Colombia: Forced Displacement and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace

Crimes Against Humanity (1)

Marialejandra Moreno Mantilla (CILRAP- CMN), Carolina Albornoz (Centro Distrital de Memoria Histórica) and Pablo Abitbol (Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar).

Marialejandra Moreno Mantilla presents the relevance of case mapping, selection and prioritisation in panel discussion

Between 1-2 February 2018, CMN joined CODHES (‘Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento’), Avocats Sans Frontieres (‘Abogados Sin Fronteras Canadá’), other human rights non-governmental organizations, cooperation agencies and State institutions at the Panel Discussion on Forced Displacement and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Truth Clarification Commission held in Bogotá, Colombia. The event addressed key issues and challenges facing the judicial and extrajudicial accountability mechanisms under the peace agreement for the widespread forcible displacement of civilian populations. Marialejandra Moreno Mantilla (CMN Associate Adviser) shared CMN’s approach to case mapping, selection and prioritisation as a methodology for consideration by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) and the Truth Clarification Commission (‘Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición’, CEV).

The Relevance of Mapping, Selection and Prioritisation of Forced Displacement

Almost 8 million people have been forcibly displaced during the Colombian conflict (Victims Registry (‘Registro Único de Víctimas’)): approximately 40% of the victimisation has occurred in Nariño, Cauca, Chocó and Valle del Cauca while forced displacement continues to occur in Antioquia, Norte de Santander, Caquetá, Tolima, Huila and Putumayo. The Victims Registry has grouped the victims into approximately 2.5 million incidents (organised by household and forced displacement events), however with limited temporal mandates and human resources, the SJP (10 years with a 5-year extension, and 38 magistrates) and the CEV (3 years, and 12 commissioners) will inevitably need to prioritise the cases that they pursue. As an example – if the SJP retained exclusive jurisdiction over these incidents, each magistrate would need to complete 365 cases a month over a 15-year mandate.

In this context, Marialejandra Moreno Mantilla introduced the importance of a coherent case selection and prioritisation methodology to balance the high scale of forced displacement violations, the need for accountability and the constraints of the SJP and the CEV. The relevance of understanding what case mapping, selection and prioritisation entails was emphasised from the outset: to ensure that the most suitable cases go to trial first on the basis of mapping the totality of victimisation and application of formal criteria. Moreover, as an objective process, it does not imply deselection of cases or selectivity based on bias, prejudices and discriminatory grounds, but instead aims to address these challenges by enabling the totality of victimisation in any conflict to be addressed in a politically and socially sensitive way. For this purpose, three issues were raised.

First, the precondition to map the totality of victimisation including the cataloguing of open case files and the need to adopt formal criteria was emphasised. Mapping constitutes the most important prerequisite for case selection and prioritisation as it ensures that the cases selected are representative of the totality of victimisation. This process implies a factual and legal review of open case files and registered complaints and a subsequent compilation of an inventory. This enables a comprehensive review of the factual circumstances of the conflict, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the extent of criminality while informing the choice of specific indicators of the selection and prioritisation criteria to ensure that selected and prioritised cases are representative.

Second, the importance of consistent but flexible prioritisation or selection was emphasised, as one of several guiding principles to objective case mapping, selection and prioritisation. Flexible criteria allow the process to embrace new realities and to consider changing needs and interests from victims and society in general. Additionally, the allocation of cases between the SJP and CEV should be clear and pursued through a transparent process.

In this regard, the importance of outreach to affected communities on the case selection and prioritisation process should take place, to address its objectivity as well as to assuage concerns and suspicions. Outreach and divulgation on the process and the criteria provides transparency to the process and fosters credibility and legitimacy thereof. Furthermore, it creates the space to understand the changes in needs and interests of the victims regarding case selection and prioritisation.

Lastly, CMN’s model criteria for the selection and prioritisation of cases was introduced: gravity of the offence, objective representativity, and policy and practical considerations.. When applied together, these criteria provide an essential safeguard to ensure that the cases taken forward are reflective of the total criminality and that they are not discriminatory or unfair, or provide de facto impunity for certain offences, perpetrator groups or victimized groups.

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Other topics addressed included integrity, methodology, fiscal sustainability and victims’ participation in the ‘Integral System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-repetition’

Relevant topics addressed throughout the day included the effectiveness and integrity of the System, victims’ participation, participative methodologies of investigation and clarification, fiscal sustainability, and alternative sources of funding for the system. The event included the participation of members of different victims’ groups and organisations, who raised questions about their inclusion in the SJP and the CEV. The need for the understanding of concepts of truth, memory, history, territory and gender and other differential approaches in relation to forced displacement and its massive scale of violations in the Colombian context was highlighted throughout the event.

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