EL ESPECTADOR, August 31, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace allowed the former paramilitary bosses Mancuso and Rodrigo Tovar Pupo to participate in a public hearing and explain the facts that they are disposed to relate, in exchange for a space in the JEP. Their entry into the transitional justice system will depend on how many facts they can deliver.

Salvatore Mancuso and Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40”, two of the bloodiest protagonists of the armed conflict that are still alive, have a new opportunity in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). After several attempts and the unaccepted petitions they filed to try to open up a space, the former paramilitary bosses managed to get the transitional justice court to listen to them in a public hearing where they will have to explain how much of the truth they can tell, in exchange for a space in the JEP.

Justice Eduardo Cifuentes announced that both of them will have a space in the Jurisdiction under the concept of “an individual incorporated into or having functioned materially with the Armed Forces”. In short, they will have to relate in the public hearing how they came to be the points of contact of the grand criminal organizations, in this case the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), with the government’s security forces. And how that alliance was used to commit major violations of human rights.

“When a paramilitary commander places the organized armed group, over which he has total command, at the service of members of the Armed Forces to commit war crimes jointly, the general rule of exclusion is not applicable. On the contrary, in this limited and particular situation, that individual could eventually be perceived as functionally and materially incorporated into the government, and therefore, may submit to the JEP’s jurisdiction,” added Justice Cifuentes.

As to Tovar Pupo, the former commander of the Northern Bloc of the AUC, EL ESPECTADOR confirmed that the JEP had decided his appeal in his favor after he was rejected in September of 2020. At that time, they explained that he did not qualify as a civilian third party, because his crimes “are excluded from the scope of the JEP’s personal jurisdiction, and cannot be recognized in this Jurisdiction.”

In 2020 also, the JEP invited “Jorge 40” to relate his version of the truth to other institutions created by the Peace Agreement. “If Sr. Tovar Pupo has a sincere purpose to make reparation to the victims, offer the truth, reparation, and guarantees of no repetition of the acts he committed while he was part of the AUC, as he states in his petition, he could go to other agencies (. . .) such as the Truth Commission, and the Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons,” the Jurisdiction explained.

With the new change of scene, the crimes of “Jorge 40” can be recognized and judged by the JEP, which just this week announced the opening of macrocase 08, identified as “Crimes committed by the Armed Forces, other agents of the government, in association with paramilitary groups or civilian third parties”. That macrocase is where the JEP can hear the truth about, among others, atrocious acts like the massacre at El Salado (Bolívar Department) in 2000, which left more than 60 killed, and which was commanded by “Jorge 40”, along with other paramilitary bosses.

“Jorge 40” was one of the principal spokesmen for the AUC in the negotiations at Santa Fe de Ralito, and was one of the last paramilitary bosses to demobilize. Nevertheless, in 2015 he was expelled from the previous transitional system, Justice and Peace, created for the paramilitary demobilization, for failing to admit his participation in crimes such as forced recruitment of children, gender violence, and kidnapping. Nor did he make reparations to the victims.

“My commitment to the victims in Colombia is absolute. It’s the least we can do for our sons and daughters to give them an opportunity to live in a country that’s different from the country we had to live in. Therefore, I believe that the Comprehensive System has the capacity to provide the victims with the truth, impose sanctions for the harm done, as well as determine the routes to reparation,” stated “Jorge 40” in 2020, the same year in which he returned to Colombia after being extradited to the United States 12 years before.

In the same manner, the former paramilitary boss Salvatore Mancuso, the leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, can also be heard while submitting to the JEP. The doors were also closed to him in 2020, after the Recognition Branch held that, between 1989 and 1997, the period for which he requested admission as a civilian third party, i.e., a person who supported, sponsored, or financed the armed conflict, he had actually been an “an organizational member of the criminal organization, carrying out a continuous combat function.”

Mancuso’s defense claimed that, in spite of being a former paramilitary boss, he was also an informant for the Colombian Army in 1989, and also a collaborator with the Army. He also described the military training he gave to an Army Major, Walter Fratini Lobacio, Commander of the Counter-Guerrilla Battalion at the Army’s 9th Brigade, while he also participated in patrols against illegal insurgents that were carried out by Fratini and with Army soldiers and former guerrillas.

In recent years, Mancuso has been insisting on attaining his submission to the JEP. In his contribution to the Truth Commission, in August of 2021, he asked to be included in the macrocase on false positives. “I want to collaborate to clear up those crimes. I have respect for the victims’ struggle, their endurance, and their courage,” he said. At the same time, from his prison in Atlanta (United States) he reiterated his disposition to tell the truth, and has confirmed associations with politicians, cattle ranchers, and the military in order to support their power in the ‘90’s and in the first part of the 2000’s.

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