JEP court orders government to take steps to improve security for former FARC combatants

Since voluntarily lowering their weapons and beginning the transition to civilian life under the terms of Colombia’s peace agreement, former FARC combatants have faced shocking levels of violence. More than 300 have been killed since the agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government was signed in November 2016. The chronic insecurity has been exacerbated by the failure of the current administration, under the leadership of President Iván Duque, to implement core mechanisms in the agreement designed to enhance security for former combatants.

The ongoing human rights crisis enveloping the peace process has brought a number of interventions from state institutions and those created in the peace agreement. In January, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled the Duque government had violated the rights of former combatants by failing to ensure their safety. Now, the peace agreement’s transitional justice court, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), has stepped in. The JEP was created to investigate and prosecute major human rights violations committed during the armed conflict.

On 1 March, the JEP directed the National Commission for Security Guarantees (CNGS), another specially-created body in the peace agreement, to activate its long-awaited strategy for dismantling paramilitary-successor and other armed groups believed largely responsible for killings of former combatants and social activists. It criticised the Commission’s lack of progress in the five years since it was established, stating that ‘there is not clarity over how decisions are taken in the CNGS.’ Judges also asked why the police, military and Inspector General’s office had not participated in earlier policymaking despite their officials sitting on the Commission.  

The Commission is formed of the High Commissioner for Peace, who is the senior government representative to the peace process, as well as the President, the Ministers for the Interior, Defence and Justice, the Attorney General, the Commander of the Armed Forces, the Director of Police, legal experts and human rights defenders.  

Delays in the CNGS’ implementation have persisted despite repeated warnings – going back to 2018 – from the United Nations that its functioning is vital to improved security. The Commission has met only a few times even though the UN has urged authorities on several occasions to publicise the security policy for tackling armed groups. There continues to be little sign of progress, raising legitimate questions over the government’s commitment to the safety of former FARC combatants.

It is not the JEP’s first intervention on the issue. In November 2020, the JEP summoned government ministers to explain what steps they were taking to address insecurity. JEP magistrates addressed concerns over a lack of consultation between the Commission and communities in violence-impacted zones, as well as inadequate investigations into murders of former combatants and the absence of the security policy.

According to JEP magistrate Alejando Ramelli, ‘the struggle against organised criminals responsible for homicides and massacres has not made an effective impact on the prevention and mitigation of violence.’ It remains to be seen what action the government takes following the JEP’s latest intervention.