The International Criminal Court (ICC) Oct. 30 warned both the Colombian government and illegal armed groups that it will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit war crimes in the country’s violent conflict. “There are many crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, including forced displacement, disappearances, the use of child soldiers, sexual violence, torture, killings and hostage-taking,” Marcelo Pollack, head of Amnesty International Colombia, told the Bogotá daily El Espectador.
According to Pollack, “although there has been progress in some emblematic human rights cases, mainly because of international pressure, most abuses remain unpunished.” Now that the ICC will have jurisdiction it “must decide whether the Colombian authorities are doing enough to bring those responsible to justice.” Pollack added: “In the case of abuses committed by guerrillas or paramilitary violations, impunity so far has been almost total.” He said Amnesty International believes that in Colombia “there is not a sincere desire to fully uncover the perpetrators of such crimes or punish them for such acts, or of compensate their victims.”
Colombia formally begins cooperation with the Criminal Court at the start of next month. “The most important thing is that from 1 November, the ICC will become a deterrent to the guerrillas, paramilitary groups still operating in Colombia, and to the Army,” said Alirio Uribe Muñoz, a human rights specialist with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective and a human rights specialist. According to Muñoz, since Colombia’s refusal to ratify with the ICC in 2002, 2 million Colombians have been victims of forced displacement and there have been over 14,000 political killings. Muñoz said that the ICC may demand political responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity from senior officials, including President Álvaro Uribe himself.
The ICC has no reason to investigate war crimes in Colombia as the country’s courts are already doing so, said Colombia’s ambassador to The Hague, Francisco Lloreda.
Colombia recently ratified full cooperation with the ICC, after putting it off for years under cover of the peace process with illegal armed groups. A controversy over Uribe’s initial refusal to exempt US personnel from potential extradition to the ICC was resolved in a face-saving compromise. (Colombia Reports, El Espectador, Bogotá, El País, Cali, Oct. 30)