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Justice and Peace? – The Role of Law in Resolving Colombia's Civil Conflict

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image of International Criminal Law Review

The Colombian Parliament's Justice and Peace law of 2005, introduced by the government of President Alvaro Uribe, allows members of armed groups involved in Colombia's 40-year old conflict to re-enter civilian life by paying an alternative penalty of 5-8 years' prison, even where their crimes concern mass-murder. The process is conditional on a full confession and the proper recompense for the victims. The Law however benefits primarily the pro-state paramilitaries, as the left-wing guerrilla groups have yet to make peace, and has thus been described as a transitional justice system without the transition. This article considers the provisions of the 2005 law against the background of the Constitutional Court's 2006 decision on its validity and the requirements of international criminal law and human rights law. It considers whether it satisfies the requirements of the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over Colombia's conflict but with an opt-out till 2009 for war-crimes. Will the process resolve the problem of Colombia's "impunity" – the failure to prosecute paramilitary crimes - which has been condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights? In conclusion it compares the process to other transitional justice systems in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Affiliations: 1: MA (Cantab), barrister, Senior Lecturer in law at the University of Westminster


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