Colombian Peace Commission calls for release of Jesús Santrich

Colombia’s Congressional Peace Commission has said that the justice system should block attempts to extradite imprisoned FARC peace negotiator and congress member-elect Jesús Santrich to the United States. Despite the Attorney General’s recent admission that his office has not received nor seen any evidence in the case, Santrich remains detained in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison in Bogota.

Santrich has been in prison since 9 April 2018 after a US court issued an arrest warrant over allegations that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the US. Santrich’s legal team and the FARC have said that the charges are trumped up.

The Commission said that it was necessary for Santrich to participate in truth and justice programmes in Colombia which will help victims’ families learn about what happened to loved ones during the conflict. The head of the Commission, Roy Barreras, said that extradition required proof that the alleged crimes had been committed after the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, thereby occurring after the expiration of the amnesty period.

‘This Commission is not commenting on the guilt or innocence of the citizen Jesús Santrich, it is a matter that corresponds to the courts. We are saying that in any case, the rights of victims and the collective right to peace should be put first, as ordered by jurisprudence, the Constitution and Colombian law on individual conduct’, said Barreras.

In August, a Justice for Colombia delegation of British MPs and trade union officials visited Santrich in prison and condemned the conditions. In September, the TUC passed an emergency resolution calling his ongoing detention ‘a direct threat to the agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC’. 27 British MPs and trade union officials subsequently signed a letter calling on the Colombian government to uphold Santrich’s legal rights.

Other Commission members argued that Santrich should be freed. ‘Jesús Santrich must not be extradited and consequently his freedom should be considered, to thereby guarantee greater confidence and tranquillity to the peace process advanced with the FARC’, said Senator Temístocles Ortega.

Jesús Santrich was a key negotiator for the FARC during the 2012-2016 peace talks that ended more than half a century of armed conflict that claimed around 220,000 lives.