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It should come to no one’s surprise that the Obama Administration quickly lauded the recently announced deal on justice between the Colombian government and the Marxist, narco-terrorist guerrilla group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). After all, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has used the Obama playbook on Iran to push through his historic peace accord with the FARC: Start negotiations without preconditions with a terrorist sponsor or organization, draw redlines only to capitulate later, and promise one thing to its electorate while doing the opposite.
Here’s what we know from the announcement. Special tribunals will be created to hold accountable those guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity such as massacres, kidnappings, hostage-taking, forced displacement of citizens, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence, and torture. The special tribunals will be comprised of a combination of Colombian and foreign judges. Individuals who confess to committing these crimes will serve a maximum of five to eight years in a restricted area, not in a prison cell (basically what FARC members are doing now). As for those who don’t admit to a crime, but are later found guilty by the tribunal, they will serve a maximum of 20 years in a prison cell. Additionally, FARC leaders are permitted to return to politics after implementation of the peace accord concludes.
What we don’t know is how will the judicial selection process work? Which countries are eligible to send judges? What responsibility, if any, is FARC accepting for their role in drug cultivation and trafficking? How will these narco-crimes be adjudicated? What will come of the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, generated from said cultivation and trafficking? How will FARC pay for reparations to victims? The list goes on and on.
Nonetheless, U.S. special envoy to the peace process, Bernard Aronson, has made it clear that the Colombian people will decide what is fair, not the U.S., “It’s the Colombians who are the victims of the war, and it’s the Colombians who have the right to decide on what terms they are willing to end this war … It’s not for me or for any American who doesn’t live in Colombia to say this is or isn’t fair.”
I agree with Aronson. But that isn’t likely going to happen. As mentioned in my post in August, Santos has been flirting with the idea of going it alone despite repeatedly stating in public that the Colombian people will have their say (through a referendum). Weeks before the announcement on justice, Santos blatantly denied ever saying that referendum was an option and compared it to “suicide.” He is now currently seeking a special constitutional assembly giving him the power to ratify the deal.
Why does this matter? Well, you wouldn’t know it from U. media outlets (case in point here) but the majority of Colombians oppose the terms as announced. A poll conducted by Opinómetro, days after, reported only 25 percent of Colombians support the proposed agreement, which is consistent with previous polls. Yet that didn’t stop Secretary of State John Kerry from doing exactly what Mr. Aronson said the US wouldn’t do … to say what is and isn’t fair. Apparently now entitled to speak on behalf of the millions of victims in Colombia, Mr. Kerry said, “…peace is now ever closer for the Colombian people and millions of conflict victims … and this will be their victory.”
Human rights advocacy groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch don’t view the deal with the same enthusiasm as Kerry and other world leaders do. In fact, they agree with the majority of Colombians and believe the deal as announced will allow many to escape justice, and “…while the special jurisdiction would encourage confessions, it would also allow those most responsible for mass atrocities to completely avoid prison, denying their victims the right to justice in any meaningful sense of the word,” said Americas Director of Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco.
So, Mr. Aronson and Mr. Kerry, which is it? Should the victims have a right to say what is fair? Are you going to speak up for the millions of victims you claim to represent and push for their voice to be heard? Or are you going to continue to promote a deal whose idea of justice for some of the worst human rights violators is merely a proverbial wrist slap? Because right now, you stand with the likes of Cuban Dictator Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in supporting an administration that wants to bypass the voice of its victims.