Colombia’s Senate has approved a post-conflict transitional justice system that will prosecute human rights crimes in the country’s 50-year civil war with FARC guerrilla rebels.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is a cornerstone of the landmark peace deal reached last year between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, to ensure justice for victims of the internal armed conflict with a focus on uncovering the truth of abuses carried out by soldiers fighting for both the military and the rebel army during the civil war.
The constitutional reform, which was already approved in the lower house of Congress, passed with 61 votes in favor and two against. Far-right former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, the staunchest opponent of the peace process, boycotted the vote along with other members of his Democratic Center party.
The transition justice system will only go into effect must undergo review of the Constitution Court and receive President Juan Manuel Santos’ final seal of approval. The Constitutional Court gave a boost to the peace deal in December by approved a much-anticipated “fast track” rule to allow Congress to speed up the implementation of the agreement.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is designed to have jurisdiction over all crimes committed during the conflict with a focus on prioritizing truth over criminal prosecutions. Both members of the military and former FARC rebels — currently preparing to return to civilian life in demobilization camps across the country — will be investigated and tried in the special justice system for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The jurisdiction can also investigate the role of third parties in financing and otherwise backing abuses — which puts multinational companies including Del Monte, Dole Food Company and Chiquita on the hook for knowingly financing right-wing paramilitary death squads.
The peace deal, revised and resigned in November after being defeated by a hair-thin in a plebiscite in October, puts a 10-year expiry date on the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and a period of two years for submitting requests for investigations.
The historic peace accord between the government and the FARC, the country's largest guerrilla army, brings an end to 52 years of internal armed conflict that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million Colombians and displaced more than 7 million more.