International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

¿La paz o la justicia para Colombia?

Last week saw the unfolding of two seemingly unrelated—yet intrinsically linked—events in the field of international justice: First, the commencement of formal peace negotiations between the Colombian government and leadership of the FARC guerillas; and second, the opening of the ICC’s eleventh Session of the Assembly of States Parties. While approximately 4,800 miles separate Havana from The Hague, the topics of discussion at ICC facilities in the Netherlands will have some bearing on the talks taking place in Cuba.

As asserted by Paul Seils, vice president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, this preliminary step towards ceasing violence and embracing peace in Colombia brings to light the multifaceted nature of the long-standing conflict—and the immense challenges that will accompany such a process. That being said, a successful transition to a state of relative peace in Colombia could have far-reaching positive implications for Latin America as a whole. Nevertheless, attempting to resolve such a structurally embedded conflict (in terms of the many strata of Colombian government and society that are involved, openly or otherwise) calls attention to the ever-present tension between peace and justice. Seils makes note of the unique definition of peace in the case of Colombia—the centerpiece of which is “establishing a credible state where the rule of law applies to all”—and this further tangles the web of attempting to attain peace while providing justice (both of which as a means of stability for the war-ravaged nation). How can stability and faith in the rule of law be restored without some sort of judicial proceedings?  At the same time, however, how will the threat of prosecution (on the international and/or the domestic level)—for those on all sides of conflict—factor into (and perhaps hinder) peace negotiations?

Meanwhile, this tension between peace and justice is on the agenda for discussion at the ICC’s Session of the Assembly of States Parties. It will be interesting to see what stance relatively new Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda takes (especially in comparison to that of her predecessor, the somewhat controversial Luis Moreno-Ocampo) and how that will affect the situation in Colombia and similar situations elsewhere in the world. While justice in Colombia, for example, may very well be pursued (if pursued at all) through means other than the ICC, her opinion (as a leading figure in the field of international justice) and actions as a result of that will most likely come to have bearings on the pursuit of transitional justice in all forums.

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