|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.'|
|A woman carries her baby thru ruins after the |
FARC bombed her town.
|FARC girl soldiers. They often become girlfriends |
of much older guerrillas and are forced to abort
if they get pregnant.
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
* 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