JEP seeks answers over government’s response to violence against FARC

The current Colombian government has taken insufficient action to tackle widespread violence against members of the FARC, according to judges in the Special Jurisidiction for Peace (JEP), the 2016 peace agreement’s truth and justice component. The JEP was created to investigate and sanction major human rights violations committed during the armed conflict.

Among the concerns raised by the JEP are the forced displacement of communities of FARC members and the ongoing lack of a clear policy for dismantling armed groups which have occupied several zones formerly under FARC control. It also questioned the Office of the Attorney General’s focus on reactively addressing violence, which focuses on bringing perpetrators to justice yet does not on preventing attacks from taking place.

The murder of 25-year-old FARC former combatant Paula Osorio in Chocó, western Colombia, on 24 November – the fourth anniversary of the signing of the agreement – was the 243rd murder of a FARC member in that time. It was committed the day before government representatives from a number of state institutions met with the JEP to discuss their response to the human rights crisis impacting the FARC.

It also came as the JEP published a report into the violence, which contradicted the claims by certain government officials that most attacks on former guerrillas are connected to criminal activity, personal disputes or the actions of former FARC members in so-called ‘dissident’ groups which have not entered the peace process.

Vice-Attorney General Martha Mancera discussed the methods her department was using to address the killings. According to the JEP, at least 29 murdered FARC members had previously received threats, including Carlos Conde and Benjamín Banguera Rosales, who were killed in 2019 and 2020 respectively. ‘If there were threats one or two years previously, why is there not a higher level of clarification over these crimes?’, asked JEP magistrate Raúl Sánchez. Mancera said this was because those behind the initial threats still had not been identified.

Mancera also sought to attribute the lengthy processing of requests for protective measures to the National Protection Unit (UNP), which provides security details for threatened individuals. According to Mancera, the Unit does not operate at pace and that in some cases her department ‘had to send communications ten times in which we said there was an extreme risk.’ While the UNP is recruiting more personnel to address the backlog of pending requests for protective measures, the magistrates asked why the requests for more staff were not made sooner considering the violence taking place.

The High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, was asked about the National Commission for Security Guarantees (CNGS), the peace agreement’s mechanism for tackling and dismantling armed groups which continue to operate in many parts of Colombia. The United Nations Verification Mission has called for urgent clarification of the CNGS’ public policy for fulfilling its mandate, which remains unclear four years after the organism was created in the peace agreement.

Magistrates also cited a lack of engagement between the CNGS and communities in regions impacted by paramilitaries and other armed groups. While the UN has called for the CNGS to be regularly convened, the JEP asked why there had only been three meetings this year, two last year and one in 2018. Ceballos responded that these issues were due to a lack of consensus among Commission members.

Another offical to speak to the JEP was Emilio Archila, the Commissioner for Stabilisation, whose department oversees government implementation of the agreement. Judges were concerned over the forced displacement of FARC communities in the reincorporation process due to violence, as has been the case in Ituango (Antioquia) and Uribe (Meta). In both instances, former guerrillas had to abandon productive projects because of threats to their security. The JEP judges said that the government must take responsibility for strategies to ensure that these communities can return to the zones from which they were displaced.