Over 13,000 Colombia businessmen, ranchers and other civilians who allegedly financed or helped paramilitary groups now face an elite prosecution task force, led by the Prosecutor General himself.
According to news and opinion website Las2Orillas, this elite task force will be targeting those who allegedly funded the groups that ended up committing tens of thousands of human rights violations, including homicide and rape.
The task force will be separated into eight regional teams and is directed by Interim Prosecutor General Jorge Perdomo.
The group was formed after a judge from Medellin urged the Prosecutor General’s Office to speed up the prosecution process tens years after the last block of paramilitary organization AUC formally demobilized.
The now-defunct AUC, Colombia’s largest illegal armed group in modern history, was partially supported by politicians, landowners, and businesses such as international fruit giant Chiquita.
Dubbed a terrorist organization, the AUC is responsible for countless cases of kidnappings, rape, massacres, drug trafficking and displacement.
Dozens of politicians have already landed in prison and tens of thousands of alleged fighters have gone through a transitional justice process. However, those in the private sector have largely remained out of the prosecution’s sight.
AUC fighters who demobilized and cooperated with justice authorities were granted including a maximum prison sentence of eight years and exemption from extradition to the US.
The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos is currently negotiating peace with the leftist FARC and ELN rebel groups that would include a second transitional justice system that would benefit anyone liable for war crimes.
Unless civilians are able to access this transitional justice system, they could risk much higher penalties before civilian courts or even the International Criminal Court.
The prosecution apparently seeks to extend those same benefits to civilians and business officials charged with supporting paramilitary activity, and has urged those who colluded with the AUC to step forward.
The AUC was formed from numerous paramilitary groups in 1997 initially as an illegal armed group to defend private property against guerrilla attacks. However, the far-right group is also accused of assassinating numerous left-leaning and even centrist politicians and civilians.