SEMANA, May 23, 2020


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The President of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace responds to the criticisms that have intensified and expresses condemnation against those who are trying to undermine the peace process.

SEMANA: There are clashes between the JEP and other entities, and at the same time, criticism rains down on every decision you make. Do you feel animosity?

Patricia Linares: You are referring to two different situations. First, legal debate that is put forward legitimately, in an appropriate situation, with institutions like the Supreme Court of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office, on subjects related to the extent of the JEP’s prevailing jurisdiction, that is not animosity, but rather it’s the functioning of the rule of law. And second, there is the permanent and systematic reaction of certain political sectors and opinions that have always expressed their ironclad opposition to the peace process and the JEP, a legitimate entity. Unfortunately, some are using strategies of systematic disparagement, including insulting and discrediting us, and that is not in keeping with the democratic principles that govern us.

SEMANA: The JEP admitted Salvador Arana, and the Supreme Court protested, arguing that it was unacceptable because he was a pure paramilitary with two convictions in that court. Is the JEP above the decisions of the Supreme Court?

P.L.: The JEP is and always will be respectful of all of the judicial authorities, and professes the highest respect for the high courts, which have been a fundamental pillar in the implementation process. We are a jurisdiction created by the Constitution, which has prevailing jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed within the framework of the conflict. I can’t state an opinion on the case that you cite; I can only say that the Supreme Court created a jurisdictional conflict that the Constitutional Court will have to resolve. Its focus turns on the interpretation of the prevailing constitutional authority of the JEP to decide matters directly or indirectly related to the internal armed conflict. We will await that decision and, of course, as always, we will respect it and follow it.

SEMANA: The cases of the former Senators Álvaro Ashton and Musa Besaile, implicated in the “robed robbery” scandal[1], were admitted to the JEP, and that has also caused some contusions. Does the JEP see corruption as a crime connected to the conflict?

P.L.: Many common crimes can eventually be indirectly related to the armed conflict. There has been a similar debate, not just about bribery, but also about drug trafficking and sexual crimes. There will be occasions when there is no relation and others when there is, depending on many factors in every case. What’s important is that the country be aware of all the possible areas of social and institutional degradation to which a prolonged war can lead, with multiple facets, causes, and persons responsible.

SEMANA: Just like them, there are many who have been convicted and who go to the JEP with nothing to lose. How will they be able to go farther than what the ordinary justice system has ordered?

P.L.: Indeed, many who come to the JEP have already been convicted: former guerrillas, former military personnel, and other former public servants. With those last in particular, who are third parties coming voluntarily to the JEP, the jurisprudence is strict in two areas: their access and permanence depends on their carrying out a commitment to complete reparation to the victims, which includes a significant and relevant contribution to the truth, much higher than what they provided in the system that convicted them.

SEMANA: Is there space for the paramilitary chieftains like Salvatore Mancuso?

P.L.: The paramilitary fighters are not within the JEP’s jurisdiction. The third parties who financed them, promoted them, or fostered the war; they can come and submit to a strict trial on the issue of their admissibility. That would include evaluating their offer to tell the truth about what they did, which must be verifiable, relevant, and different from what is already known through the ordinary justice proceedings. The individual that you mentioned, in fact presented an application that is being studied, and that issue will be resolved in the coming weeks. The work of the JEP will continue to be very careful with this distinction, so as to determine who may enter, and who definitely may not.

SEMANA: Some victims of the holocaust at the Palace of Justice criticize the release furnished to retired General Jesús Armando Arias. Will the JEP accomplish what the ordinary justice system has not been able to do in this case for 30 years?

P.L.: The members of the Armed Forces charged or convicted for the crimes within our jurisdiction are parties appearing before the JEP by force. They can apply for the granting of provisional benefits, such as conditional release. They have a right to receive that if they comply with the legal requirements. The principal requirement is that they tell the whole truth, relevant and different from what is already known through the ordinary justice proceedings, and essential for the reparation of the victims. We have to remember that the ordinary justice system uses an adversary procedure in which the defendant  opposes the accusation, while in the JEP, he makes a commitment to tell the whole truth, at pain of losing the special treatment. It’s an option that’s worth the trouble to explore, seeking a true reconciliation.

SEMANA: The property actually turned over by the FARC is a Pyrrhic victory. On the other hand, they keep on murdering former guerrillas. When will the failures to carry out the peace agreement be examined?

P.L.: The final peace agreement determined the form in which the property and assets of the FARC-EP would be inventoried and turned over to the Colombian government. The property and assets that were not inventoried are to receive the treatment provided by ordinary legislation: if their ownership is to be extinguished, the Attorney General will have to take the necessary steps. Any failure by parties that have submitted to the JEP to carry out their commitments, in a specific case, could implicate the loss of treatment by the special jurisdiction. Such a proceeding could be brought by the party injured by the failure, presumably the victims.

SEMANA: Speaking of failure to carry out commitments, after the novella of the Santrich case and after his flight, does the JEP admit that it made mistakes in that case?

P.L.: The principal responsibility falls on Santrich himself and his accomplices. They were the ones who decided to betray the peace process as well as their own comrades and re-arm. Santrich was captured so that the Attorney General’s Office could extradite him. They said they had all the evidence that was necessary to demonstrate that he had committed crimes after the date of the signing of the peace agreement. The JEP’s work was to analyze that. Like every judicial authority, the JEP must engage and obtain evidence, like the famous video that circulated on the internet. It was furnished by the Attorney General’s Office, but without any sound; that is what the constitution commands that we do. Every law student knows the saying “give me the evidence and I’ll give you the law”. I wonder, why do they think that the JEP is supposed to do anything different from any other court?

SEMANA: But in the middle of the legal argument Santrich took off . . .

P.L.: The JEP had to decide on the basis of the evidence related to the guarantee of no extradition. Santrich was in custody as a consequence of the Attorney General’s arrest warrant for the purpose of extradition. The Council of State recognized his investiture as a member of Congress. His attorney filed a demand for habeas corpus, and the Superior Tribunal in Bogotá granted it, because they considered that his arrest had violated the law. That, I must point out, cannot be the object of criticism, because what you are seeing here is judicial authorities acting according to law. That is what is to be expected under the rule of law. In any event, we all have learned from this process, and that will serve to avoid anything similar happening in the future.

SEMANA: One criticism reiterates that the JEP is made up of Justices who are ideologues. What’s your opinion?

P.L.: That criticism is part of the systematic strategies of disparagement that I referred to. The country was aware of the competence and integrity of the members of the Selection Committee; they selected us from a universe of more than 2,000 applicants. We bring strong academic preparation, experience and track records in the area of transitional justice, human rights and international humanitarian rights. We administer justice without allowing political pressure to affect us, and we apply a model of restorative justice. We are not and we will not be a court of conquerors, much less seekers of revenge; we work for the victims and for peace in the country.

SEMANA: What do you mean by “systematic strategies of disparagement” and who is responsible?

P.L.: I’m referring to political sectors and some opinion writers whose purpose is to undermine and destroy the JEP and the whole peace process; that’s no secret for anybody. To accomplish that, they use campaigns of disparagement through the social networks; a distorted “analysis” that manipulates statistics and compares things that are not comparable, as well as the permanent stigmatization of our Justices and officials. Under the rule of law, pluralistic and inclusive, it’s unacceptable to make use of democratic tools that the Constitution provides to the different public powers to destroy a peace process that has cost our country so much.

SEMANA: After all of the clashes from the frustrated attempts to modify the JEP, how is your relationship with President Iván Duque?

P.L.: Our relation has always been cordial and respectful. We have been able to go forward consolidating a collaborative and harmonious relationship with a number of his officials. To that end, the government and we have been able to count on the technical support of the international community and the United Nations Verification Mission. Because of that, and this is urgent, it’s so important to state specifically that the vigilance and monitoring of the individualized penalties that will soon commence will be that agency’s responsibility; that will generate national and international confidence.

[1] The scandal, “cartel de la toga” in Spanish, involved bribery of high court justices.

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