Just desserts

December 2014, Former President Alvaro Uribe leads a march against FARC impunity. Photo: URREGU CC BY-SA 4.0
December 2014, Former President Alvaro Uribe leads a march against FARC impunity. Photo: URREGU CC BY-SA 4.0

Adriaan Alsema argues that ‘Peace without impunity’ is a double-edged sword


Since peace talks began in 2012, former President and now Senator Alvaro Uribe has tirelessly demanded that the talks do not give impunity to those who committed crimes during Colombia’s armed conflict. He should have been careful what he wished for.

Thanks to a keen Prosecutor General, the former head of state is getting exactly what he wanted.

When Uribe rightly urged his successor, President Juan Manuel Santos, to not entertain the idea of impunity for the FARC guerrilla leadership in light of the thousands of crimes they have committed, the ex-president forgot that Lady Justice is blind and that real justice is (or at least should be) served on both sides of the conflict.

The hashtag #pazsinimpunidad that Uribe’s party has used to rally supporters to demand justice via Twitter is easily hijacked by his political rivals, to demand justice for Uribe’s own victims.

However, the former President’s self-righteous arrogance has blinded him. It has impeded him from seeing the multiple crimes that were committed under his watch,  under his own responsibility.

The charges against Uribe are simply too many to count, probably because in his many political roles, the ex-president has completely ignored the law. You might get away with this in a society where there’s a high tolerance for impunity, but you do not get away with it anymore once impunity is successfully curbed.

If my calculations are correct, the former president has more than 100 pending investigations against him for crimes allegedly committed during his eight years in the Presidential Palace, and at least one while he was governor of Antioquia. These include investigations into his alleged ties to terrorist groups, ties to drug cartels, illegal spying on Supreme Court judges, and bribing congressmen, just to name a few.

The latest probe, ordered by General Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre last week, is investigating Uribe’s alleged role in the massacre of 15 small farmers at the hands of paramilitaries in Antioquia while he was governor there. He stands accused of lending a military helicopter out to the gunmen which was then used to shoot victims down from the air.

Once Uribe recognizes his own responsibility for the suffering he brought on thousands of Colombians in the context of the armed conflict, he will convincingly be able to call “for peace without impunity.”

Because let’s be fair. If Colombia’s justice system finally does decide to seriously prosecute Uribe, but stops there, justice would only be partially served, and impunity would effectively be granted.

Let’s not forget that there’s still plenty to investigate about the role of Santos as Defense Minister, and Vice President German Vargas as boss of one of Colombia’s most paramilitary-ridden parties of the past decade.

Impunity is an issue, just not in regards to the FARC. International courts have set clear limits to amnesty arrangements, especially when dealing with terrorism. I imagine that the FARC understands this very well and if they don’t, reality will make them understand.

In a country like Colombia, the likelihood of getting away with your crimes is afforded those who have been part of the political establishment, people like Uribe, Santos and Vargas. The chances of any one of those three spending a day in prison is virtually nil.


Adriaan-ColombiaReportsAdriaan Alsema is the founder and editor-in-chief of Colombia Reports, South America’s largest news website in English. Born and raised a Dutchman, Alsema has been living in Colombia since 2008.

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