“No political will” for JPL

09 December 2009 by Frank Petit

In 2005 Colombia introduced the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) in an effort to combat the problem of paramilitary groups rampant in the country. The law offers fighters lenient penalties for human rights abuses in return for voluntary demobilisation. Michael Reed-Hurtado is Head of Office at the International Center for Transitional Justice in Colombia. He spoke to the IJT’s Frank Petit about how the law is working.

How many trials have taken place since the JPL was introduced?
Only one trial took place, and it was annulled! There are ongoing depositions by 650 of the demobilized paramilitary that have not ended in a successful way. The Supreme Court, in both annulling the first trial and responding to an interlocutory appeal on a secondary case, has told the office of the prosecutor that they need to have a coherent and consistent approach to their investigation task in the JPL process. But to date, the balance is extremely negative.

For what reasons?
Multiple issues. First, the executive power provided a list of names to the office of the prosecutor in a very disorderly fashion. Initially 2,065, currently 3,854. It is a real structural issue that there isn’t a strategic decision on who the prosecutor should or should not prosecute . Secondly, in practice there is a lot of improvisation, largely because all the institutions of the criminal justice system were not at all ready to assume the mass nature of the crimes that were perpetrated.

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