Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has sworn in 30 judges to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a war crimes tribunal established to prosecute conflict-related grave crimes committed by guerrilla members, state agents and some civilians during the country's recently ended 50-year civil war. Chief prosecutor Giovanni Alvarez, has indicated that the first war crimes suspect should be brought to trial within six months.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace was established through the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC rebel group agreed in November 2016. President Santos reportedly ignored a ban imposed by Congress on appointing judges with experience in war crimes cases.
While explicitly excluding amnesty for genocide, “grave” war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations which don’t fall under the previous categories (kidnapping, torture, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, forced displacement and recruitment of minors), the agreement envisages reduced and/or alternative sentences for perpetrators who confess to crimes and contribute to establishing truth.
Some human rights group have expressed concern that this will in fact amount to amnesty. Responding to these concerns, President Santos stated "[t]here are crimes so serious that neither the law nor our conscience allow us to grant amnesty, serious war crimes, genocide, and in general the serious violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, all these crimes will be judged and punished under the auspices of the new jurisdiction."
Alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by government forces, armed guerrilla groups, and paramilitaries have been the subject of an ICC preliminary examination since 2004, intended to determine whether a full investigation is warranted. The ICC prosecutor has been monitoring the peace process to ensure the delivery of genuine justice under the Rome Statute principle of complementarity, which requires authorities in ICC member states to investigate and prosecute grave crimes in the first instance.
On an official visit to Colombia, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres encouraged the government to play a key role in providing the security, administration, healthcare system and infrastructures needed to ensure lasting stability.