Letter to President Duque from Parliamentary Friends of Colombia in Britain and Ireland

The Parliamentary Friends of Colombia in Britain and Ireland, a cross-party group of more than 60 sitting MPs and TDs, has sent the following letter to the President of Colombia, Ivan Duque, over his recent attempts to apply changes to the 2016 peace agreement’s truth and justice component, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).

By objecting to core elements of the JEP, Duque has called into question the legal functioning of the agreement’s focus on achieving truth and justice for conflict victims and sanctioning major human rights violations committed during the conflict. The move has been opposed by the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the peace negotiating teams, much of Colombia’s political opposition and civil society organisations including trade unions and human rights groups, all of which have reiterated the importance of fully implementing the agreement as stipulated.

Below is the full text of the letter.

Letter from the Parliamentary Friends of Britain and Ireland to President Ivan Duque

April 3rd 2019

Snr. Ivan Duque Marquez
President of the Republic of Colombia

Dear Mr President,

As long standing advocates for peace in Colombia from the British and Irish Parliaments, who have visited Colombia many times, we strongly support all the representations in the letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations dated March 11th 2019 and signed by members of the Colombian Peace Process negotiating teams and Colombian political and civil society figures.

The fifth point of the Agreement on the rights of victims and, in particular, the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, part of which is the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is understood by the international community to be integral to the implementation of the Agreement and to peace.

The Colombian Congress’s incorporation of the structural elements of this into the Political Constitution, ratifying the Special Jurisdiction for Peace as the institution charged with investigating, judging and punishing the most serious crimes that occurred during and in connection with the armed conflict, is essential.

We recognise that the United Nations Security Council, and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (CPI) both recognise the central position of victims in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. Both reiterated the need to fully respect the Special Jurisdiction for Peace’s independence and autonomy.

They also expressed their support for the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition, whose role is essential for the establishment of truth and reconciliation.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court re-iterated that ‘it is hoped that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace . . . will carry out this function and focus on the main actors responsible for the most serious crimes committed during the armed conflict. This promise of accountability must become a reality to ensure that the people of Colombia receive full advantage of the benefits of peace.’

With the greatest of respect Mr President, we urge you to support the Statutory Law which is in any event, we understand, subject to control by the Constitutional Court. We also urge you Mr President and your Government, not to modify the terms of the JEP and as a consequence, the terms of the Peace Agreement. This would amount to a unilateral alteration to the Agreement, signed by both parties to the conflict, witnessed by the Governments of Norway and Cuba, and hailed by the international community at the United Nations and beyond.

We understand that the Government and its caucus in Congress is seeking to alter the remit of the JEP to remove the investigation and prosecution of members of the Security Forces. The Peace Agreement and the Constitution establish that the JEP would be the only jurisdiction to investigate, prosecute and punish both former guerrilla combatants and members of the Security Forces who committed crimes during the armed conflict.

For the JEP to achieve its objective of holding to account those responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes and, serious human rights violations, it must receive all the necessary institutional, financial and legal tools to deliver its purpose.

We wish to echo the deep concerns raised in the letter to the UN Secretary General about the serious damage that changes to the JEPs structure and functioning would have on the Colombian Peace Agreement’s implementation.

The Colombian Peace Agreement was hailed as the best peace agreement to date and as an example for the world. We wish it success on every front and support the Colombian Government’s will to carry it out.

Yours sincerely

Jo Stevens MP, Marieen O’Sullivan TD, Clive Efford MP, Clare Daly TD, Catherine West MP,

Catherine Connolly TD

On Behalf of Parliamentary Friends of Colombia in Britain and Ireland.