Commissioners: James L. Cavallaro, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez

Petitioners: Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con Presos Políticos (FCSPP), Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), Corporación Jurídica Libertad (CJL), Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CPDH), Corporación Reiniciar, Movimiento de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado (MOVICE), Corporación Jurídica Yira Castro, Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ), Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJYP), Grupo Interdisciplinario Por los Derechos Humanos (GIDH), Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos (CCEEU)

State: Colombia

Petitioners argued the importance of the guarantees of non-repetition under international standards within a context of the implementation of the recently signed peace accords. Particularly, the petitioners stressed the specific measures required to combat paramilitary groups and investigate the role of State agents in human rights violations.

Jomary Ortegon, a representative of CAJAR, argued that the guarantees of non-repetition are a fundamental right for all victims of the armed conflict and society in general.  They promote the creation of structural changes and necessary governmental reforms to attack the problems that created or exacerbated the conflict. In addition, Ms. Ortegon explained the role of guarantees in avoiding the occurrence of new crimes such as forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions.

The petitioners explained how peace accords in different countries have incorporated specific guarantees of non-repetition and reforms to the state’s armed forces as part of the agreements. Specifically, the petitioners argued that five measures should be further discussed as the state implements the Peace Accord: the reduction of the state’s armed forces and adjustments to its military jurisdiction in accordance with international standards; guarantees of participation and social mobilization; documentation policies based on international recommendations to preserve historic memory; reforms and the evaluation of public agencies; and the revision of the state’s security doctrine to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.

Franklyn Castañeda, a representative of FCSPP, emphasized the importance of addressing three topics: the continuity of paramilitary activity and the government’s systematic denial of paramilitary groups, the increased violence against civilian and human rights defenders by paramilitary groups, and the necessary plan to dismantle paramilitary groups.

Mr. Castañeda also stressed that there are specific provisions within the recently signed peace accords that address the issue of paramilitary groups, which have not been initiated or implemented. He provided examples of the government’s fallacies regarding these provisions, including the absence of an independent special unit to investigate and prosecute members of paramilitary groups.

Danilo Rueda, a representative of CIJYP, argued that paramilitary groups are able to operate due to complicity, omissions and tolerance by private and state actors. Mr. Rueda provided specific situations in which illegal armed groups are operating in several departments of the state. The petitioners requested immediate measures including the creation of the special investigation unit, a judicial opinion by the IACHR based on Article 28 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the investigation of civilians who benefited from paramilitary groups.

The State’s representatives explained that the first step taken towards guarantees of non-repetition is the peace process itself. The representatives provided specific examples of positive advancements and expressed the State’s willingness to increase security measures in problematic places. They expressed the importance on prioritizing measures based on social and economic rights that contribute to guarantees of non-repetition. The State reaffirmed its commitment to address impunity and develop strategic plans aimed at investigating and combating paramilitary groups and illicit activity related to drug trafficking.

The Commissioners recognized Colombia’s efforts to implement guarantees of non-repetition based on the peace accords. Commissioner Orozco Henríquez expressed his interest in listening to the petitioners’ perspective on the measures indicated by the State. He indicated that the State would have to clarify whether third parties, private actors and State agents have also been investigated in connection to paramilitary activity. Further, he requested clarification on the operation and development of the special investigation unit. Commissioners Orozco Henríquez and De Troitiño expressed concern on the stigmatization of human rights defenders based on the petitioners’ claims and asked for further clarification on this subject.

Author’s Legal Analysis

The Inter-American System, through its jurisprudence, established general guarantees of non-repetition. Recently, the Inter-American system addressed guarantees of non-repetition under international standards during its determination that El Salvador’s Amnesty Law was incompatible with international obligations. Colombia has the obligation to adopt and implement guarantees of non-repetition that conform to international standards and in a timely manner.

The Inter-American System established the concurrent application of human rights’ standards and obligations of international humanitarian law principles. Article 28 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court addresses the responsibility of commanders and other superiors. Colombia ratified the Rome Statute in 2002. As a party to the Rome Statute, Colombia has the obligation to investigate the criminal responsibility of commanders and other superiors.