Sunday, September 11, 2016

Injustice, Recycled

Extradited paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso.
The New York Times has this long and detailed piece about the light punishments received by many of the far-right paramilitary leaders who demobilized in the mid-2000s and were extradited to United States prisons.

The story makes a strong point: these guys, who may have smuggled tons of cocaine - not to mention ordering massacres, rapes, kidnappings and forced displacements - have gotten shorter sentences than some streetcorner pushers. (Here's ex-Pres. Uribe's response to the story.)

The story, however, is a bit narrow. While the paras' sentences are scandalously short, in the U.S. they did more time on drug charges than they would have back in Colombia for crimes, including crimes against humanity, under the infamous Justice and Peace Law. And, in theory, the death squad leaders are supposed to be returned to Colombia to be prosecuted for their non-drug crimes, altho the Times reports that many have obtained residency in the U.S., apparently as payback for revealing their cocaine smuggling secrets.

As a result, crimes such as massacres, kidnapping, rape and forced displacement, may never be punished at all.
A paragraph from the New York Times story listing some of Mancuso's alleged crimes.
Impunity? Aftermath of the massacre of Bojayá, in which a
FARC missile  landed on the town's church, klling more than
a hundred women and children hiding inside.
But the biggest scandal here, in the eyes of many, is that Colombia is about to do it all over again with the FARC guerrillas. The FARC have also committed horrendous crimes and human rights abuses, if perhaps not on the same scale as the paramilitaries', and under the peace agreement their leaders can not be extradited and will not even go to prison, as long as they confess what they've done. Instead, they'll get 'special detention,' a vague term likely to mean restricting them to a specific municipality.

And FARC members guilty of crimes against humanity, as long as they have confessed, will even be eligible to serve in Congress in one of the FARC's ten guaranteed seats.

None of which is to say that the FARC-government peace deal is not a good thing. However, political leaders should be careful that the FARC deal does not follow the paramilitaries down a path of injustice.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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