Colombia to set up special war crimes courts

    Colombia's senate late Monday approved a constitutional reform to set up special war crimes courts, a key component of the historic peace agreement with FARC guerrillas that ended five decades of war. The court system will be made up of three sections: a truth commission, a unit to search for missing people, and a temporary, autonomous body to try crimes committed during the armed conflict before December 1, 2016. Establishing the courts was the backbone of the peace deal Bogota reached in November with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels. President Juan Manuel Santos...

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    Dealing with hate: Can America's truth and reconciliation commissions help?
    Joshua F.J. Inwood, Pennsylvania State University

    Recent vandalism in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia illustrates the all too real problem of hate crime faced by many communities in the United States. Just this February, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that for the second year in a row the number of hate groups in the United States has been growing – up from 892 in 2015 to 900 in 2017. The report also found since the election of President Donald Trump there has been a sharp increase in hate crime incidents. These incidents beg the question: How can such racial divisions be healed? I study U.S.-based truth commissions...

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    Spanish justice catches up with Guatemalan ex-minister
    François Musseau, correspondent in Madrid

    Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Roberto Vielmann, 60, has gone on trial in Spain for the assassination of eight detainees in 2006. The trial before Spain’s highest court for cases of terrorism, genocide and crimes against humanity is expected to last two months. Vielmann could face a sentence of 160 years’ imprisonment (20 for each assassination) and payment of 300,000 Euros compensation to victims’ relatives. Vielmann obtained Spanish citizenship in 2010 and has dual nationality. Since the beginning of the trial, he has denied the allegations against him.  “I have nothing to do...

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    Scars haunt Colombian rebels as they disarm

    Jair's missing right leg reminds him of many things: the heavy price he paid for fighting in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the pain he inflicted on others. The 25-year-old guerrilla came of age in the FARC, which he believed was fighting to create a more just Colombia. Now, the Marxist rebels are gathering in disarmament camps after reaching a peace deal to end the half-century conflict. Preparing to disarm has given Jair a chance to think about how the violence has shaped his life. Six years ago, he was pursuing an enemy soldier in the country's northwest when he...

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    Lawmakers in Colombia pass FARC amnesty law

    Colombia's Congress on Wednesday passed a law granting amnesty to Marxist FARC rebels as part of the country's peace deal, a development the government hailed as "historic." "Thanks to the Congress which in a historic vote approved the amnesty law, first step toward consolidating peace," President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter. The measure grants special legal treatment, amnesty and pardons to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) accused of political and related crimes. The Senate passed the bill 69-0, after the House of Representatives approved it...

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    Week in Review: A difficult path to truth and remembrance
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo

    This week showed some of the different faces of transitional justice. In Colombia, a new peace accord was finally ratified, whilst Tunisia continued public hearings of former regime victims, and debate continued in Rwanda over the role of the Catholic Church in the 1994 genocide. After signing the Colombian peace accord, President Juan Manuel Santos and the main rebel movement FARC now have six months to implement it. Justice and impunity are central issues in the process.  “The revised accord details the way transitional justice is to work,” explains JusticeInfo’s Bogota correspondent...

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    Peace and justice for Colombia?
    Christine Renaudat, correspondent in Bogota,

    In Colombia, FARC rebels and the government last week signed a revised peace deal to end half a decade of civil war. But the opposition says changes are only cosmetic, and it is not clear how justice will be applied to certain sections of the army. “Unanimity is not possible”, chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle had already warned. The peace agreement, narrowly rejected by voters on October 2 and signed in revised form on November 24, continues to divide Colombians. After studying its 310 pages, the opposition gave its verdict. The changes, according to opposition leader and...

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    Afghan and US crimes top ICC Prosecutor’s report on preliminary probes
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has just released an annual report on her preliminary examinations. For the moment , Fatou Bensouda has not announced that she is opening any new investigation or closing any case, but she is expected to announce a decision “in the very near future” with regard to preliminary examinations under way on Afghanistan and the Gaza flotilla. The report, published on the eve of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, also describes progress in the eight other situations under examination: Gabon, Burundi, Palestine, Ukraine, Iraq, Guinea, Nigeria...

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    Nation-to-Nation Reconciliation in Canada
    Michele Krech

    For over a century, Indigenous children in Canada were separated from their families, communities and cultures to attend government-funded, church-run residential schools, in a concerted effort to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.  The long history and ongoing legacy of the Indian Residential School System (IRSS) went largely unacknowledged until a formal truth-seeking process was undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) between 2009 and 2015. While the Commission’s formal truth-seeking process is now complete, the journey towards its ultimate...

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    This week in review: from Donald Trump to Libya, Tunisia and Burkina Faso
    Pierre Hazan

      The week was marked by a big event, likely to have big consequences: the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. What will be the attitude of the next US administration, which takes office on January 20, on human rights? What will be its position on torture, the closure of Guantanamo or the International Criminal Court (ICC)? During his two terms, President Barack Obama took a resolutely opposite stance from the Bush administration on all these issues and expressed firm commitment to multilateralism. Will Donald Trump choose the path of isolationism, and a...

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    US: Trump Should Govern With Respect for Rights

    (Washington, DC) – United States President-elect Donald Trump should abandon campaign rhetoric that seemed to reject many of the United States’ core human rights obligations and put rights at the heart of his administration’s domestic and foreign policy agendas, Human Rights Watch said today. Official results gave Trump the necessary electoral college votes to win.  “Now that he has secured victory, President-elect Trump should move from the headline-grabbing rhetoric of hatred and govern with respect for all who live in the United States,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human...

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    What prospects for peace in Colombia after the referendum?
    Julia Crawford, Justice Info

    The world was expecting an end to half a century of conflict in Colombia, but on October 2 the Colombian people voted “no” to a peace accord signed on September 26 by President Juan Manual Santos and the leader of the Marxist Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombian jurist Maria Teresa Garrido, who now lives in Switzerland, thinks there is still hope for peace, given the expressed determination of the peace signatories and the fact that the accord was rejected by only a narrow margin (50.2% against and 49.8% in favour). The agreement provides for transitional justice...

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    Colombia peace justice

    Derek Congram joins Justice in Conflict, as our symposium on peace and justice in Colombia after the referendum continues. Derek is an anthropologist and archaeologist based at the Munk School of Global Affairs. He specializes in medico-legal, human rights, and humanitarian investigations and has worked at United Nations, International Criminal Court, International Committee of the Red Cross, among others. In the run-up to the Colombian plebiscite on the peace deal between the government and the FARC, Ian Vásquez, of the CATO Institute published an opinion piece in a number of Latin...

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    The Way Forward: What the ‘No’ Vote Means for Peace in Colombia
    Mark Kersten

    Sophie Haspeslagh joins JiC for this first installment in our symposium on Peace and Justice in Colombia. Sophie is conducting research the engagement of armed groups and the effects of proscription on peace processes at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has been working on Colombia as a researcher and peace practitioner for over a decade with the International Crisis Group, ABColombia and Conciliation Resources. Sophie has previously published at JiC on the importance of finding balance on transitional justice in Colombia.  On October 2nd, the peace deal in Colombia...

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    Week in Review: A Nobel for fragile Colombian peace, crimes in Syria and Burundi
    François Sergent,

    Highlight of the transitional justice week was the Nobel Peace Prize awarded on Friday  to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, five days after a referendum in Colombia which was supposed to seal a peace deal between the government and the FARC rebel movement, ending 50 years of civil war. The Nobel committee, which is used to supporting fragile peace processes, gave it prestigious prize to the Head of State but also the people of Colombia, notably the victims of this deadly conflict. On the other hand, the committee deliberately decided not to give the prize also to the FARC and its...

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    Colombian President wins surprise Peace Nobel
    Hazel WARD, AFP

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Prize Friday for his "resolute" efforts to end five decades of war in his country, despite voters' shock rejection of a historic peace deal.The award was unexpected after voters rejected the accord Santos signed last month with FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, alias Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez, with some observers expressing surprise the rebel chief did not jointly receive the prize.But the FARC chief congratulated his former enemy and said the only prize the Marxist guerrillas wanted was "peace with social justice for Colombia.. peace in...

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    Colombia did not vote 'no' in its peace referendum – what the statistics reveal
    Michael Spagat, Royal Holloway and Neil Johnson, University of Miami

    The official line is that the “no” vote won the referendum in Colombia. The internationally lauded peace treaty with the FARC guerillas was rejected, and now nobody knows what the country’s fate will be. But did “no” actually win? The numbers divide four ways, rather than just two “no” and “yes” answers: 6,431,376 against the treaty, 6,377,482 in favour, 86,243 unmarked ballots, and 170,946 nullified ballots. The referendum process itself was without doubt transparent and fair, and Colombia can be truly proud of it. But there were nonetheless several inevitable sources of statistical error in the counting process that could have swamped the razor-thin victory margin of 53,894. This...

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    Why did Colombia’s Plebiscite for Peace Fail?

    Following a plebiscite that rejected by a hair the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP that was just signed in Cartagena on September 26, there is much soul-searching, self-critique, and reflection among those of us who worked so hard in the last four years for a political solution that would put an end to so many years of war in Colombia.   More on this later.  For now, I have found some solace in the reminder from Mercedes Sosa that change is a constant. “Todo Cambia”   I am working on a longer piece that looks at the roller coaster many of us have been on in recent weeks.  In the meantime though I wanted to share with my readers some of my initial...

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    Why the Colombians said no to the peace agreement
    Jordi MIRO Rodrigo ALMONACID, AFP

      Colombians say they are sick of their country's 52-year civil war. So why did a thin majority of voters reject their biggest chance yet for peace? Forecasts ahead of Sunday's surprise referendum result misjudged how divided Colombians are over how to settle the conflict with the FARC rebels. "I voted 'Yes' to peace by voting 'No' to the accord," said Carlos Gonzalez, a 19-year-old student. Here are four things Colombians said 'No' to.   - No to 'impunity' -   Colombian authorities estimate the conflict has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million...

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    Shakira joins Colombian stars supporting FARC peace deal

    Some of Colombia's most famous artists, athletes and writers, from singer Shakira to soccer star Falcao, are lending their support to the peace accord with Marxist rebels that aims to end a half-century of war. Shakira, along with Juanes and Carlos Vives -- two Colombian musicians popular across the Spanish-speaking world -- sang stirring messages of reconciliation, forgiveness and love after President Juan Manuel Santos signed the peace pact Monday with the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Londono. "As Colombians, our most important mission now is to...

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