IACHR Publishes Report on Implementation of Justice and Peace Law in Colombia
Washington, D.C., October 11, 2007 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today publishes its Report on the Implementation of the Justice and Peace Law: Initial Stages in the Demobilization of the AUC and First Judicial Proceedings. The report contains the Commission’s conclusions, based on its field observations, about the process of demobilizing the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC) and the first judicial proceedings of implementation of the Justice and Peace Law.
The IACHR supports efforts designed to bring an end to the armed conflict that has affected Colombia for more than four decades, and to bring about peace for Colombians. The Commission has stated that the search for peace must be guided by the principles of truth, justice and reparations. This report—the Commission’s third on the demobilization process in Colombia—was prepared as part of a follow-up process begun in 2004, in response to a mandate of the OAS Permanent Council contained in Resolution 859 (1397/04). The Commission has welcomed the State of Colombia’s receptivity to the IACHR recommendations in previous reports and reaffirms its willingness to continue working in conjunction with the State and civil society. The report made public today includes observations and recommendations the Commission hopes will help to strengthen the State’s efforts to administer justice, determine the truth and provide reparations to victims of the conflict.
Based on field observations of the judicial circuits established for the demobilization process in Colombia’s Departments of Cesar and Antioquia, the IACHR noted that the practice of taking “voluntary statements” (versiones libres) from individuals appearing before the circuits “was a purely formal procedure.” It noted that the prosecutors ”had no instructions to investigate any links that people passing through the circuit might have to crimes committed in the zone, or to compile information in advance on pending cases that might involve members of AUC units participating in the demobilization.” In this regard, the IACHR report indicates that “the voluntary statements gathered during demobilization circuits constituted a lost opportunity for compiling information on the units, their members, and the socioeconomic dynamics that kept them in existence and operating. That information is crucial today for the work of the prosecutors in the Justice and Peace Unit, as well as for representatives of the victims when it comes to enforcing that law and verifying that the armed structures have been dismantled.” The Commission concluded that “the gaps and inaccuracies generated in this first stage are having negative repercussions on investigations under the Justice and Peace Law, and are contributing to impunity for non-confessed crimes or those that are not judicially investigated.”
The IACHR report also expresses concern about limitations found related to the participation of victims in the implementation of the Justice and Peace Law. The report also refers to the difficulties many victims face in accessing the information about the voluntary statements and traveling to the cities where these are given. Another obstacle to victims' participation is the impossibility of questioning those demobilized who intend to benefit from the Justice and Peace Law, directly or through their representatives, about matters of interest to them in the different phases of the voluntary statement hearing. In the document, the IACHR recommends the State to implement “mechanisms to protect and guarantee the safety of victims of the conflict, witnesses, and human rights defenders who join the process so that they can participate in the investigation and trial of those seeking benefits under the Justice and Peace Law”. According to the report, “the legitimacy of the process remains dependent on the way those problems are resolved, and on the guarantee of transparency in all judicial stages of the process.”
The IACHR report also recommends that the State of Colombia consider revising the system of providing access to reparations that is available within its legal framework. “The IACHR recommends that a reparations program be adopted that offers an alternative to the criminal court route and is supplementary to other reparations of a collective nature and to the social programs and services targeted at people who have suffered violence in Colombia, the report states.
The complete report is available on the Inter-American Commission’s Web site (www.iachr.org).
Press contact: María Isabel Rivero
Tel. (202) 458-3867
Cell: (202 215-4142