Jailed paramilitaries request open dialogue with Santos

Extradited paramilitary leaders ask to resume an open dialogue with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and call for the government to continue the peace and reconciliation process with victims of the country’s ongoing armed conflict.

A group of former AUC leaders, among them former second-in-command Salvatore Mancuso, sent an open letter from the United States to the Colombian government requesting that transitional justice efforts to address past human rights abuses continue and that the jailed paramilitaries be involved in this process.

The letter, dated April 30, accused the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe of causing an “abrupt halt” to the peace process that was introduced in 2005 with the Justice and Peace Law that seeks to restore a measure of justice and restoration to Colombia’s victims of armed conflict.

“President Juan Manuel Santos knows directly our full and complete willingness to continue working with the construction of peace and reconciliation in the context of transitional justice, faithful to the principles of Truth and Reparations, caring for the victims of armed conflict and sworn to not repeat in Colombia what has been played out again through the disastrous cycle of victims and victimizers,” the letter stated.

Colombia’s Justice and Peace law has been controversial since its inception in 2005 due to fears that it would benefit human rights abusers and increase impunity in the country. The law–which the government started to revise in September– intends to assist the peace process in Colombia by granting procedural benefits to paramilitaries who agree to demobilize.

A proposed constitutional reform garnered criticism from NGO Human Rights Watch Tuesday for allowing “impunity for heinous human rights violations” committed by former paramilitaries who would be allowed to run for office if they have demobilized.

A proposed constitutional reform permitting former paramilitaries to run for office if they have demobilized, garnered criticism from NGO Human Rights Watch Tuesday for allowing “impunity for heinous human rights violations.”

The change to the constitution would also give Colombian courts the option to suspend sentences of human rights abusers if they cooperate with the government, although the exact circumstances under which this could occur were not made clear, according to the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, Jose Manuel Vivanco.

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