Opinion, EL ESPECTADOR, July 7, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Charging mid-level FARC commanders with their kidnappings demonstrates that the JEP is not a court of impunity.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is continuing to do its job. In yesterday’s action, they charged ten mid-level commanders of the now-defunct Joint Central Command of the FARC. The 144 kidnappings that they committed in Tolima and Huila to finance the guerrillas are tragedies that must never be repeated. In the expectation of contributions of the whole truth by those charged, the Peace Tribunal announced its intention to bring justice to every region of the country and to fight to end impunity. Although it has taken time, the transitional justice system is demonstrating the importance of its autonomy and its rigorous procedures.

As Justice Julieta Lemaitre explained, those implicated are those maximally responsible for the creation of “a sophisticated system of kidnapping and extortion”, by which they obtained financing and sent money to the FARC Secretariat. Among the crimes charged are taking hostages, homicide, and cruel and inhuman treatment. That’s no small thing. The testimonies of the victims explain the way the Joint Central Command terrorized the inhabitants of Tolima and Huila, imposed extortions, and then kidnapped members of their families. Those activities blocked economic and tourism development, because it turned the territory into a forbidden and high-risk place. The JEP’s vehement actions are a message for all the armed groups, especially for the ELN, which is continuing with the atrocious crime of kidnapping people. That kind of violation of human dignity has to be eradicated in Colombia.

The JEP resolution states that the individuals charged “are the leadership with the highest responsibility over the six Fronts, three Columns, and three Companies, besides the Manuelita Sáenz Financial Commission and the René González Political Commission, all of which make up the Joint Central Command.” The resolution also explains that “they have 30 business days to furnish their information to the Jurisdiction and to the Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons. The Unit will conduct the search, localization and identification of the victims.” If they do not comply, they will lose the possibility of obtaining the more beneficial special sanctions provided in the Peace Agreement, and they will have to face prosecutions that could lead to as much as 20 years in prison. For the good of the country, we hope they accept their responsibility and furnish the whole truth, as the FARC Secretariat did.

Little by little, every one of the JEP’s cases has constructed a space for the truth to be told in a legal proceeding, and for reparation to the victims. Both are essential for this country. Facing those who insist that this is a tribunal of impunity, are the findings about the extrajudicial executions, and the charges against the members of the FARC. This model will be replicated in the future, as it demonstrates how the judicious work of the Justices who have autonomy and resources leads to tangible results, even in the most complex cases. The peace tribunals are perhaps the greatest contribution that the Havana Agreement has left to Colombia, besides the re-incorporation of the former combatants into society.

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