Saturday, April 13, 2013

Peace With Impunity?

A campaign mural from conservative presidential candidate and ex-VP Francisco Santos compares Pablo Escobar to FARC leader Ivan Marquez and asks "Guess who's killed more police officers.' and 'We want peace without impunity.'
How much justice can Colombia trade for peace?

A woman carries her baby thru ruins after the
FARC bombed her town.
Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez is challenging the framework behind the peace negotiations being held with the FARC guerrillas in Havana.

It's hard not to suspect that Ordoñez, a strict conservative, is partially motivated by hostility to the guerrillas. But Ordoñez's arguments still hit home - and Colombia must grapple with them on the road to peace.

The FARC guerrilla leaders negotiating with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba surely want to go from their jungle camps into Congress.
FARC girl soldiers. They often become girlfriends
of much older guerrillas and are forced to abort
if they get pregnant.
But no peace treaty can erase the guerrillas' horrific history of human rights abuses. According to Human Rights Watch's 2012 Colombia report, the FARC's violations included "killings, threats, forced displacement, and recruiting and using child soldiers." The report goes on to list an attack on boat, which killed three civilians, a car bombing which killed three and injured 122, planting landmines and other crimes. And that's just the beginning of the FARC's violent history.

But Colombia's Legal Framework for Peace, approved by Congress to facilitate peace negotiations, would let many guerrillas off without punishment for serious crimes, argues Ordoñez, and therefore violates the Constitution and could even make Colombia an international outcast. The Supreme Court is to consider the Framework's constitutionality.

"Those responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, forced displacements, can't be let off
FARC hostages. The guerrillas have held both military and
civilian hostages for many years, and sometimes
murdered them.
without paying a single day of prison time," Ordoñez said. Ordoñez argues that if Colombia lets the guerrillas off without real punishments it will violate international human rights treaties and become "an international pariah."

* The legal Framework would punish only the maximum leaders responsible for rights violations, and would ignore common crimes, such as theft, Ordoñez points out.

* Under the Framework law, prosecutors would investigate only crimes carried out 'systematically.'

* And, while pinning responsibility only on the 'maximum leaders' who ordered crimes against humanity, the Framework doesn't even define who those 'maximum leaders' are.

It seems clear that under this interpretation only a tiny proportion of those responsible for ordinary crimes and human rights violations would be punished, and probably not very harshly.

Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre responded not very convincingly by arguing that "the Framework for Peace is not synonymous for impunity"..."You can't say that prison is the only way to pay for crimes."

What sorts of alternative punishments does Montealegre have in mind? Will FARC leaders do community service, attend classes on human rights or write 100 times on the blackboard 'I will not commit crimes against humanity'?

But Montealegre added more realistically, and probably resignedly: "It's better for the country that armed actors drop their weapons and after confessing their crimes receive alternative sentences. That's not a lack of justice."

But of course letting guerrilla leaders off with barely a slap on the wrist is a lack of justice. Yet it may be the price Colombia has to pay to end its civil war, which has caused and continues causing innumerable human rights violations and other crimes. The 1990 demobilization of the M-19 guerrillas permitted their ex-leaders to enter politics, and is widely seen as a success. The demobilization of the right-wing paramilitaries, around 2005, has meant very few punishments despite their horrific crimes. But paramilitary violence has declined, altho not disappeared.

It's also important to keep in mind that, as it is, many criminals get off easy, whether because of corruption or lax laws. And, that without a peace treaty and guerrilla demobilization, the worst human rights offenders will likely live out their lives in the jungle and experience no punishment at all.

As unjust as it is, a great deal of impunity may be necessary to convince armed groups to give up their weapons and finally bring peace to Colombia.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Real peace can never be found down this road. It punishes the victims twice. Once originally and then again by the state for not bringing them justice. The criminals should face any offers with the offer of them paying the price of their crime. Leave them in the jungles where they can be brought justice at choice.

Miguel said...

Except that, if they stay in the jungle, they'll continue committing crimes and not being punished for a lot longer.


Juan Salazar said...

"Eye for an eye makes the world goes blind." Ghandi

I am in favor of this peace dialogue. The internal Colombian conflict can't be solved any other way.

The situation now is much more different than what it used to be. The last peace process was a complete joke because FARC was actually kicking the Colombian government and its armed forces in the butt. They were very powerful and had no real need to come to a peace accord.

In those days they asked for a huge piece of Colombian territory to negotiate and it was given to them. Today they are simply negotiating in Cuba, no land given up by the government. Also, remember the one month truce in December 2012, I have never seen them do that in all my life.

I know they are insane and I don't support them, but I also know that this conflict will have no end until in a peace negotiation between the government and FARC, they change this country for good.

Miguel said...

A very good argument Juan.


Stuart Oswald said...

The argument is deeply offensive. It does not afford justice to the victims. Instead the collective are committing another injustice to the victims and are endorsing the suffering of good people for their own arrogant self righteousness.

All the criminals that inflicted suffering upon innocent people (or anyone for that matter) must be brought to justice in a Nuremberg style trail with Nuremberg style justice.

The only way for Colombia to achieve a real and long lasting peace is by bringing justice to the victims and those that done them wrong.

Forfeiting their human right to justice is only sowing seeds for further conflict.

It's a big horrendous and even disgusting to think you have the right to denied innocent victims the right to justice for your own selfish ideals. Shame.

If you disagree, then think about bit more about. It's as if I came to your home and stole your property and murdered your family. Afterwards me and my gang get off scotch free because we'll promise not to do it again.

Miguel said...

Hi Stuart,

You'd be completely right - in an ideal world. You're right that letting criminals go unpunished is bad. But allowing the armed conflict, with its countless victims, to continue, seems even worse.


Stuart Oswald said...

Evil must be fought with every last action. You're point fails had it been applied to Hitler and such ideologies.

Juan Salazar said...

"Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies[1][2]) is an assertion made by Mike Godwin in 1990[2] that has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."[2][3] In other words, Godwin said that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis."

It didn't take too long...

Stuart Oswald said...

Yep. Didn't take long at all considering the topic regards the FARC. full marks for that one. Lol