Rethinking a Strategy for Justice and Peace

Colombia’s Justice and Peace process, established six years ago as a justice mechanism for the demobilization of 30,000 paramilitaries from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), has made valuable progress, but also has significant gaps.

While achievements have been made—especially in gathering information about human rights violations, the discovery of the remains of thousands of missing victims and the knowledge of paramilitary links with political authorities, the military, public servants and some private companies—the Justice and Peace Process is under the scrutiny of state representatives, as well as of civil society and the international community.

Evident shortcomings and the fact that only four partial sentences have been pronounced have many wondering if the Justice and Peace Process has failed. Against this background, reform initiatives have emerged, including proposals to create a new law. Without a doubt, it is necessary to review how the Justice and Peace Process is working and to seek new strategies routed in a process consistent with other transitional justice measures.

It is in this context the International Conference “Selection and Prioritization as a Prosecution Strategy in International Crimes Cases?” emerged. This gathering creates a space for national and international personalities to discuss how to produce a consistent and strategic transitional justice process, leading the country to deal in the best way possible with crimes committed by demobilized paramilitary groups between 2003 and 2006.

The necessity of a strategy for the Justice and Peace Process has led different organizations to question the feasibility and desirability of applying a selection and/or prioritization process among the paramilitary’s representatives going through the Justice and Peace judicial process.

Questions such as: What strategy is needed to ensure the Justice and Peace Process responds to its main challenges? Which criteria must be taken into account in a prioritization strategy? Is it appropriate and legitimate to select a number of perpetrators to prosecute? What were the results of previous experiences of prioritization and selection of perpetrators in domestic courts? will be the focus of discussions among speakers and during the break-out sessions.

As in Colombia, other countries have had similar debates and have implemented strategies such as those discussed above. In order to share these lessons, this conference will examine the comparative experiences of Argentina, Guatemala and Germany.

As a result, we hope this international conference will contribute to the construction of a suitable path for Colombia, which meets the needs of victims and of society in confronting the crimes committed by demobilized paramilitary groups.

In the coming days this blog will feature the discussions held during the conference and will provide a platform for social networking and feedback to the experts and activists in Bogota. You will also be able to follow the conference livestream. You can learn about the speakers, see what topics will be covered, and find important updates about the conference. Conference updates will also be posted to ICTJ's Facebook page,, and you can follow the conference on Twitter with the hashtag #TJbogota (English) or #JTbogota (Spanish).

Photo: More than 300,000 victims of the paramilitaries have engaged in Colombia's Justice and Peace Process.