UN responds to Colombian Attorney General’s interference in JEP court

The United Nations Mission in Colombia and the United Nations Human Rights Office in Colombia have released a joint-statement in defence of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial de Paz, JEP), the specially-created court which aims to establish truth and justice around Colombia’s armed conflict, following attempts by the Colombian Attorney General’s office to interfere in its administration.

On 4 October, officials under the direction of Attorney General Néstor Martínez, a vocal critic of the peace process, forcibly entered JEP offices and seized files relating to a specific JEP case on the FARC. Martínez’s office also demanded that a JEP judge appear before him for a hearing.

JEP president Patricia Linares said Martínez had conducted ‘outright and categorically undue meddling’ in the JEP’s administration. Martínez has also been accused of trying to impede implementation of core elements of the 2016 peace agreement, such as his blocking of a law around small-scale coca farming which seeks to grant non-criminal measures in specific cases.

The officials who had taken the file without authorisation later apparently destroyed the copy they had made.

Following the latest dispute between the JEP and the Attorney General, the two UN bodies released the following statement reasserting the JEP’s competence to review conflict-related cases and its importance to the peace process:

Joint Declaration of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and the Colombian Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Bogota, 5 October 2018 – The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is a key element in the process of peace in Colombia. It is necessary to guarantee the rights of the victims to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. It is equally essential to ensure transitional justice access to former members of the FARC-EP, members of the Public Force [security forces] and other State agents and third parties who voluntarily wish to submit to it. The rights of victims and the legal security of those who participated in the armed conflict therefore depend on the strict respect of all public authorities for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace’s independence and autonomy. We emphasise the importance of harmonious and fully respectful collaboration between jurisdictions in their respective competencies.

Taking into account recent events, the United Nations Verification Mission, within the framework of its mandate to verify reincorporation guarantees, and the Colombian Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, based on its mandate to observe international standards in terms of autonomy and judicial independence and guarantee of victims’ rights established in the Peace Agreement, will act together to ensure respect for these fundamental principles.