Colombia will charge 13 paramilitary chiefs and three FARC members with crimes against humanity. The FARC are charged with kidnappings while the paramilitaries are charged with a broader range of crimes, from kidnappings to sexual abuse to attacks on entire towns.
It is difficult to discern under what light the charges were made, and whether they will, in fact, be carried out.
A constitutional amendment passed last year, known as the “Legal Framework for Peace,” stipulates that in a context of transitional justice only those with “maximum responsibility” for systematic crimes would be prosecuted.
The Legal Framework for Peace could mean impunity for some of the worst atrocities. In the long-term, the amendment will likely risk the country’s peace as victims feel their victimizers were left unpunished by the law.
Ivan Marquez, the FARC’s chief negotiator in Havana, and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez, whose whereabouts are unknown, have been convicted in absentia to 40 years in prison in relation to several cases. The negotiations in Havana may mean they get away with the equivalent of a mere slap on the wrist; per se, their inability to participate in politics for 20 years — but no jail time.
Under a law called “Justice and Peace,” demobilized former combatants from illegal armed groups can receive a legal pardon in exchange for confessions — as long as there was not a crime against humanity committed. The law was intended for confessions to pave the way for victims to receive reparations — but for the most part, reparations have been caught up in a bureaucratic net.
Justice Minister Ruth Stella Correa said Colombia does not have the judicial tools strong enough to deal with the magnitude of the facts.
There have so far only been three convictions for 52,000 crimes and 300,000 victims.
Since the inception of the “Justice and Peace” Law in 2005, 5,279 corpses have been found in mass graves throughout the country, according to the district attorney’s office. Some had disappeared 30 years ago. The majority were victims of paramilitaries.
At least 18,000 people are suspected to have been disappeared by armed groups, but their bodies have not yet been found.
In the departments of Putumayo, Caquetá, Córdoba, and Magdalena, there are at least 3,000 mass graves, which the authorities still have not investigated.
The government’s “Unit of Justice and Peace” has identified 2,038 victims. There have been 11 symbolic gestures of return to the families — though the bodies were never identified. There are hundreds of corpses waiting to be identified.