EL ESPECTADOR, January 23, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Three years after having undertaken its functions, this Tribunal will soon begin to individualize responsibilities. We will explain here what that resolution of conclusions is and how it will be reached.
You may have heard in the communications media that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) which began to function in 2018, is now ready to hand down its first decisions. And perhaps you have imagined that, as happens in the traditional justice system, this means that the trials will start. But . . .
What it means is that the first resolutions of conclusions are coming. If you got lost here, don’t worry, we will explain here what that is, how you get there, and what happens next.
To get started, what is the resolution of conclusions? To summarize, it’s a document that the Recognition of Responsibilities Branch of the JEP gives to the Peace Tribunal, in charge of penalties. It identifies and individualizes the responsibilities of the people who took a “determining part” in serious crimes committed in the armed conflict; it specifies whether these people have admitted their responsibility and have provided the full truth, and finally, it proposes the penalties that might be applied.
In order to get to that point, remember, a lot of things have already happened. Here is a quick reminder: The JEP received reports from victims, organizations, and government entities. After that they opened several macro-cases (seven up to now), and connected various people (former FARC combatants and Colombian military) to those cases.
The people that the JEP calls “comparecientes” (parties making an appearance) are called to provide their voluntary testimony about the crimes they are accused of. (The victims and the Inspector General participate here.) The victims provide comments and questions about the testimony. All of that, besides the information from other sources, such as court decisions and reports from Historical Memory, for example, allows the JEP to determine what it was that each one did and how they did it.
Ah, now we get to the resolution—you will say.
And we will answer:
–No, not yet. Now we come across the “written record of events and actions”.
It’s easy: this record is basically the step leading to the resolution of conclusions, and it’s the moment in which those responsible accept, or don’t accept, early on, their responsibility for the crimes charged by the JEP. Here’s an example:
The first case that the JEP opened was the case of the kidnappings committed by the former FARC guerrillas. In 2019, the JEP identified and linked those who were part of the FARC Secretariat, and the other commanders to the kidnappings. As we have said, they listened to their voluntary testimony, the victims made their comments, and the Justices asked questions. What’s coming now is that the Recognition Branch will make its written report of the events and the actions, and will conclude that, say, Dick and Harry took part in certain extremely serious events of kidnapping and they did it in such and such a way (carrying it out, giving the order, etc.)
Then those people receive their written report and they have 30 business days to respond to the allegations made by the Branch. The victims and the Inspector General also have that much time to intervene. And after that is when the famous resolution of conclusions appears, but (there’s always a but) not all parties are equal, because it’s the party making an appearance who defines by his or her actions what road he or she will choose to take.
This is the outline of what could happen:
Road #1: The party appearing admits committing serious crimes. The JEP then schedules a public hearing, called a hearing for the admission of responsibility. The victims participate, the accusation is read, and the party must admit the crimes or refuse to admit them. If he/she admits them, the proceeding will go rapidly: the Recognition Branch makes the resolution of conclusions, using the written report. The party is charged with the crimes, he/she admits them, and then becomes a party who merits a “sanción propria” (a special penalty) –restriction but no prison for from 5 to 8 years. This resolution is sent to the Section for Recognition of the Peace Tribunal and there the final decision will be made.
Road #2: The party making an appearance refuses to admit the crimes he/she is accused of. Then the resolution of conclusions will say that he/she must go to trial. Now appears the Unit for Investigation and Accusation, which acts as prosecutor. If in the development of the trial, the persons admit their responsibility (although belatedly) then there can be an alternative penalty (imprisonment from 5-8 years).
Road #3: The party did not admit the crimes he/she was accused of, doesn’t admit anything, goes to trial and loses. There will be an ordinary penalty (15-20 years in prison).
In conclusion, the first thing we will know about the JEP’s decisions will be the written record of events and actions and then, depending on whether or not the parties accept the record, we will learn the resolution of conclusion. That’s the way that transitional justice could be close to imposing its first penalties.