Holiday's over for the Colombian 'paras'

18 December 2006 by Christopher Marlowe

Fearing an escape attempt, the Colombian government transferred 59 paramilitary leaders from their detention center at a former holiday camp and brought them to trial. The warlords first appeared in court on December 14-15, in Barranquilla and in Medellin. On December 1st, these 'paras' had frantically phoned radio stations to tell of a massive build up of troops and helicopters circling the detention center where they were being held. Hundreds of heavily-armed soldiers forcibly moved them from their comfortable center in La Ceja to the Itagui maximum security prison in Medellin. One week later, they broke off talks with the government. On November 15, a few journalists were allowed to visit the 'paras' in La Ceja. Among them was a correspondent with IJT.

When the Colombian government announced in early 2006 that the paramilitary leaders would be housed in the La Ceja camp as they awaited their trials as part of a peace process, many in this country saw it as yet more evidence that the accord was too lenient. Created in the 1980s by drugtraffickers and landowners to act as an illegal militia to combat Marxist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the paramilitary militia quickly grew with the help of people in the military and in political and business circles. As the group, known by its acronym AUC, expanded across the country, it committed some of the worst crimes in a brutal civil war that has killed more than 40,000 Colombians, mostly civilians, since 1964.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.