Although armed conflict in Colombia continues, some attempts at accountability are underway. ICTJ works with the government and civil society groups in Colombia to pursue further truth and justice.
Colombia continues to endure the most intractable armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Fighting that has lasted more than half a century has left more than 4 million Colombians internally displaced. Massive patterns of violence against civilians include forced disappearance, extrajudicial and summary executions, sexual and reproductive violence, forced recruitment of minors, and inhuman and degrading treatment.
Colombia's long-standing, multi-actor conflict continues to be fueled by violent struggles to control the population, land, natural resources, political power, and drug markets.
The government documented the demobilization of more than 30,000 paramilitaries, between 2003 and 2006, as a result of a political pact put in motion by President Álvaro Uribe.
The Justice and Peace Law (JPL or Law 975) of 2005 intended to address criminal charges and convictions against a select number of paramilitaries. The JPL offers reduced prison terms in exchange for a full confession, relinquishment of all assets, and a commitment to end illegal activity.
Despite positive contributions, the JPL has severe flaws. There is no meaningful participation by victims or their representatives. Perpetrators of state crimes and their victims are excluded from the process. The reduced prison sentences mean that those who committed mass atrocities will serve a token sentence—often shorter than one for robbery.
Despite isolated prosecutions, the Colombian State has not investigated and prosecuted those most responsible for the commission of systematic and massive crimes. The Colombian situation has been under preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2006.
Beyond the JPL process, the Government is developing public policies to address the situation of other demobilized persons, the continued criminal activity of illegal armed groups, and reparations and assistance for victims. The judicial system has sought to address one aspect of the impunity (or accountability failures) for government abuses, by focusing some investigations and prosecutions on State actors with alleged ties to paramilitary groups. Additionally, many civil society and victims' organizations have initiated grassroots truth-telling, historical memory, and other locally based processes.
ICTJ has worked in Colombia since 2006. We focus on strengthening national mechanisms for the protection of victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparation.