Attacks on peace court could help plunge Colombia back into war


July Henriquez, human rights defender facing charges in Colombia

In a brazen attack on Colombia’s peace accords, Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez Neira has brought charges against three former officials of the Special Peace Jurisdiction courts (JEP, by its Spanish initials). July Henriquez, Martha Lucía Zamora, and Ernesto Caicedo have been accused of falsifying documents and using their positions to enable Ivan Marquez and other former insurgents and peace negotiators to go underground. I discussed this development with Henriquez and Gustavo Gallardo, president of the human rights organization, Lazos de Dignidad (Links of Dignity). They characterize the charges as “absurd”. The JEP was created as part of agreements ending more than 52 years of Colombian civil war. It was given the responsibility to deal with questions regarding the general amnesty of armed actors, and to hear cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, both of which are still prosecutable.

Many of us in the United States will recognize the name of July Henriquez. The Alliance for Global Justice (which I work for) brought July and Gustavo to tour the US in November 2014. They are both part of the human rights organization, Lazos de Dignidad, which is also one of the founding organizations in the Marcha Patriótica popular movement. At the time of their tour, they were heading up the Marcha Patriótica’s International Relations division. AfGJ has worked with Lazos de Dignidad for ten years. They have hosted or co-hosted all but one of our Colombia delegations. When they say these charges are “absurd”, we very much believe them.

As for the disappearance of Marquez and other former insurgents, it could be said that they are literally running for their lives. On October 10, 2018, the United Nations announced that 74 former guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been murdered since the peace accords were finalized in November 2016. During the 2018 electoral season, the FARC’s new and legal political party, as well as various Center-Left parties, were threatened or outright attacked throughout their campaigns. Several sources show that there have been 400 or more assassinations of human rights defenders in Colombia since the beginning of 2016. Paramilitary and military members responsible for these crimes act with impunity. Additionally, the threat of frame-ups in order to extradite former guerrillas to the United States constitutes a serious breach of the accords.

This has all challenged the confidence of former insurgents. While the FARC has met 100% of the commitments itmade during negotiations, our associates inform us that the Colombian government under President Juan Manuel Santos had only kept about 20% of its obligations. The new administration of Iván Duque is even worse: it is taking every action possible to nullify the accords. The charges against the JEP are part of these efforts. The JEP has been the primary legal obstacle to the extraditions of former insurgents to the US. It has also rigorously upheld provisions requiring the release of political prisoners and prisoners of war. (There are still over 600 such prisoners in jail.) Because the JEP is upholding the accords as the law of the land, it has earned the scorn of enemies of Colombia’s peace.

LINKS for more

Comments are closed.