No One to Trust highlighted that impunity remains a core problem and challenge in Colombia, despite a relatively robust legal framework. Fear of stigmatization or retaliation prevents many survivors and witnesses of rape and sexual violence from reporting the violence or seeking assistance, in particular when the perpetrators are members of the State’s security forces, as illustrated by the Arauca case. In September 2012, two years after the crimes were committed and despite numerous set-backs in the prosecution of this case, sub-lieutenant Raul Munoz Linares was convicted for the rape and murder of three minors and sentenced to 60 years of imprisonment – the maximum punishment allowed by Colombian law.
In November 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) released its first interim report, since it opened its preliminary examination on Colombia. Since 2006, the ICC has been closely following investigations and proceedings in Colombia against paramilitary leaders, politicians, guerrilla leaders and military personnel for alleged crimes that could fall under the jurisdiction of the Court. . Watchlist’s report No One to Trust is cited in articles 145, 147 and 151 of the ICC interim report under the section entitled ‘Alleged war crimes committed by non-State Actors’, which focuses on the conscription of child soldiers, tactics used by armed groups to recruit child soldiers and cases of sexual violence against young girls. The report notes the slow pace of criminal proceedings for serious crimes in Colombia, but considers that this does not necessarily indicate a lack of willingness or ability on the part of Colombian judicial authorities to carry out such prosecutions. Among the focus areas of further examination by the OTP are the “Legal Framework for Peace” (see below), new illegal armed groups and proceedings relating to sexual crimes.
Additionally, on 14 June 2012 the Colombian Senate approved the ‘Legal Framework for Peace’ [click here for full text in Spanish], a temporary constitutional amendment that outlines principles of transitional justice to be followed in the event of a peace process with guerilla groups. It allows the Colombian Congress to establish selection criteria to prioritize criminal prosecution of those “most responsible” for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and to allow for non-judicial/alternative sentences, suspension of sentences and for the conditional stay of prosecution for all other cases. It also stipulates that any such special treatment is contingent on admission of responsibility, contribution to the establishment of the truth, full victim reparation, laydown of arms and release by the concerned group of all hostages and children recruited. Transitional justice measures would be applicable to both members of the armed forces and of guerrilla groups. Hailed by transitional justice activists, the law still faced some criticism both in country and internationally for potentially allowing numerous perpetrators to be exempted from criminal prosecution. It remains to be seen how the Colombian Congress would approach the prioritization of criminal prosecutions, should it be in a position to pass a law putting the ‘Legal Framework for Peace’ into practice.