The Implementation of the Final Peace Agreement Between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP: The Special Jurisdiction for Peace after a Year and a Half in Operation

Image CaptionProfessor Robert Goldman and Pedro Nikken
Professor Robert Goldman and Pedro Nikken, Past International Commission of Jurists President & former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) was created following the Final Peace Agreement between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), adopted on November 24, 2016. The SJP has operated so far for a year and a half. This experience warrants taking stock of the achievements and challenges that have ensued. 

The SJP is one of the three mechanisms created by the Final Peace Agreement to reintegrate the FARC-EP guerrilla members into civilian life in a way that respects the rights of the victims of the decades-long internal conflict. The other mechanisms are the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence, and No-Repetition; and the Special Unit for the Search of Disappeared Persons during the Armed Conflict. 

In a recent report, the International Commission of Jurists, a prominent human rights NGO whose current president is Professor Robert Goldman, pointed out that the SJP’s work could become the cornerstone for the consolidation of a peace that effectively takes into account the rights of the victims. The report analyzed a year and half of activity and focused on three case studies that the SJP had dealt with, concluding that the SJP has begun to show a meaningful commitment to prevent serious violations of human rights from going unpunished and has recognized that all sectors of society have suffered the impact of the conflict.

However, the ICJ report notes that the SJP still faces challenges. In particular, the SJP needs to expand and strengthen participation of victims within all its processes, as this mechanism is not yet fully transparent.  The victims’ organizations, especially, do not yet have a clear channel to participate in the SJP’s procedures. The SJP also still insufficiently applies the regulations, jurisprudence, and international standards that govern the reparation of victims of mass violations of human rights. For this reason, the SJP should consolidate an approach that realizes the right to justice and the integral reparation of the victims. This justice for the victims also means that those responsible for serious violations of human rights need to be investigated, prosecuted, and punished according to international standards, as set out—for example—by the Inter-American Human Rights System. The report also notes that the SJP has the challenge of adopting and enforcing measures of protection for the victims that make sure they or their family members will not be subject to reprisals for coming forward with their facts. The SJP may also consider increasing publicity of its decisions and other rulings. One way of achieving this goal would be to give more powers of outreach to the Rapporteur of the SJP. Another idea that was floated was to encourage voluntary appearances of victims, which would highlight the SJP’s role as a court of justice for serious violations of human rights committed during the Colombian conflict.

The report pointedly notes that the SJP has the legal powers and regulatory tools to successfully carry out these actions, as long as it interprets its mandate in accordance with Colombia’s international human rights obligations. At the same time, the peace and national reconciliation that the Final Peace Agreement envisions are not tasks that can be carried out only by the SJP. The Colombian Congress has the important task of adopting important pieces of legislation. Some of these pieces of legislation are still pending, as for example, the Special Transitory Peace Jurisdictions, commonly known as “the seats for the victims.” 

In sum, the first year and a half of the SJP have helped to show the practical problems in achieving a national reconciliation after the brutal civil conflict that had ravaged Colombia for decades. The International Commission of Jurists’ report contributed with some thoughtful ideas to addressing those challenges.

The report was presented to the President of Colombia, AUWCL alum Ivan Duque, and the President of the SJP, Patricia Linares, an alum of AUWCL’s Human Rights Academy, during a ceremony in June 2019.

To access the report, please click here