BAR’s reporter in Colombia explores how the US-backed regime is grossly violating the peace agreement with former FARC guerillas.
Translated by María Angélica Martínez
“Ninety percent of the prisoners’ requests to apply the amnesty law have been denied.”
As incredible as it may seem, the ultimate manifestation of sabotage by both the current and former governments of the peace process, 451 former FARC ex-combatants out of a total of 3,041 reported at the time of the Final Peace Agreement, remain in prison. Official delays and precariousness in institutional articulation are part of the answers for a reality that only explains the absence of political will in the high government.
It is essential that if an organization raised in arms signs with its enemies a peace agreement, it must achieve the release of its combatants from prison. But surprisingly in Colombia, it is not so. After three years of agreements and signatures, 451 of the formerly armed combatants and their top commander remain subject to torture in the dungeons.
Much time has passed. The warriors, men and women, had at some point hope that the confinement would soon end. Such a feeling, like fog, must have been diluted, as is their confidence in a peace that only brings to their cells news of murdered colleagues and acquaintances.
Point 3 of the Final Peace Agreement guarantees the former combatants’ release, in particular resolving the issue of the amnesty law 1820 of 2016. A tripartite mechanism for peace was agreed to by FARC was agreed, the government’s Office of the High Commissioner for Peace (OACP in Spanish) and the United Nations Mission in Colombia.
Black Agenda Report (BAR) interviewed Jhon León (JL), a member of the Corporación Solidaridad Jurídica (in Spanish), which represents of persons political reasons political prisoners. This organization participates in the formulation of point 3 of the Peace Agreement agenda, which establishes, among other aspects, the beginning of the return to civilian life of ex-combatants.
BAR: How is the Amnesty law being applied?
JL: A scope of application was established that could be summarized in two conditions. 1: The people who are recognized in the lists delivered and prepared by the FARC and supplied to the OACP, not only to complete the release process but to begin reinstatement and transition to legality, as established in the Agreement. 2: People who are prosecuted or convicted of the behaviors that link them as members of the FARC, or related to their participation in the independent Colombian armed conflict or not being on the list of the FARC.”
BAR: After 3 years of issuance of the law, why do a large number of FARC ex-combatants remain deprived of their liberty?
JL: There are different reasons and responsibilities. In the first semester of 2017, a part of the judicial branch entered in a strike and basically stopped the national government in the way of implementing the amnesty law, which led to the first amnesty being given six months after the law was issued. Then the national government issued a unilateral statement without consulting the Commission for Monitoring, Furthering, and Verifying Implementation of Colombia’s Peace Accord (CSIVI in Spanish), where it set August 17, 2017 as the deadline for the delivery of the listings, which meant that many ex-combatants, both deprived of liberty or not serving a sentence, were left out of the listings.
BAR: On this issue of the listings, according to the Government there was a fixed date in the Peace Agreement. After the close of the date there were 1,000 former FARC combatants out of the reinstatement process. What happened there?
JL: It is necessary to clarify that there was no deadline for the delivery of the list. The Final Peace Agreement, on page 285 states: “I agree to the execution of the schedule of the process of abandonment of arms reached through an agreement of June 23, 2016.” In numerals 8 and 9 dealing with the issue of listings, a fixed date for delivery was not written. They had to write three regulatory decrees of the 1820 law because it was supposedly unclear what the procedure was in the law.
BAR: So, why are ex-combatant prisoners still on that list of 2017?
JL: The national government received the listings and credited some. Others excluded them under the assumption of not belonging to the FARC. The Government, with the Inter-Institutional Technical Committee convened by the OACP, which brings together different intelligence agencies, claims that these people are from the ELN [another guerilla group]. Drug lords are not linked with FARC. Now, after so many years, not only military war but judicial confrontation, the government accused the members of the FARC of drug trafficking. Since they are accused of drug trafficking then they are not part of FARC.
BAR: Does the government only apply the amnesty law to former FARC ex-combatants who were prosecuted for rebellion?
JL: Today, the political prisoners who are accused of rebellion are very few and most are victims of judicial assemblies, like Professor Miguel Ángel Beltrán. As such, the nature and philosophy of political crime in Colombia was denied when the doctrine of rebellion and terrorism was launched in 1997. So, procedurally speaking, a guerrilla is condemned for illegally carrying weapons, a concert to commit crimes and the use of private garments. These are behaviors of a rebel but are being individually condemned. Do not forget that the rebellion was used by the government to prosecute peasants, students, indigenous leaders and the social movement.
BAR: So, why do they continue to deny the ex-combatants' requests to apply to the amnesty law?
JL: “In a national meeting of the team of lawyers of the Corporación Solidaridad Jurídica (In Spanish) concluded that 90 percent of the requests to apply the amnesty law have been denied by a supremely restrictive criterion of the 1820 law. For example: a person who was deprived of liberty [but has no evidence in his file] that he belonged to FARC. The context and reality of the country before signing the Peace Agreement is unknown by the magistracy. This is because if a member of the FARC at that time had the opportunity to deny their ties to the insurgency, they did so to avoid further processes and charges. Now, in these cases ex-commanders of the FARC have recognized these people as members of the organization.
BAR: What is the status of ex-combatants of the FARC prisoners abroad? Does the Amnesty Law also apply to them?
JL: It does not apply in Colombia much less in other countries. We do not work on these processes, but there are the cases of Simón Trinidad and Iván Vargas, prisoners in the United States. In addition, there is a case of a man, who was in command of the tenth front, another case in Venezuela and another in Panama. These countries should apply the amnesty law in support of the peace process. But we already know that the United States is assembling, manufacturing tests, to give those who signed the Agreement.
BAR: Have the arrest warrants for former FARC ex-combatants by the National Police and Interpol already been deactivated?
JL: The databases of the National Police and Interpol have not been updated and ex-combatants who have been released have been returned back to prison.”
BAR: What is the case of foreigners, former FARC ex-combatants, prisoners in Colombia?
JL: We had the case of two Ecuadorians who were imprisoned and are already free.
BAR: What is the case with women ex-combatants FARC?
JL: All are in prison. But some remain in house arrest or with electronic surveillance devices and others are under the conditional freedom. That is, the freedom granted by ordinary criminal courts, the condition of probation, which is different from that granted through the peace process. They are not deprived of liberty, but their legal status is not fully resolved.
BAR: Any cases with minors among the FARC ex-combatants prisoners?
JL: No. Prior to the signing of the Peace Agreement in a gesture of trust and will, all minors were taken from the detention centers.
BAR: To finalize, what are the steps to be followed so that this issue is solved with the ex-combatant prisoners that are listed or not listed?
JL: We insist that the national government has powers to apply the amnesty law, but political will is lacking. We are following up on the recently passed statutory law 1957 of 2019, which was created to regulate the transitional justice system [created by] the Peace Agreement. Article 63, paragraph eight, established the power of the Amnesty Chamber of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to incorporate people who were not included in the lists accredited by the national government. So, how will it develop? That is still unclear, but legally speaking we will fight.
This is understood by the law of Marras, in which it was established by the Latin word “Iure” that means “by right”: A law that works and has no application. That is, if conditions are met, the judges executing the sentences and the authorities must enforce the law. However time indicates otherwise.
Sebastián Navarrete Aldana reports for BAR from Colombia.
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