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Mon Sep 24, 2018, 06:52 PM

Colombia's prosecutions on killings by army in limbo

by Jose Miguel Vivanco July 15, 2018

Last month, Colombian lawmakers passed a bill detailing the functioning of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a judicial system negotiated with the FARC as part of the peace talks. The bill includes a provision – proposed by supporters of President-elect Ivan Duque – that is likely to halt prosecutions of killings by the army and other abuses.

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Critics have characterized the provision as a distortion of the peace accord – likely to grant more lenient treatment to government soldiers than to FARC fighters. But it’s worse than that. The measure could put prosecutions against army soldiers and officers on complete hold.

Already, judges have moved some cases from the ordinary courts to the Special Jurisdiction. And a bill passed by Congress last November – now under Constitutional Court review—goes much farther. If approved, it will largely stop prosecutions in regular jurisdictions for crimes linked to the armed conflict. Under that bill, ordinary courts cannot, among other activities, issue judgments, or send suspects in such cases to pre-trial detention.

With these changes in place, army generals now under investigation for their brigades’ systematic execution of civilians could slip into a convenient legal limbo. Victims of these killings, committed across Colombia between 2002 and 2008, were recorded as enemies killed in combat, and officers were rewarded for running up the body count. The killings came to be known as “false positives.”


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