Berliner Boersenzeitung - 'Sowing peace'? Colombia program for war criminals stokes debate

EUR -
AED 3.985014
AFN 77.867561
ALL 100.40975
AMD 420.238869
ANG 1.95399
AOA 920.431634
ARS 966.428532
AUD 1.635077
AWG 1.955632
AZN 1.843369
BAM 1.955918
BBD 2.189113
BDT 127.16766
BGN 1.955254
BHD 0.408936
BIF 3112.102187
BMD 1.084955
BND 1.463942
BOB 7.491451
BRL 5.575715
BSD 1.084205
BTN 90.113135
BWP 14.73043
BYN 3.548145
BYR 21265.124859
BZD 2.185412
CAD 1.482386
CDF 3048.724854
CHF 0.992279
CLF 0.035632
CLP 983.207988
CNY 7.857256
CNH 7.875593
COP 4193.070339
CRC 555.853974
CUC 1.084955
CUP 28.751317
CVE 110.274183
CZK 24.646604
DJF 193.038744
DKK 7.461694
DOP 63.8462
DZD 145.954755
EGP 50.883971
ERN 16.27433
ETB 62.294849
FJD 2.417502
FKP 0.863732
GBP 0.851722
GEL 2.940138
GGP 0.863732
GHS 15.774023
GIP 0.863732
GMD 73.532834
GNF 9319.90497
GTQ 8.421779
GYD 226.824708
HKD 8.47457
HNL 26.792602
HRK 7.572941
HTG 144.143996
HUF 384.171294
IDR 17431.977608
ILS 3.974137
IMP 0.863732
INR 90.133643
IQD 1420.185542
IRR 45649.496765
ISK 149.929765
JEP 0.863732
JMD 169.676476
JOD 0.769125
JPY 170.106884
KES 144.027677
KGS 95.428007
KHR 4422.429421
KMF 494.360114
KPW 976.459486
KRW 1480.864244
KWD 0.332995
KYD 0.903454
KZT 480.178923
LAK 23205.253247
LBP 97088.727387
LKR 324.781537
LRD 210.020206
LSL 20.05008
LTL 3.203591
LVL 0.656279
LYD 5.25351
MAD 10.814151
MDL 19.233868
MGA 4804.466517
MKD 61.620699
MMK 2276.821081
MNT 3743.095712
MOP 8.724485
MRU 43.11671
MUR 50.201119
MVR 16.773526
MWK 1879.782528
MXN 18.096893
MYR 5.108514
MZN 68.948252
NAD 20.050208
NGN 1593.21395
NIO 39.903875
NOK 11.472909
NPR 144.182
NZD 1.770273
OMR 0.417534
PAB 1.084165
PEN 4.053044
PGK 4.213409
PHP 63.026681
PKR 301.608486
PLN 4.253527
PYG 8154.791836
QAR 3.950862
RON 4.976041
RSD 117.176246
RUB 99.409067
RWF 1425.73844
SAR 4.069233
SBD 9.195197
SCR 14.866069
SDG 652.057901
SEK 11.560009
SGD 1.464408
SHP 1.370787
SLE 24.788303
SLL 22750.972231
SOS 619.509821
SRD 35.016387
STD 22456.385228
SVC 9.486571
SYP 2725.982708
SZL 19.932936
THB 39.646428
TJS 11.687104
TMT 3.808193
TND 3.383705
TOP 2.563261
TRY 34.958113
TTD 7.362443
TWD 34.908422
TZS 2810.0345
UAH 43.517226
UGX 4125.267488
USD 1.084955
UYU 41.723859
UZS 13782.766658
VEF 3930307.752755
VES 39.601678
VND 27626.218076
VUV 128.808058
WST 3.041231
XAF 656.0207
XAG 0.035197
XAU 0.000463
XCD 2.932146
XDR 0.81898
XOF 656.0207
XPF 119.331742
YER 271.618044
ZAR 19.964317
ZMK 9765.898848
ZMW 28.93681
ZWL 349.35518
  • SCS

    0.1300

    13.18

    +0.99%

  • BCC

    4.6500

    141.11

    +3.3%

  • BCE

    -0.2200

    33.57

    -0.66%

  • GSK

    -0.0300

    45.12

    -0.07%

  • NGG

    -1.0300

    60.69

    -1.7%

  • AZN

    0.3600

    78.54

    +0.46%

  • CMSC

    0.1200

    24.24

    +0.5%

  • CMSD

    0.0000

    24.09

    0%

  • BTI

    -0.1100

    30.62

    -0.36%

  • RIO

    0.4300

    71.85

    +0.6%

  • JRI

    0.0250

    11.395

    +0.22%

  • RELX

    0.5300

    44.69

    +1.19%

  • BP

    0.3000

    36.72

    +0.82%

  • RBGPF

    -1.8300

    55.21

    -3.31%

  • RYCEF

    0.1020

    5.65

    +1.81%

  • VOD

    -0.0300

    9.33

    -0.32%

'Sowing peace'? Colombia program for war criminals stokes debate
'Sowing peace'? Colombia program for war criminals stokes debate / Photo: Raul ARBOLEDA - AFP

'Sowing peace'? Colombia program for war criminals stokes debate

Once confined to jail over the killings of hundreds under his watch, former Colombian general Henry Torres now spends his days planting trees and otherwise free.

Text size:

Like dozens of other alleged war criminals in the South American country, 61-year-old Torres is participating in an alternative sentencing program that some victims' families decry as a "mockery" of justice.

"We are not only restoring an ecosystem but trying to minimize the damage we caused... it was a way to compensate for damage without being deprived of freedom," he told AFP.

Torres commanded a brigade that was found responsible for hundreds of cold-blooded executions as the army sought to inflate results in its fight against leftist guerrillas.

Between 2002 and 2008, some 6,400 civilians were executed by the military, which presented them as enemy fighters, according to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court.

The JEP was set up after a 2016 peace deal between the government and the once-powerful FARC insurgent group to try the worst crimes committed during the decades-long conflict.

Under the peace deal, the court can offer alternatives to jail time or lesser sentences to people who confess their crimes and make reparations to victims.

"We are trying to reconcile our society after a very serious war. It is very new and very complex," JEP president Roberto Vidal told AFP.

Initiatives like "Sowing Peace," in which 46 soldiers are taking part, are "pilot projects through which we are learning how to set this up."

Victims' families are not happy.

"Come and plant trees... that is absolutely insufficient, a kind of mockery," said Margarita Arteaga, whose brother Kemel was killed by soldiers in 2007.

- Healing wounds -

Under the Bogota sun, a dozen men clear undergrowth with machetes.

The younger ones work the land, while Torres and other older men prepare saplings which will be used to reforest a 15-hectare area of southwestern Bogota that is home to many people displaced by the conflict.

"With this work, we are seeking to heal these wounds... to transform the damage caused," said retired major Gustavo Soto, 52.

As part of the peace process, Soto came face-to-face last year with the relatives of 85 civilians murdered by a unit under his command.

"It was quite difficult," he said of the experience.

In the early 2000s, Soto was part of a counterinsurgency launched under the right-wing government of Alvaro Uribe.

"Unfortunately, proven results were required in the form of combat casualties. It was how the upper command evaluated us," he said.

At the work site, Soto and other former soldiers clear invasive gorse bushes whose large thorns pierce through their thick overalls.

Torres and Soto were both in prison awaiting trial when the JEP granted them freedom in exchange for confessions and taking part in initiatives like "Sowing Peace."

They come voluntarily, under court supervision, with each day worked recognized as "advance" payment on the maximum eight-year penalty the JEP can impose.

The tribunal, which started operating in 2017, has yet to hand down any sentences.

Experts question whether the projects really impose the "effective restrictions on freedoms and rights" called for under the peace deal.

JEP judge Vidal said that participants may also be surveilled, including by "cell phone monitoring."

- Too good a 'deal?' -

Margarita Arteaga believes the military did "the deal of their lives" with the JEP.

Her brother Kemel was a craftsman and punk fan who was trying his hand at selling handmade earrings and necklaces when soldiers kidnapped him in a bar and executed him.

His killer told a JEP hearing that Kemel had been asked to be shot from the front. He didn't die immediately and had to be finished off on the ground, she learned.

"They planted a grenade and a revolver on him," Arteaga recalled through tears.

Soldiers presented him as an extortionist killed in an exchange of gunfire.

"I can understand the symbolic nature of the issue of the trees, but it does not repair" what was done, said Arteaga, a spokeswoman for a victims' association.

There are two other restorative justice initiatives in Colombia. In one, perpetrators are rebuilding an Indigenous civic center, and in the other, they provide education about the dangers of antipersonnel mines.

Arteaga proposes the programs go further, with soldiers like Torres made to visit battalions and "tell soldiers-in-training what they did, and what should not happen" ever again.

(Y.Yildiz--BBZ)