President Santos Names 30 Justices to Colombia’s ‘Special Jurisdiction for Peace’ War Crimes Tribunal
On Monday in a ceremony in Bogotá, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos officially installed 30 justices, or “magistrates,” who will serve on the nation’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the war crimes tribunal created last year by Congress as part of the country’s peace process.
The controversial JEP will seek what is called “transitional justice” for the victims of the nation’s 50-plus-year war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that ended in late 2016 after four years of formal negotiations with the Santos-led government.
Photo: President Juan Manuel Santos gives a speech at Casa de Nariño in Bogotá introducing justices for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP. (Credit: Presidencia de la República)
While the bulk of the roughly 7,000 members of the now-demobilized guerrilla group are expected to receive amnesty as laid out in the peace deal, higher-ranking officials found responsible for atrocities can face some form of limited confinement and will be expected to cooperate in the search for truth about past crimes.
“Victims want truth more than to see their victimizers behind bars,” said Santos in a speech from the Casa de Nariño, calling once again for the nation to embrace reconciliation in an attempt to leave decades of conflict in the past. “Victims are better served by reparation than revenge.”
While this provision of the accord has been among the most divisive in a nation split over supporting the peace process, Santos stressed that anyone found responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes, or other grave human rights violations will not be granted amnesty. Prosecutors and officials have suggested they will specifically look to try those involved child recruitment, sexual violence, kidnapping, civilian massacres, large-scale attacks, and even acts that severely damaged the environment.
Politicians, members of the military, other armed group actors, and even private citizens from the business world may also be named by the victims who will be heard by the JEP, a prospect that various Colombian politicians and civic groups have pushed to limit.
Nevertheless, Santos said that the tribunal, which may continue its work for a decade or more, will “judge and punish conduct committed on occasion or in connection with the armed conflict, not only of guerrillas or agents of the state, but also of civilians who submit to it and have had active or decisive participation in the most serious crimes.”
For years, current Colombian Senator and former President Álvaro Uribe has been the most prominent opposition voice against the peace process. Following the announcement by Santos, the ex-head of state said, on Twitter, that former FARC commander Rodrigo Londoño, aka Timochenko, is currently a “presidential candidate” rather than paying for his crimes.
On Twitter, Uribe asked why does “Santos insist on deceiving us, declaring that there will be no impunity for those responsible for the crimes of humanity when that is not a fact.”
Santos has so far named 30 of the 38 justices who will sit on the JEP, a complex body with various components and responsibilities related to truth-seeking, reviewing criminal charges, weighing appeals, and sentencing.
The head of state noted that he has sought diversity in the makeup of the JEP, including people from the judicial branch, the military, private law practice, human rights organizations, and academia. More than half of those appointed are women, Santos also noted.
”Today is a very special day for the construction of peace in our country,” said Santos. “It is a very special day for advancing the guarantee of the rights of victims of our conflict. And it is a very special day to continue healing the wounds that more than half a century of internal war have left.”
While controversy over the process elements still rages in Colombia, the creation of the JEP in late 2017, despite some key questions raised by Human Rights Watch and others, was largely applauded by international groups as a positive step forward for the peace process.
Last year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) — while recognizing some flaws with the makeup of the tribunal — categorized the JEP as “fundamental for the effective fulfillment of international obligations in the field of human rights.”
The full list of JEP judges appointed so far is as follows:
Director of the Investigation and Accusation Unit
Giovanny Álvarez Santoyo
Court of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace
Alejandro Ramellí Artega
Ana Caterina Heyck Puyana
Camilo Andrés Suárez Aldana
Claudia López Díaz
Gloria Amparo Rodríguez
Gustavo Adolfo Salazar Arbeláez
María del Pilar Valencia García
Raúl Eduardo Sánchez Sánchez
Reinere de los Ángeles Jaramillo Chaverra
Roberto Carlos Vidal López
Rodolfo Arango Rivadeneira
Sandra Rocío Gamboa Rubiano
Ana Manuela Ochoa Arias
Chambers of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace
Alexandra Sandoval Mantilla
Belkis Floretina Izquierdo Torres
Catalina Díaz Gómez
Claudia Rocío Saldaña Montoya
Heidy Patricia Baldosea Perea
José Miller Hormiga Sánchez
Juan José Cantillo Pushaina
Julieta Lemaitre Ripoll
Lily Andrea Rueda Guzmán
Marcela Giraldo Muñoz
Nadiezhda Natazha Henríquez Chacín
Óscar Javier Parra Vera
Pedro Díaz Romero
Pedro Julio Mahecha Ávila
Sandra Jeannette Castro Ospina
Xiomara Cecilia Balanta Moreno
Giovanny Álvarez Santoyo