Press Release

IACHR Monitors Progress and Challenges Concerning Colombia’s One-Year-Old Special Jurisdiction for Peace

May 29, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - In the context of its mandate to monitor the human rights situation in Colombia, and based on the cooperation agreement signed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the State of Colombia in February 2018 with a view to providing technical assistance to help implement the country’s Peace Agreement, the IACHR notes progress made by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP, by its Spanish acronym) and the challenges it faces one year after the beginning of its operations.

The Commission observes that the JEP is the justice element of the Integrated System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition (SIVJRNR, by its Spanish acronym), created in compliance with the Peace Agreement to investigate, prosecute and, if necessary, punish serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed in the context of the country’s armed conflict. The JEP launched its operations in January 2018 and opened its doors to the public in March 2018.

At a private hearing held during the IACHR’s 172nd Period of Sessions, the JEP reported that, by April 10, 2019, 11,748 people had signed pledges in which they committed to complying with the requirements of the transitional justice system. The JEP had also received 180 reports—filed by victim organizations and State authorities—on human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated during the conflict. The JEP further submitted information about the activities of its Chambers and Sections, including the following details:

  • The Acknowledgement Chamber collected 78 voluntary statements from former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP, by their Spanish acronym) and from agents of the State, and prioritized seven illegal detention cases perpetrated by FARC; serious human rights violations in certain municipalities in the departments of Nariño, Antioquia, Chocó, Cauca and Valle del Cauca; deaths that were unlawfully portrayed as killings in combat by agents of the State; the victimization of members of the Patriotic Union (UP, by its Spanish acronym); and the recruitment and use of children.
  • The Amnesty and Pardon Chamber issued during 2018 a total of 29 resolutions to grant freedom and 162 to deny freedom.
  • The Chamber to Establish Legal Status was handed 2,423 issues and held 13 hearings. Further, during 2018, it issued 653 resolutions to temporarily establish the status of people who had been subjected to the JEP.
  • The Review Section of the Court for Peace took on at least 501 matters. In 2018, it dealt with 404 matters—including 54 involving extradition procedures and 336 writs of amparo.
  • The Appeals Section of the Court for Peace took on 175 matters. In 2018, it issued 130 legal decisions.
  • The JEP created permanent committees on gender and on ethnic-territorial issues, which conducted prior consultation sessions with indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, as well as approaching girls, teens, women and LGBTI persons to encourage them to get involved with the JEP, among other efforts. 
  • The JEP’s Executive Secretariat supports the judiciary and the Investigation and Prosecution Unit, has a Victim Assistance Unit and manages the Autonomous System to Provide Advice and Counsel.

Despite such progress, the Commission observes that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has also faced challenges, particularly to consolidate a full normative framework to enable it to function adequately even without a Statutory Law. In 2017, Congress passed a bill for a JEP Statutory Law that was reviewed by the Constitutional Court in August 2018. The Executive filed objections to six articles in that bill in March 2019. After those objections were debated and voted on, Congress sent the bill to the Constitutional Court on May 2, 2019, for the court to make the final decision. In its 2018 Annual Report, issued in March 2019, the IACHR urged the Colombian State to take any measures necessary to move towards defining and implementing the JEP’s normative framework, in compliance with the principle of the separation of powers.

The IACHR is concerned that the JEP still lacks a full normative framework more than a year into its operations. It therefore insists on its call to the State, so it may make decisions concerning the bill for a JEP Statutory Law that grants greater legal security to the actions of that jurisdiction and enables the JEP to give timely legal answers to victims and to other people who turn to it for assistance. The Commission further stresses the importance of protecting court independence and autonomy in a transitional justice context, so institutions charged with the administration of justice may consolidate their actions concerning what happened during the armed conflict.

“We highlight the importance of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace so Colombia can comply with its obligations concerning investigation, prosecution and punishment,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, the IACHR’s Rapporteur on Memory, Truth, and Justice. “We hope that a full normative framework will be established soon for the operations of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace,” said Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Colombia. Finally, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the IACHR’s President, also referred to the issue. “We welcome the progress made by the JEP in its first year in operation and we will continue to monitor its efforts in the context of our mandate and of the Agreement that we signed with the State,” Commissioner Arosemena de Troitiño stressed.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 130/19