A Strategy to Confront Colombia’s Crisis

The conference "Selection or Prioritization as a Strategy for Prosecuting International Crimes Cases?" opened this morning in Bogotá with more than 150 participants from Colombia and around the world, including experts in transitional justice in the former Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Argentina, Germany, and Colombia, among others.

All of the opening speakers emphasized the importance of confronting the challenges of Colombia’s Justice and Peace Process and the importance of learning from comparative experiences, beginning with Marcelo Alvarez, who leads the Organization of American States' Support Mission for the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP-OAS).

He stressed the importance of finding possible strategies for selection and prioritization in the Justice and Peace Process and, therefore the importance of today’s event. He said that Colombians needed a real promise of justice and peace that does not exist under the current process, in which there are only minimal outcomes, such as only four partial sentences out of thousands of cases so far.

He reminded the conference attendees that there have been important advances of the Justice and Peace Process, but that the challenges and deficits are real. He stressed that the process must focus on the needs of victims and the cause of peace.

Maria Camila Moreno, director of ICTJ’s Colombia Program echoed the importance of taking a critical look at the Justice and Peace Process, noting that there is broad consensus that the process is currently in crisis. She stressed that a true transitional justice process includes more than criminal justice, and should focus on reparations, institutional reform, and truth-seeking as well.

She commented that the strategic objective of transitional justice in Colombia should be understood as the need to, “recover citizens’ confidence in the state, and ensure that abuses are not repeated.”

The final speaker, Andreas Forer, director of the ProFis Project of the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), commissioned by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, focused on the inherent challenges of the Justice and Peace Process related to strategic prosecutions.

He explained that, despite common assumptions that the process is for those with responsibility in grave crimes, there is not a strategic logic behind which individuals are listed as candidates for Justice and Peace, and which are left out. There are examples of candidates that have alleged responsibility in one crime, and others with thousands. This fact highlights the urgency and importance of implementing a strategy for prosecuting international crimes in Colombia.

He highlighted the comparative experience in strategies of international tribunals working together with national mechanisms and the importance of involving civil society in discussions about reforming the Justice and Peace Process.

There will be six speakers discussing the topic of selection and prioritization in international crimes cases during the morning session. Watch them live at http://colombia-justicia-priorizacion.ictj.org/en/webstream. You can see the full schedule here.

Photos by Camilo Aldana
Video by Mauricio Cardona