In a monumental decision this week, the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that the peace accord reached last year with the FARC guerrilla group must be implemented without modifications for the next 12 years.
The decision, which was reached unanimously by the justices, solidifies the legal standing of the controversial peace agreement, including the remaining laws that must be past to finalize its execution, and deals a major blow to the many opposition officials seeking to upend its implementation next year after current President Juan Manuel Santos leaves office when his second term in office is up.
Now, instead of pushing for changes, the heads of state during their next three terms, and the Congress, are legally obligated to follow the many provisions and implementation protocols established by an agreement known as the Final Accord.
In its statement on the ruling, the Constitutional Court said that “the state as a whole must comply with the agreement with the FARC” through “the end of three complete presidential periods following the signing.” It added that this “constitutes a legal guarantee for the regulatory developments of the implementation to be faithful to the spirit of the ‘Final Accord.’”
Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year after his negotiators reached a deal with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) that ended more than a half-century of conflict, said that the decision “legitimizes” and “gives stability” to an agreement that he has continually stressed Colombia should strive to make the foundation of a “lasting peace.”
Álvaro Uribe, the most recent former president of Colombia and the leading voice against the accord, has railed against the decision. As a current senator and leader of the opposition Democratic Center party, he has continued to fight against the peace deal’s implementation. Uribe said on Twitter that this ruling by the Constitutional Court is “ignoring the plebiscite” vote against the deal last year and represents a recipe for “democratic destruction.”
Such sentiments highlight the ongoing attacks against a Santos administration that has been roundly criticized by the opposition for railroading through a final version of the peace accord, which led to the demobilization of the largest leftist belligerent faction in a conflict that killed some 260,000 people and displaced more than seven million over 52 years.
Throughout four years of formal negotiations with the FARC, Santos had maintained that the people of Colombia would have the opportunity to approve or reject the signed armistice with a popular plebiscite. That vote was held on October 2, 2016, and, by roughy 54,000 votes out of some 13 million cast, the deal was rejected at the ballot.
Santos accepted the result and re-entered talks with the FARC in Havana to amend the accord. Changes were made, but critics said they were not significant enough, leading opposition leaders to balk further when Santos submitted the revised deal to Congress rather than holding a second plebiscite.
The final accord was passed by the Congress in December to become law. The FARC has since laid down its weapons and formed a political party, as laid out in the agreement. But concerns held by critics over both the process and the fundamental provisions of the deal have led several leading opposition members to pledge that they would fight to undo some of the provisions — or outright dismantle the accord entirely.
While it remains to be seen what action those critics will take now that changing the deal is no longer an option, Uribe and like-minded opposition members reacted negatively to Wednesday’s decision by the Constitutional Court.
On Twitter, Ivan Duque, a Democratic Center senator who plans to run for president next year, said that it is “regrettable that the court authorizes the constitution to be used to shield criminals from the law and not to shield the law from criminals.”
Carlos Holmes, a former cabinet member of Uribe and former mayor of Cali who has planned to run for president next year, tweeted that the ruling is an “assault against popular sovereignty and democracy.”
For its part, the Constitutional Court highlighted that the ruling provides legal certainty. It said that its decision can also provide the former FARC rank-and-file combatants, who are now working to reintegrate into a society, a “message of tranquility” that the amnesty granted to them by the deal will not later come into question legally.