Special Jurisdiction for Peace: Transitional Justice in Colombia

November 23, 2017

On Thursday, November 16, the Perry Center hosted a Hemispheric Forum titled: the Special Jurisdiction for Peace: Transitional Justice in Colombia. Moderated by Dr. Alejandra Bolaños, Perry Center Professor, the panel included Major General Juan Guillermo Garcia Serna, Chief of Military Mission and Delegate of Colombia at the Inter-American Defense Board; Mr. Stephen Johnson, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Republican Institute; and Mr. Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for the Defense Supervision at the Washington office in Latin America.

Major General Garcia Serna served as keynote speaker and presented on the historical context of the Colombian peace process and the November 2016 signing of accords between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Havana, Cuba. Describing the accords as “historic,” Major General Garcia detailed a 30-year peace process that began in 1982 and has included many meetings between representatives of the Government of Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and eventually the National Liberation army (ELN). He described the political evolution of armed movements in Colombia, the implementation of different provisions of the peace accord, and, most importantly, the unique transitional justice process resulting from the accords known as The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).  Adam Isacson observed that “the negotiation was the hardest part of four years,” and parties reached resolution largely because of a broad consensus that Colombia’s situation had to improve. Stephen Johnson echoed that the accords are a big step forward for Colombia but expressed concern that the public is uniformed about the details.

While emphasizing the significance of the peace accord and the JEP, panelists warned about the importance of resolving conflicts that have been brought to the consideration of The International Criminal Court in The Hague. Panelists also agreed that the Government of Colombia is under additional public scrutiny after a failed referendum on an earlier version of the accord. Moreover, while all parties believe Colombia will benefit from ending the decades-long internal conflict, peace dividends are not yet felt by the public on a large scale.

Once the panelists' comments concluded, Dr. Bolaños moderated questions from the audience.  Questions included the hypothetical application of such a transitional justice program in Guatemala and the effect of Colombian peace process implementation on neighboring Venezuela.