By Daniel Muñoz, EL ESPECTADOR, October 29, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The decision by the International Criminal Court is a necessary and deserved pat on the back for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
To those who say that the Peace Agreement is a promise of impunity, and continue to promote the its dismantling, on the one side, and those who believe that in Colombia, institutions can’t be strengthened without strict international accompaniment, on the other side, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has demonstrated that it’s a benchmark for the world in strictness, investigation, and peace-building. The fears regarding the International Court (ICC) decision to close its preliminary examination of Colombia are unfounded. It has to be read for what it is: a recognition that the transitional justice system, in spite of all the monkey wrenches that have tried, directly or indirectly, to weaken its functions, is taking giant steps.
The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, was clear: “I am pleased to say that I can conclude the preliminary stage of the investigation.” This is an action of monumental importance. Seventeen years ago, the Court undertook an investigation in Colombia, concerned about the lack of capacity of government institutions to combat impunity and protect the victims. Today, with its conclusion, what Khan and the international community are recognizing is that we have the capacities in our country to ascertain what took place in the conflict, and to judge those responsible. What has been lacking—that’s true—is political will.
Basically, the ICC closed its investigation of Colombia because the JEP is doing its job. Chief Prosecutor Khan was emphatic. “When I visited the JEP, I saw its facilities and I saw its personnel, and they are world class. I’ve been all over the world, and I’m telling you that this is world class, and I don’t say that lightly.” In this connection, Eduardo Cifuentes, the Court’s President, said that, “All of the victims have confidence in the JEP, and that has been restated today by a world authority in criminal law, Chief Prosecutor Khan. What a contrast with the talk that’s been going on in Colombia, particularly by President Duque’s Party.
There are those who fear that the ICC has left the JEP unprotected. That isn’t the case. The Chief Prosecutor and the Colombian government signed an agreement that, among other things, guarantees that its needs for financing and other actions will be respected. The Duque administration celebrated this as a triumph, but one has to be curious as to why there needs to be a written requirement that the government comply with what is already provided in the Constitution. It’s a diplomatic way of admitting that the President and his Party, to say the least, have been ambiguous defenders of the provisions of the Peace Agreement.
President Cifuentes said it himself. “As soon as there is danger of serious interference with the JEP, at that moment we will be the first to request the immediate intervention of the ICC.” But we hope it won’t be that way. In the Jurisdiction’s preliminary results, we have seen valuable discoveries about extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and the responsibilities of all of the actors. As they announce more progress with the cases, it will be seen that the gamble on transitional justice was worth the effort. On that subject, it’s not too much to remember that the peace tribunals are behind schedule in opening a macrocase on sexual violence. All of the details in the conflict, as we said at the time, demand that.
The international community is supporting the Peace Agreement, and is supporting Colombian institutions. That’s something to be proud of, without considering political ideology. Could it be that in next year’s elections, we will be able to overcome the polarization about transitional justice?