By Patricia Lara Salive, EL ESPECTADOR, July 23, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

I recently referred to two subjects that had shown important developments. One is the advisability of extending the life of the Truth Commission, which otherwise would expire in November. The pandemic created an interruption of nearly a year in many of its efforts, which would have meant that it would not have enough time to complete its work in the detail that had been planned.

The other is the necessity for the Attorney General’s Office and the courts to react promptly to the accusations made by former paramilitaries before the Peace and Justice Tribunal about the Armed Forces, to the effect that they had furnished the AUC[1] with lists of people that should be killed, without revealing the names of the accused. That would damage the credibility and the prestige of the Armed Forces as an institution.

On the first subject, the Constitutional Court undertook the study of a lawsuit that seeks to extend the duration of the Truth Commission and proposes, justly, that the period of the state of health emergency ought not be counted in calculating its term. The case is in the hands of Justice Jorge Enrique Ibáñez Najar, who accepted the suit, and requested opinions from experts such as government and non-government agencies.

Based on the Court’s history and on the great importance of this matter, we are hoping that the decision will be in favor of extending the period of the Truth Commission’s mandate.

Also, this week courts handed down two important decisions. In one of them, a prosecutor for the Specialized Unit Against Human Rights Violations demonstrated at trial that the retired Colombian Army Colonel Juan Carlos Castañeda, while serving as Commander of the Ramón Nonato Pérez Battalion 44, and the former Mayor of Casanare, Flaminio Cocinero Costo “participated in a criminal plan carried out by the paramilitaries” of Martín Llanos against the residents of Chámeza and Recetor (Casanare Province), and gave them “lists with the names of people who allegedly were helping guerrilla groups (. . .) In all, 54 residents were murdered, and their remains have disappeared.” The Single Specialized Court in Yopal agreed with the prosecutor’s arguments and imposed appropriate penalties.

In the other case, the JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) issued Order 125/21 in which it found that, between 2002 and 2005, some members of the La Popa Battalion (cited by their names and surnames) used two patterns of criminal activity: one was their relationships with paramilitary groups, which included furnishing lists of individuals to be executed, and the other, the atrocious practice of the so-called false positives. Those were produced as a response to the pressures to obtain “results” in the fight against the guerrillas. “Those two patterns permitted the Branch to establish the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” stated Justice Eduardo Cifuentes, President of the JEP.

Both decisions are good news for the Armed Forces, because in these decisions, the former solders responsible for those crimes were identified by their names and their surnames, thus avoiding the generalized accusation that has stained the institution as a whole.

Thus we keep going forward.

[1] AUC, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, was a paramilitary organization identified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

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