Transitional Justice in Times of Conflict: Colombia’s Ley de Justicia y Paz
Lisa J. Laplante & Kimberly Theidon, Transitional Justice in Times of Conflict: Colombia’s Ley de Justicia y Paz, 28 Mich. J. Int'l L. 49 (2006)
60 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2012
Date Written: September 1, 2006
While most transitional justice projects occur following the end of a period of conflict, Colombia chose transitional justice mechanisms pre-post-conflict. Specifically, in July 2005, the country embarked on its own transitional justice project when the Colombian Congress promulgated Ley 975/05 (Law 975/05), the Ley de Justicia y Paz (Justice and Peace Law) even as the country's internal armed conflict continued after years of failed peace negotiations and demobilization efforts with various illegal armed groups. Indeed, prior to the Justice and Peace Law, Colombia began a comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilization and Reinsertion (DDR) program, informed by military and security objectives, and were generally evaluated in terms of technocratic concerns regarding the numbers of combatants enrolled and arms surrendered. However, this article examines how embarking on a transitional justice process in the midst of war changes the nature of DDR, as well as the objectives of transitional justice. Rather than operating in a sequential fashion, Law 975/05 shifted the DDR program onto the terrain of transitional justice and its concerns with issues of memory, truth, justice, redress, and reconciliation. Simultaneously, by explicitly merging DDR and transitional justice, Colombia drew upon the increasingly normative field of transitional justice while contributing an innovative case study: brokering peace through transitional justice mechanisms and staging a transition in the absence of peace accords-indeed, in the midst of war. Their chosen approach provoked intense domestic and international debate on the grounds that it required compromising the increasingly absolute human rights standards of truth, justice, and reparations with the desire to bring a warring faction to the negotiating table. The authors explore how much the Colombian state was willing and able to cede to the paramilitaries while still remaining faithful to international jurisprudence and norms, as well as responding to the demands of a growing victimsurvivors' movement that is well-versed in the transitional justice thinking that has emerged over the last twenty-five years. The authors examine these legal challenges brought against the law in order to explore how absolute human rights standards have come to influence the transitional justice approach, which began as an alternative to these "rigid" principles. The authors propose that the legitimacy of transitional justice lies precisely in the space in which local actors seek to balance legality with politics, the demands of peace with the clamor for justice.
Keywords: Transitional Justice, International Criminal Law, Reparations, DDR, International Law
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