Editorial, EL ESPECTADOR, September 23, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The belligerence and denial by ex-President Uribe is in contrast to the reality of the hearings for the admission of responsibility.

The battle by ex-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez to destroy the much-needed labor of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is a historic error that will soil his legacy as a political leader. His response to the admissions by two dozen members of Colombia’s military before the peace tribunals about extrajudicial executions committed during his administration is full of misrepresentations and problematic arguments; but, above all, it’s an act of aggression against the attempt to build a transitional justice system that contributes to this country.

Contrast ex-President Uribe’s belligerence and denial with the reality of the admissions of responsibility. The victims, in the first row, could demonstrate their frustration, their pain, and also their relief, when they could see that their cries of so many years are finally recognized. This week, with the admission by soldiers of the extrajudicial killings in Casanare, one phrase was heard constantly: motivated by the benefits provided them by the Colombian Army, they lied again and again, they dressed up the innocent people they had murdered to make them appear to be guerrillas, and they were celebrated as heroes by the policy of democratic security. After years of half-way justice, the convictions without admission of responsibility, of legal cases that never went anywhere, the peace tribunals are throwing light on the tragedy and on the shameful betrayal that representatives of the government carried out in various parts of the Colombian countryside.

In summary, ex-President Uribe defends himself with three arguments. The first is that, in his administration, there was a diminution of homicides, as well as making gains in the battle against the guerrillas and against drug trafficking. So what? That doesn’t justify that, in the context of democratic security, there was an out-of-control increase in extrajudicial executions, and later an attempt from the highest levels of the government to silence the voices that complained about it.

The second argument is that, in the words of the ex-President, “The design of the JEP encourages, in the name of freedom, the admission of crimes that weren’t even committed.” That distortion of reality is cause for worry. And more than that, bordering on the despicable when the ex-President adds that, “this design also facilitates presenting people who were committing crimes as innocent, even if their families didn’t know about it.” Instead bowing his head in respect and contrition, Uribe chooses to insist on denying the barbarity that took place, as well as the suffering of so many Colombians. Every legal system offers incentives in exchange for admission of the truth; Peace and Justice, designed in his administration, did the same thing. Besides, the JEP doesn’t accept just any testimony, but rather it maintains a whole team to verify and make sure that what they are saying is true. Possibly more important, there are the families of the victims who are looking for their fallen loved ones to be recognized at last.

Finally, the ex-President takes refuge in refusing to recognize the JEP, claiming that it was imposed by the “FARC, Cuba, and Venezuela” and besides, “it was rejected in the plebiscite”. What a deceitful argument! The design of the JEP has been praised by the International Criminal Court, by the United Nations Security Council, by legal experts throughout the world, by the guarantor countries, several of them liberal democracies in all their splendor. Throughout the years, the peace tribunals have brought justice, and new discoveries in cases submerged in impunity. Continuing to undermine their credibility is a political calculation that has no basis in reality.

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