Colombia: The International Criminal Court Has Left, Who Will Save Us Now?
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
31 October 2021
Photo: G.O.L (sign spells out Never Forget)
There is a long tradition amongst NGOs, sectors of the reformist left, trade unionists and others in Colombia that someone outside the country will save us. The saviours are the North Americans (despite their role in the conflict), the European Union (despite their role as well and that of their companies), and international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, or the mechanisms set up in the peace accord (national ones but financed internationally). So, the decision by the ICC to shut down its preliminary investigation of Colombia was like a bucket of cold water to them. But it was to be expected.
When Obama was elected as US president, various journalists and representatives of the left and NGOs announced that he would solve Colombia’s problems and now they have come back to say the same about Biden. A constant feature of this discourse of seeking a foreign saviour is the possibility of taking Uribe (not his Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos) to the ICC. They sold a false hope to the victims of the state that there they could obtain justice. They knew it was unlikely, as they knew what the ICC was like and its’ not very encouraging record in the matter.
To date the ICC has only convicted African leaders. It is not the case that these African leaders are saints or innocent, but rather that the ICC does not go after other criminals. It has procrastinated for many years on its case against Israel and has no authority to investigate the USA. The courts website currently indicates that it has 15 ongoing preliminary investigations, ten of them in African countries and five others in Georgia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and the state of Palestine. This last case will not succeed, of that we can be certain. It has pursued a total of 30 people, resulting in 4 convictions.(1) The ICC is the opium of the people, it has a soporific effect on people in the midst of their struggles and the NGOs promise Heaven and Divine Justice in a coming future.
There were diverse reactions to the decision to shut down the preliminary investigation. Whilst the victims of the False Positives criticised the decision, others such as Senator Iván Cepeda, Eamon Gilmore the EU envoy to the peace process celebrated it. The Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) lamented the decision, though in a very confusing manner. It continued to praise the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), when it is precisely the existence of the JEP that the ICC used as an excuse to shut down the case.(2)
Iván Cepeda stated that:
A direct consequence of the agreement signed by Duque’s government with the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is that once and for all the possibility of reforming the JEP has been discarded. It puts an end to that obsessive aim of the Uribistas. A victory for the peace process.(3)A few years ago, he would have denounced the closure of the case as an act of impunity and now he claims it is a victory. As the Greek philosopher Plutarch put it Another victory like this and all will be lost. Many of us denounced the impunity of the JEP, little did we think that not only would it guarantee impunity in the trials it deals with or excludes from its remit, but that its very existence would be the perfect excuse to shut down international cases against the regime. But the peace acolytes are determined to announce their defeat as a victory.
Photo: G.O.L. protestors holding aloft photos of those murdered and disappeared.
It seems that Senator Gustavo Petro didn’t have much to say about the matter and neither did Senator Alexander López either. Piedad Córdoba, however, echoed the statements of Iván Cepeda and said:
They took issue with the JEP and tried to cut its budget, discredit it, dirty propaganda and all in order to cover their own backs. Today the ICC forced the government to strengthen it.(4)It is clear that there are those who in the name of peace would justify any defeat, including a defeat of a proposal they themselves promoted. So, the ICC will not proceed against Colombia, but relax, we have the JEP where the military who, unlike the guerrillas, do not have to tell the whole truth about their crimes and where the businesspeople are excluded.
Of course, the president of the JEP, who once upon a time was the NGOs’ favourite said that he was very pleased with the ICC decision. According to Cifuentes the closure of the investigation against Colombia is a victory won by the JEP,(5) i.e. those who for many years talked about how the ICC was going to put the Colombian state in its place, now tell us that the fact the ICC will not proceed against Colombia is a victory. I really find it difficult to understand their logic, or better still I can’t understand their shamelessness. In the name of their pathetic peace accord, they justify everything and describe it as a victory. Poor Plutarch. If he had to deal with the leaders of the supposed left in Colombia today he would have been more vulgar, but he died many centuries ago, so allow me Plutarch, Another victory like this and the turncoats will be making money like never before.
So, to answer the question posed by this article, who will save us? The answer is no one, or rather, the Colombian people will save themselves, there are no international institutions, nor presidents in other countries who are going to fix the crisis that country has suffered for decades. The only ones who will put Uribe, Santos, Pastrana, Samper and the others in jail are the Colombians.
Next year is an electoral year and some of those who told us the ICC would do miracles and now celebrate the slap in the face it gave to the victims will be candidates. They will promise a thousand miracles and when some foreign institution or president says no, they will celebrate it and try to convince us that the defeat was a victory. Changing the saying by Mao, they go from victory to victory to final defeat. Plutarch is as relevant today as ever.
(1) Information on cases can be consulted at https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Home.aspx
(2) RCN (29/10/2021) Falsos positivos: víctimas rechazan cierre del caso contra Colombia en Corte Penal Internacional https://www.rcnradio.com/judicial/falsos-positivos-victimas-rechazan-cierre-del-caso-contra-colombia-en-corte-penal
(5) Wradrio (29/10/2021) Gracias la JEP cierran el examen preliminar de la CPI: Eduardo Cifuentes https://www.wradio.com.co/noticias/actualidad/justicia-de-la-jep-esta-dando-resultados-dice-su-presidente/20211029/nota/4174696.aspx