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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BOGOTA10392 2005-11-04 15:09:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

VICE PRESIDENT ON "POST-CONFLICT"; PROMINENT

Tags:   PGOV PTER CO FARC AUC 
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1. (C) Vice president Francisco Santos said at a restorative
justice conference November 2 that Colombia's paramilitary
demobilization process was a "post-conflict situation"
requiring deft management if Colombia was to avoid "the
problems of Central America or the Southern Cone" on crime
and human rights. Former vice Justice Minister Rafael Nieto
explained the political context in which the Congress
approved the Justice and Peace law, defended in broad terms
its provisions, and argued that a future FARC "peace deal"
would almost certainly involve "less justice and more
impunity" than the paramilitary peace process. End summary.



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Santos: Task is to Manage Post-Conflict Situation


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2. (C) Santos opened the "restorative justice" seminar by
saying Colombia's task was to manage a post-conflict
situation to avoid suffering "the problems of Central America
or the Southern Cone" on crime and human rights. Referring
to two seminar participants who formerly served on South
Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he said
Colombia is a democracy that is anxious to learn from the
experiences of other countries which have gone through
comparable post-conflict experiences. He said the GOC's goal
was the "absolute and total" dismantling of paramilitary
structures. Colombia had to "punish perpetrators and make
victims whole," he said. Santos rejected the view that the
Justice and Peace law was "a law of total impunity," and
predicted that "in the not too distant future" the FARC would
seek to take advantage of it. The vice president said the
GOC would make a major effort to explain the Justice and
Peace law's reconciliation and reparations objectives through
a series of regional seminars that the National Commission on
Reparations and Reconciliation would carry out. Santos urged
participants "not to doubt the goodwill of the government" as
it pursued peace talks with the paramilitaries or other armed
groups.



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Context: Paras Not Defeated on Battlefield


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3. (C) Former vice Justice Minister Rafael Nieto said the
Justice and Peace law could not be understood without an
appreciation for the fact that the State did not defeat the
paramilitaries on the battlefield and therefore had to make
compromises. The law reflects a tension between the needs of
peace (a reduction in violence) and the goals of truth,
justice, and reparations. The government's task was to
fashion an agreement that achieved the maximum justice and
truth without fracturing the peace process.



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Law Not Perfect, but Strong and Worth Supporting


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4. (C) In Nieto's view, the Justice and Peace law has more
justice and less impunity than any previous Colombian peace
process (all of which involved leftist guerrillas) and, he
suggested, any future peace process with the FARC. He
predicted that a future FARC peace deal would have "less
justice and more impunity" than the current paramilitary
peace process. The law was not perfect, but is strong and
worth supporting, he said.



5. (C) Nieto argued that the law's incentives strongly
suggest Colombia will hear more "truth" than critics expect.
He said paramilitaries run a serious risk of being
investigated and charged for crimes to which they do not
confess during their "version libre" statements because there
is no statute of limitations on gross human rights
violations. They can never be sure that information from
governments and NGOs about their atrocities would not catch
up with them one day. Nieto said the law provides for such
prosecutions under the regular criminal justice system, which
includes lengthy sentences.



6. (C) Paramilitaries who are sentenced under the law cannot
hold elective office, Nieto said. He explained that such
people have by definition been convicted of crimes of such
magnitude that they are not "pardonable." Such crimes
include kidnapping, genocide, torture, narcotics trafficking,
and certain intentional homicides. In addition, under
provisions of the Colombian Constitution, people with
convictions that are not "pardonable" are explicitly barred
from holding elective office.


7. (C) Nieto discounted the view that paramilitaries would
be able to "legitimize" or "launder" their illegally-obtained
properties through the Justice and Peace law. He said it
would have been preferable to be explicit in the law on how
to identify and confiscate such properties, but argued that
Colombia's law on seizing illegally-obtained assets
("extincion de dominio") would ensure that paramilitaries
could not sleep safely as long as they held illicit property.
The "extincion de dominio" provisions would follow
paramilitaries in the same way that regular justice system
would follow them in cases in which they did not confess to
crimes, he said.



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Extradition Essential to Keep Pressure On Paras


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8. (C) Nieto insisted that the threat (and reality) of
extradition, in particular to the U.S., was essential to keep
the paramilitaries focused on the demobilization process.
Most paramilitaries prefer eight years in a Colombian jail to
40 years in a U.S. cell. Without the extradition "Sword of
Damocles" hanging over their heads, paramilitaries would not
be in a rush to demobilize, in Nieto's view.



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Comment


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9. (C) We continue to do what we can to discourage premature
"post-conflict" talk.
WOOD