Bogotá pictures Downtown San José del Guaviare, Colombia
Apr 172008

(I’m writing from the Bogotá airport, where I’m on my way back to Washington. Expect some posts over the next few days about my visit earlier this week to San José del Guaviare, the town in southern Colombia where the U.S.-funded aerial fumigation program began 14 years ago.)

The Colombian newsweekly Semana has posted to its website a remarkable and troubling PowerPoint presentation (PDF version here, accompanying an article here) from Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti. Though Sen. Benedetti is a member of the pro-Uribe “La U” political party, he is one of a handful of uribista legislators who have criticized the government’s handling of efforts to demobilize, prosecute and reintegrate former paramilitaries while attending to their victims.

Two and a half years after these efforts – known as the “Justice and Peace process” – began, Sen. Benedetti’s slideshow paints a distressing picture. Here are a few current statistics that should make you very angry:

  • 125,368 Colombians have registered as victims of the paramilitaries, seeking reparations, restitution of stolen assets, or simply the truth about what happened to disappeared and murdered loved ones.
  • Though Colombia’s Human Rights Ombudsman’s office (Defensoría del Pueblo) is required by law to offer legal assistance to the victims, only 13 percent of registered victims have come to the ombudsman for assistance. Only 9 percent of victims are represented by a lawyer. The Defensoría has assigned a total of 68 ombusdmen to assist paramilitary victims; they are present in three cities. That means each ombusdman has a caseload of 815 of the victims who have requested help from the Defensoría.
  • 15 victims inscribed in the Justice and Peace process have been killed under circumstances believed to be related to their claims. 92 have reported receiving threats as a result of their claims.
  • The Justice and Peace unit of the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía), which is handling 3,257 cases of armed-group leaders accused of serious crimes, has 23 prosecutors.
  • The Justice and Peace unit of the Attorney-General’s Office (Procuraduría), which is supposed to oversee the prosecutions, has 12 lawyers assigned to it.
  • Of the 3,257 paramilitary leaders accused of serious crimes in the “Justice and Peace process,” only 127 have even begun the process of giving voluntary confessions, and only 4 have completed the initial versión libre (”free confession”) stage. At this rate, Sen. Benedetti estimates, it will take 2,157 years to complete the “Justice and Peace” judicial process.
  • 9,467 victims have come forward to denounce that the paramilitaries forced their displacement from their homes. (The actual number of people displaced by the paramilitaries is far higher.) But so far, paramilitary leaders have confessed to only 48 cases of forced displacement.
  • 91 victims have come forward to denounce that they were subjected to sexual violence by the paramilitaries. (The actual number of such victims is far, far higher.) But so far, paramilitary leaders have confessed to only 2 acts of sexual violence.
  • The Defensoría has only 12 psychologists on hand to provide psycho-social support to the 125,368 victims registered so far.
  • The Justice and Peace law requires paramilitary leaders to turn over all illegally required assets to fund reparations to their victims. So far, only 12 of the 3,257 paramilitary leaders have so far turned in any goods. (The list of goods, which includes 70 pairs of used shoes and a 29-inch television in bad condition, can be found here [PDF] as part of a scanned document from the Procuraduría.) The total value of cash and goods turned over by paramilitary leaders so far totals US$470,685 – or US$3.75 per registered victim.

5 Responses to ““The Justice and Peace process is going badly””

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    The biggest scam Colombian people have undergone ever: GOC negotiating with criminal bands that helped it (re)elected. Thousands of demobilized hoodlums who aren’t but officially are supposed to. And the honorable congress sessions soon forced to take place in the picota Bogota municipal jail in order to meet quorum.

  2. jcg Says:

    Not to mention that the process has been filled with improvisitation since pretty much day one, and so such a logistical nightmare (because that’s also part of the problem, as shameful as it may be) isn’t entirely unexpected.

    However, there are pretty much two options: let the process die and deal with the consequences of that death, which are too numerous to list, or find a way to rescue the process even if it means accepting some of the “scams” involved for the greater good of moving things forward, instead of letting this opportunity go away forever (or at least for a long time).

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, I’d like to be as optimistic as you are but I am afraid it’s much too late, and the boat is taking on water. I just wish the honest and fair don’t get drowned in the process.

  4. Kyle Says:

    Jaime,
    whether your analysis is right or wrong is moot. You give no alternative. If the GOC were to let this process die, what then would it do with all the paramilitary leaders and fighters? Would they be left to run free?

    In order for the process to ever work Colombia must re-vamp all of its judicial institutions and probably quintuple the number of people working on the Justice and Peace process, at least and asap. That’s the first step in saving this process. From there, it’s unclear, IMHO.

  5. Plan Colombia and Beyond » Friday Links Says:

    [...] Constitutional Court toughened the Justice and Peace law significantly. Though the process was not going well, had it failed so completely that the extraditions were the only option? Were the extraditions a [...]

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