phase: Preliminary Examinations, Closed - Decision Not to Proceed
The Preliminary Examination of the Situation in Colombia focuses on alleged atrocity crimes committed during an armed conflict which involved Colombian government forces, paramilitary groups, and guerilla armed groups such as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas - Ejericito del pueblo (FARC-EP) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). The armed conflict occurred from the 1960s to September 2016, but this preliminary examination focuses on the period from November 1, 2002 to the present.
In the 1960s, left-wing guerilla armed groups, such as FARC-EP and ELN, were formed to overthrow the Colombian government. In the 1980s, right-wing paramilitary groups were formed to combat the FARC-EP’s violence. Despite peace attempts in 1982 and 1998, the conflict escalated as Colombian government forces, paramilitary groups, and guerilla armed groups sought to gain control through killings, kidnappings, sexual violence, torture, forced disappearances, and forced detentions. Colombian government forces allegedly killed thousands of civilians, falsely claiming they were FARC and ELN guerillas killed in combat, to show successful or positive results (“false positives”) of the Colombian government’s policies. The National Centre of Historical Memory reported over 220,000 killed (from 1958 to 2012), 81.5% of which were civilians; over 25,000 missing persons (from 1958 to 2013); and over 27,000 kidnappings (from 1970 to 2010). On September 26, 2016, Colombian government and the FARC-EP signed a peace agreement which established a ceasefire and a transition process; later, Colombian voters rejected the agreement. On November 24, 2016, the Colombian government and FARC-EP leader signed a revised peace agreement; the Congress passed the agreement. On January 18, 2017, Colombia announced peace talks with the ELN in February.
Colombia is a State Party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and ratified the Rome Statute on August 5, 2002. Colombia recognizes ICC jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes since November 1, 2002, but, under a declaration pursuant to Article 124 of the Rome Statute, recognizes ICC jurisdiction over war crimes committed since November 1, 2009. In June 2004, after receiving communications of alleged atrocity crimes committed in Colombia, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination. In a November 2012 report, the OTP determined that there was a reasonable basis to believe that Colombian government forces, FARC-EP, ELN, and paramilitary groups committed crimes against humanity. In the same report, the OTP determined that Colombian government forces, FARC-EP, and ELN committed war crimes.
In November 2021, during a visit to Colombia, the Prosecutor announced his decision not to proceed with an investigation and to close the preliminary examination in Colombia (after 17 years). The Prosecutor noted that while the assessment of complementarity efforts could be reconsidered if circumstances change, on the basis of current facts, complementarity was “working in Colombia,” and that significant progress had been made which demonstrated that “national authorities of Colombia are neither inactive, unwilling nor unable to genuinely investigate and prosecute Rome Statute crimes.” The OTP signed a memorandum of understandingwith the Colombia government outlining commitments made by both parties to encourage and support further domestic advancement of transitional justice processes in Colombia.
For more information on the preliminary examination in Colombia, please visit the ICC page.
Other Resources (Non-ABA)
International Center for Transitional Justice, Transitional Justice and Prevention in Colombia (2021)
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of human rights in Colombia (March 2021)
Kroc Institute for Int’l Peace Studies, Colombia Barometer Initiative Reports (2017- )