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Colombia’s congress investigated over possible attempts to illegally frustrate war crimes probes

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Written by Stephen Gill; Originally appeared on colombiareports.com

Colombia’s constitutional court is investigating suspected attempts in Congress to illegally block the approval of a war crimes tribunal.

The investigation relates to the statutory law regulating the powers of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) referring to the transitional court’s competencies and the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The inquiry comes after a controversy involving far-right Senate president Ernesto Macias who blamed a printing mishap for the omission of vital details in a bill that defined the court’s obligation to “guarantee victim’s rights” and “contribute to a lasting peace.”

The judges of the court have reportedly lost patience with the continued delays, believed to be up to seven months as Congress stalls on the sending of key minutes, transcripts and gazettes of discussions relating to modifications made to the law.

The court requested the information on several occasions but it was never sent.

The probe seeks to clarify modifications made in relation to differentiated special treatment of members of the security forces and rules relating to extradition proceedings against former combatants.

Among the changes investigated by the court, there is one that obliges the JEP to “communicate to the ordinary justice any mention made of a third party in the special justice system,” reported newspaper El Espectador.

Thousands of third party actors like politicians and businessmen have been accused of either sponsoring terrorism or seeking personal benefit from the war. These war crime suspects can voluntarily request inclusion in the transitional justice system or be tried before ordinary courts.

The intervention by the Constitutional Court comes amid growing concerns that opponents of the peace process and war crimes tribunal have tried to derail it illegally after failing to do so legally.

President Ivan Duque has come under increasing pressure both at home and abroad to clear the obstruction of the JEP, which seeks to bring justice and closure to millions of victims of half-century long armed conflict.

Last week, 227 social and victims organizations penned a letter to the head of state demanding that he sign the statute law of the JEP so that it can fully operate.

“The importance of the presidential sanction of the Act is not only due to the need for millions of victims and society for real and effective consolidation of a stable and lasting peace, but also the possibility that their rights have been violated by different actors after more than fifty years of conflict,” read the letter. 

“The consideration of peace as a principle and primary constitutional value is an obligation of the Colombian State,” it added.

In the two years of the peace process, Duque and his hard-right party have gone at lengths to sink the war crimes tribunal, limit its powers and discredit the court with disinformation.

The progression of the tribunal is inconvenient for the president as at least one top official could be called before to court to respond to war crimes allegations.

Multiple of the president’s closest political allies have been ties to war crimes that were committed during the country’s 55 years of armed conflict.

Earlier attempts to limit the court’s powers were struck down by the Constitutional Court and caused tensions between the government and the United Nations that is monitoring the peace process.

The UN on multiple occasions has urged the government and congress to secure the court is able to operate. More than two years after the historic peace deal that allowed the demobilization of the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, this is still uncertain.

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