ISSN 2330-717X

Colombia: Mend Transitional Justice Law, Says HRW

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The Colombian Constitutional Court should address significant flaws in the justice component of the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Human Rights Watch said in an amicus brief to the court. The court is set to review a bill passed on November 30, 2017, that details how the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a judicial system negotiated with the FARC as part of the peace talks, will operate.

The brief outlines shortcomings in the bill that could allow war criminals to escape meaningful punishment. One of the problems is the definition of “command responsibility,” the basis on which military commanders can be held criminally responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates. Human Rights Watch also asked the court to ensure meaningful participation by victims in proceedings before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

“While the peace process is a landmark opportunity to curb abuses in Colombia, its justice component doesn’t do nearly enough to guarantee justice to victims of the serious atrocities committed during the armed conflict,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The court has a chance to lay the groundwork for meaningful accountability both for senior army officers and FARC guerrillas who committed war crimes.”

Human Rights Watch is also concerned about two provisions in the bill that could bar human rights defenders from serving as judges at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The provisions bar, among others, people who, during the past five years, “presented lawsuits before international human rights tribunals” or “belonged to organizations” that worked on judicial cases “linked to the armed conflict.” Senator German Varón, who proposed them, told the media that the provisions were designed to ensure that judges do not have an “ideological bias.”

“Barring human rights lawyers from becoming judges is an absurd policy,” Vivanco said. “Far from ensuring judicial impartiality, these provisions eliminate several candidates who have precisely the kind of knowledge and experience needed to preside over these cases.”


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