of cocaine to the United States. Associates of Santrich and members of the FARC political party asserted that he had been set up by authorities in order to undermine the peace process.

The arrest generated serious concerns by former guerrillas in the peace process over their legal security. Although protected by amnesties under the terms of the peace agreement, Santrich’s arrest and imprisonment for over a year convinced a number of them that they were not safe. This was cited by the Truth Commission last year as an important factor in the decision of some former guerrillas to abandon the peace process.

On 3 February, the JEP announced it would release a report concerning alleged malpractice by officials in the Attorney General’s Office. According to the JEP, a commission of judges had identified crimes such as obstruction of justice, judicial fraud and the covering up of important material relating to the charges.

The JEP overruled Santrich’s extradition on the grounds there was insufficient evidence and ordered his release in May 2019, after more than one year in captivity. Santrich, who was also known as Seuxis Hernández Solarte, went underground before reappearing alongside his close ally, the peace negotiator and former FARC commander Iván Márquez, and other combatants in August that year to announce their return to arms.

In a statement, the JEP said: ‘It must be remembered that Mr. Hernández Solarte was expelled from the JEP after having abandoned the peace process and breaching his obligations with the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. The JEP was the victim of interference, omissions and malicious actions, which therefore must be examined by the competent authorities to which the information gathered will be presented.’

It was previously revealed that the Attorney General’s Office, under Attorney General Nestor Martínez, had provided cocaine that could be used to implicate Santrich or his associates. However, US authorities failed to provide any evidence against Santrich despite requests from the JEP, leading to the decision to release him. Santrich was killed in a military operation in Venezuela in May 2021 under circumstances that are still unclear.