EL TIEMPO, June 29, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Final Report included recommendations, which are not legally binding. Experts share opinions about their achievability.

Even though after the creation of the entities that would make up the Integrated System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and No Repetition emerged from the peace process with the FARC, it was anticipated that the Truth Commission would present its recommendations and that they would be monitored by a follow-up committee, it was noted in some sectors that those recommendations would include suggestions related to different aspects of the conflict.

In fact, the Commission, in its Report, points out that, besides the plans to carry out the commitments contained in the Final Peace Agreement, it would turn to other recommendations that “also point to transformations that were not part of the discussion in the Final Peace Agreement.”

The Commissioners believed that those discussions “ are necessary in order to overcome the war and its legacy in the institutions.” Under the law, these recommendations are not legally binding.

The Commission referred, for example, to social protest, and in the short term, it recommended the prohibition of military intervention in operations to control and contain the disturbances arising in protest situations and social mobilization. It also recommended the reform or the elimination of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (Esmad in Spanish.)

It also asked that Congress modify the manner in which the Attorney General is selected, “to guarantee their independence, on the base of merit criteria and recognition of their professional career, openness, and transparency. They included in that initiative that the reform of the process of nomination and selection should include participation by academics and procedures for citizen control.”

With regard to the prosecution function, the Commission insisted on the promotion of measures to strengthen the career path for prosecutors and use merit-based competition and improve the criteria for entrance and tenure of the officials, as well as other internal matters, such as transfer of officials and their stability.

In the Report, they proposed the creation of a Mixed (both national and international) Investigation Commission, transitional and independent, that would support the work of the prosecutors and the Special Investigation Unit (UIE in Spanish), in order to spur investigation in the areas of drug trafficking, organized crime, and “organized systems of power that function in the interior of government institutions that have generated associated violation of human rights or violations of DIH, as well as corruption of medium and grand scale.”

Changes in the Armed Forces

In addition, they speak of the civilian direction of the Armed Forces, the Police, and intelligence agencies. On that point, they suggest separating the Police from the Defense Ministry and placing it in another ministry or a new ministry. They point out that the control over carrying weapons should also not be under the command of the Armed Forces, but rather be placed under a civilian body.

They are also urging controls over military and police intelligence agents, “so that they don’t determine or participate inappropriately in investigation activities like intercepting communications, use of undercover agents, as well as other things.”

On the subject of investigations of military personnel, the Commissioners mention guaranteeing disciplinary actions by the Inspector General’s Office, in reasonable time frames, of the human rights violations and violations of DIH committed by military personnel.

They also propose carrying out an assessment with the participation of control agencies and independent experts on the limits and controls of funds that are reserved for use by the authorities in their operations and  an adjustment so that tasks like “monitoring the electromagnetic spectrum be controlled by civilians who are independent of the government and the Armed Forces.”

In the same manner, with regard to the Armed Forces, they suggest opening a public debate about the Military Criminal Jurisdiction, and that, as happens now, that system only adjudicate conduct that is typically military in nature, and in no case violations of human rights or DIH.

In the case of the Police, the petition goes deeper. It suggests that the Military Justice System “not investigate or adjudicate any kind of punishable conduct committed” by members of the Police.

The Report suggests a review of the “doctrine” of the Armed Forces and the Police, and to avoid carrying out social work or civilian functions in the countryside that places the civilian population at risk or commits it to participation in hostilities.

The Report also refers to the necessity for guaranteeing that individuals that are demobilized or disengaged individually or collectively from illegal armed groups not take part in military or intelligence operations, and even less so when minors are involved.

In this section, they call for the gradual elimination of compulsory military service. Further, they ask that members of the military who are the subject of criminal complaints or have open cases against them for violations of human rights not be promoted.

On the subject of drug trafficking, the Commission calls for the definitive renunciation “on the bases of the evidence, of aspersion of glyphosate”, and also guaranteeing the permanence in Colombia of individuals sought in extradition when they have true evidence to contribute for the satisfaction of the rights of the victims. This is to support the right of the persons affected by their crimes committed in this country.

Jorge Restrepo, Director of the Resource Center for Conflict Analysis-Colombia (Cerac in Spanish) said that the Commission’s function is “all in all, to avoid the repetition, and in that sense, it can make general and specific recommendations without any violation of the law or without the government having to implement all of them. It can view them with the ‘benefit of inventory’[1], and that’s OK.”

In the same way, he indicated that he did not think that any of the proposals were an ultra vires act that would limit the functions of any agency.

For her part, Angelika Rettberg, a professor at the University of the Andes and an expert in the resolution of armed conflicts, said that these are proposals and that it would be the work of Congress to examine thoroughly their viability.

Col. John Marulanda, President of the Colombian Association of Retired Military Officers (Acore in Spanish), maintained that they are continuing to review the entire Report, but that initially, they think some points, such as reforms of Military Criminal Jurisdiction, are not viable.

[1] Beneficio de inventario means an heir’s right to accept inheritance on the condition that he is not obligated to pay the estate’s creditors. Thomas L. West III, “Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business”, Protea Publishing, 1999.

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