JEP warns 2021 is most violent start to year since peace deal signed

The first 24 days of 2021 represent the most violent start to a year since Colombia’s peace agreement was signed in 2016, the country’s sepcially-created peace court has warned.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), created in the agreement to investigate and prosecute serious human rights abuses, said that the period 1-24 January had seen the murders of 14 social activists and five FARC former guerrillas, as well as six massacres, including the deaths of five teenagers in an attack on Sunday 24 January. On average, an activist has been murdered every 41 hours and a massacre committed every four days since the start of the year.

In addition, there were 13 death threats against social leaders, 14 confrontations between armed groups and security forces and five confrontations between different armed groups. The JEP said this showed that state forces had increased combat operations against armed groups.

Since it was created, the JEP has opened seven macro cases into major human rights violations committed during the armed conflict, including the murders of thousands of civilians by security forces in the 2000s and the ‘political genocide’ of the Patriotic Union political party. It has faced political opposition from the Democratic Centre (CD) party of President Iván Duque, whose attempts to modify the JEP in 2019 were rejected in the Congress.

However, senior CD politicians have continued to call for the JEP to be scrapped, to the concern of the pro-peace movement and human rights groups who fear such a move would allow perpetrators to evade justice. The United Nations and representatives to the UN from both the British government and the new Biden administration in the US have all expressed the need for the JEP and other transitional justcie institutions to be allowed to operate free from political interference.