Structural impunity in Colombia needs international justice

Structural impunity in Colombia needs international justice

More than 17 years have passed since the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Colombia, the scene of crimes against humanity (1) that have occurred since November 1, 2002, and war crimes (2) that have occurred since November 2009, in the context of a non of a non-international armed conflict between State military forces, paramilitary groups and other organized armed groups.

Thus, since June 2004, the International Criminal Court has received a significant number of communications from social and victims’ organizations that share a concern that remains valid: the violence in Colombia has not ceased, there are still structural and other specific problems that could prevent the initiation or continuity of judicial proceedings with due diligence despite the seriousness of international crimes in qualitative and quantitative terms, and the demands constantly made to the State to comply with its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish all those responsible – especially the most senior – for these crimes are ignored.

If the International Criminal Court decides to close this review and thereby culminate its investigation, it will be up to the Colombian justice system to prove that it has the will to prosecute those most responsible for the serious crimes under review. However, we consider the likelihood of serious, impartial and independent domestic investigations of the cases subject to this review to be nil, given the following concerns that were noted in one of the communications sent to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor in 2020: 

1.The suspension of investigations in the ordinary justice system, which meant a total paralysis of the proceedings against State agents allegedly responsible for crimes or offenses under the jurisdiction of the SJP. Although it is true that this circular was repealed, in practical terms there has been no progress in such proceedings; on the contrary, it is totally valid to state that in an Attorney General’s Office co-opted by the Executive and the interests of the governing party, different maneuvers are attempted to prevent any procedural progress.


2. The Military Criminal Justice has not reported any report or judicial decision to the SJP, nor is there any public record of sending complete information on the cases they hear, despite the fact that it is a constitutional duty. One example is the discovery of graves in the cemetery of Dabeiba (Antioquia) where the bodies of people extrajudicially executed by State combatants had been hidden, and it is noteworthy that the Military Criminal Justice was only aware of 10 processes that did not advance significantly.

3. For the investigations against the commanders and other superiors, it is necessary to define the criteria of the SJP to attribute responsibilities. In this regard, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has reiterated the non-application of International Criminal Law in this matter (3), i.e. that a lower criterion be applied than that established in the Rome Statute, where such responsibility is not limited to knowledge or direct participation in the crime, but rather to the overall behavior of subordinates, or the absence of necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the commission of the crime or its repetition. 

4. There are also serious concerns about contributions to the truth and exclusion from the SJP in scenarios of non-compliance with the conditionality regime to which all those appearing in the 03 macro-case are subject. The appearance before the SJP should be oriented toward clarifying the participation of commanders and superiors in the elaboration and consolidation of the policies that gave rise to the extrajudicial executions. On the contrary, and in particular the highest-ranking witnesses, insist on denying the facts and re-victimizing the victims, hindering progress in terms of justice. 

5. Sexual violence as a weapon of war continues with high rates of impunity in the ordinary jurisdiction and in the Justice and Peace model, which is why the SJP has been requested to open a macro-case that prioritizes sexual violence that occurred in the armed conflict, although this request has not been granted to date.

6. Enormous difficulties persist in the investigation and prosecution of State agents who are not members of the security forces and civilian third parties, as it has been determined that the presentation of these actors before the SJP is voluntary. On the one hand, voluntariness puts the competence of the SJP in jeopardy, and on the other, the inactivity of the ordinary justice system is alarming, which is limited due to the lack of autonomy of the Attorney General’s Office, which must investigate and charge those allegedly responsible, so it is highly likely that impunity will continue for these actors. 

7. The SJP will not be able to investigate a large number of State Agents who are not members of the Public Force -civilian superiors-, since they appear before the Accusations Commission of the House of Representatives, which is the body in charge of hearing investigations against the President of the Republic, the magistrates of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Superior Council of the Judiciary and the Attorney General of the Nation. This constitutes a clear disregard for the standards of International Criminal Law, the official position of these high officials is placed above justice and the rights of the victims and closes the way to the possibility of analyzing their responsibility and effective command control over their subordinates, if they deployed measures to prevent or repress the occurrence of international crimes, if they had information about them and ignored it, and also their negligence in not bringing the matter to the attention of the authorities. 

In that sense, considering the above points and the constant attacks that have been deployed -or that may arise- against justice in Colombia (4), from the Campaign for the Independence of Justice #NobodyOverJustice, individuals, social organizations and human rights platforms signatories, we call on the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to maintain the preliminary examination on Colombia, in which information has been collected that could account for a sufficient reason to carry out a formal investigation. 


The closure of the preliminary examination cannot be interpreted in any way as the product of this government’s commitment to the fight against impunity, but rather as an endorsement by the ICC of the role of the SJP, an entity on whose results it will depend if the examination does not have to be reopened in the future. The serious international crimes committed in Colombia and their structural impunity need international justice. 



  1. These include crimes against humanity such as murder, forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, and rape and other forms of sexual violence, in accordance with Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 


2. These include war crimes such as murder; intentional attacks against civilians; torture; other cruel treatment; outrages upon personal dignity; hostage-taking; rape and other forms of sexual violence; and the use of children to participate actively in hostilities, in accordance with Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

3. In particular, in accordance with Article 28 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

4. President Iván Duque, senior officials of his government and his political party, have initiated a resounding smear campaign that directly attacks the functioning and independence of the JEP, and this corresponds to a key point in their agenda: undermine at all costs the administration of justice, abolish this jurisdiction if possible, or modify central aspects in its structure and operation that directly affect the victims and is an obvious breach of what was agreed in 2016. These attacks have been collected by the Campaign for the Independence of Justice in its most recent report entitled: “Judicial independence in Colombia, at risk by an authoritarian regime“.


Human Rights Platforms

  1.                         Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos
  2.                         Alianza de Organizaciones Sociales y Afines
  3.                         Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo



  1.     Colectivo Sociojurídico Orlando Fals Borda
  2.     Comisión Colombiana de Juristas
  3.     Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento -CODHES-
  4.     Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo
  5.     Viva la Ciudadanía
  6.     Asonal Judicial S.I.
  7.     Colombia Human Rights Committee
  8.     Corporación Reiniciar
  9.     Fasol
  10.   ANDAS – Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria, Capítulo Huila
  12.   Asociación MINGA
  13.   Asociación red de mujeres víctimas y profesionales
  14.   Asojuntas Comuna 10 Estación Gutiérrez Dosquebradas Risaralda
  15.   ASOMUDEM
  16.   Campaña Internacional por la Defensa de las Cortes y la Democracia
  17.   Ciudadanías por la Paz de Colombia
  18.   Colombia humana saint HYACINTHE
  19.   Comunal
  20.   Conciliadores En Equidad
  21.   Convergencia Internacional -NY
  22.   Corporación Conciudadanía
  23.   Corporación Cultural para el desarrollo Arlequín y los Juglares
  24.   CPDH Colombia
  25.   DESDE ADENTRO Grupo Socio Cultural
  26.   Escuela Derecho Propio Laureano Inampues
  27.   FCSPP Atlántico
  28.   Foro Nacional por Colombia
  29.   Fundación víctimas de estado desaparición Forzada ddhh (FVEDFDH)
  30.   JAC Olarte
  31.   MOVICE Meta
  33.   Polo Democrático Alternativo
  34.   Red De Mujeres Nodo Caldas
  35.   Sintraime la jagua
  36.   Sintravidricol
  37.   Vamos Cundinamarca
  38. Grupo de Litigio Estratégico Carlos Gaviria Díaz de la Escuela de Derecho UIS
  39. Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria ANDAS
  40. Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
  41. Coalición contra la vinculación de niños, niñas y jóvenes al conflicto armado en Colombia (COALICO)
  42. Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos – CSPP
  43. Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado
  44. Corporación Claretiana Norman Pérez Bello
  45. Plataforma de organizaciones sociales, de víctimas y defensa de los Derechos Humanos Nariño
  46. Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
  47. Asociación Urabá Global Suiza Colombia
  48. Nexus Human Rights
  49. Asociación Urabá Global Suiza Colombia
  50. Plataforma de Organizaciones Sociales, de Víctimas y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos Nariño


  1.     Adriana María Diosa Colorado, Corporación Cultural para el desarrollo Arlequín y los Juglares
  2.     Ana Aracelly Hoyos Gómez, Ciudadanía
  3.     Andrea Toro, Colombia humana
  4.     Anton Castro, Partido FARC
  5.     Beatriz Durango Hernández, Ciudadanía
  6.     Blanca Valdelamar Navarro, Conciliadores En Equidad
  7.     Boris Orjuela, Colectivo OFB
  8.     Carlos Arturo Correa Páez, Ciudadanía
  9.     Claudia Campo Cisneros, JAC Olarte
  10.   Cristian Oswaldo Quintero Rincon, Vamos Cundinamarca
  11.   Diana Sánchez Lara, Asociación MINGA
  12.   Eduardo Bustamante, Asamblea Provincial Constituyente Del Oriente Antioqueño
  13.   Enrique Rico, Docente Pensionado
  14.   Fernando Matamoros Castiblanco, Ciudadanía
  15.   Jairo Alberto Guerrero Davila, Escuela Derecho Propio Laureano Inampues
  16.   Jesus Rodriguez De Las Salas, Sinproseg
  17.   José David Ortega Ruiz , ASCSUCOR
  18.   Joselito Rojas Rico, Asonal Judicial S.I.
  19.   Juan Sebastián Quintero Cabrera , Universidad Nacional
  20.   Julia De Castro Andrade, Ciudadana
  21.   Julio Cesar Bonilla Mosquera, Líderes Barriales
  22.   Leidy Jhoana Dávila Cano, Universidad de Antioquia
  23.   Leonor Cortés Bolívar , Colombia Humana
  24.   Luisa Antonia Serrano Gómez , Persona
  25.   Luisa María Muñoz López, Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo
  26.   Luz Mery Velasquez Carmona , DESDE ADENTRO Grupo Socio Cultural
  27.   Maria Cecilia Lozano, ASOMUDEM
  28.   Maria Cepeda Castro, Vamos Por Los Derechos Internacional
  29.   Maria Jesus Cedeño Sarmiento, FCSPP Atlántico
  30.   Maria Teresa Muñoz , Foro Nacional por Colombia
  31.   Martha Rincón, Colombia humana saint HYACINTHE
  32.   Maureén Maya, Piero x la paz
  33.   Mildreth Solandy Hernández Rodríguez, Juventudes Unidas por la Sostenibilidad del Planeta
  34.   Natalie Callejas, NA
  35.   Nívea Esperanza Dorado Guerrero, Independiente
  36.   Nixa Wguerddy Triana Balaguera, UNAL
  37.   Ramiro Antonio Sandoval, Convergencia Internacional -NY
  38.   Rosario Montoya Hoyos, Ceac
  39.   Saúl Felipe Malagón Maldonado, Cajar
  40.   Sonia Racines Velásquez, Comunal
  41.   Stella Cano, Escuela de Paz Eje Cafetero
  42. Victoria Sandino Simanca Herrera, Senadora Partido Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común
  43.   Vilma Gutiérrez Mendez, MOVICE Meta
  44.   Wilfer Antonio Vergara García, Realizador radial Emisora Cultural U deA
  45.   Willman Parraci Peña , ANDAS – Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria, Capítulo Huila
  46.   Wilson Borja Díaz, Polo Democrático Alternativo
  47.   Wilson Montoya Castro, Sintravidricol

Read all the signatures here.

Add your signature here.

Web | + posts
Share This