JEP and its decision to release Jesus Santrich

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The decision of the JEP not to extradite Jesus Santrich has unleashed judicial chaos in Colombia, which has led to the resignation of the Attorney General of the Nation

JEP y su decisión de liberar a Jesús Santrich: se la explicamos

The judicial process of former guerrilla leader Jesus Santrich has been involved in disagreements for a year, since April 9, 2018, when he was captured for allegedly participating in the planning of a shipment of cocaine to the United States. All this, so that finally today, May 15, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP, in Spanish) decided not to extradite him and release him, something that the Prosecutor's Office has sought to prevent since the process began.

In general, the opinions have been polarized because for some, Santrich they should be judged by the JEP, and for others, he should be directly extradited to the United States. On the one hand, it is said that since the guerrilla ex-leader signed the peace agreement, left arms, and jurisdiction was accepted, he has the right to non-extradition . However, on the other hand, it is stated that, since the alleged crime was committed after the agreement was signed and that it entered into force, he must be tried by the ordinary courts, therefore, be extradited.

The decision of the JEP not to allow extradition is based on this guarantee of non-extradition and that the evidence does not allow to specify the date of the event. This, since in the case of having happened in the context of the conflict, it would be equally welcomed by transitional justice. This decision was taken with three votes in favor and two against, suspending the extradition process.

To be able to continue with the extradition process, the jurisdiction must ensure that it has the necessary evidence, so it requested them to different entities such as the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Justice. In addition, in October 2018, the jurisdiction sent a petition to the United States requesting more evidence to confirm date and responsibilities.

However, the US government denied it, "because they considered that this procedure was contrary to their extradition practices and that all the evidence had already been given in the file that had been delivered to the Prosecutor's Office," according to Colombia 2020. Normally, in a traditional extradition process, the Colombian justice limited itself to following the file in a formal manner, but did not seek to inquire about it or request corroboration or other evidence.

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The JEP applies the guarantee of non-extradition due to the purpose of the entire peace agreement and its integral justice system. In this, the central axis are the victims and the truth, so that there can be true reparation. In this order of ideas, the extradition would prevent the truth from being known because they would be in another country and would be prevented from telling the truth of the crimes, as was already the case with paramilitary leaders.

The resignation of the prosecutor

Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez has been the main detractor of the JEP regarding the issue of the extradition of Jesús Santrich, and today, following the decision, he has publicly handed over his irrevocable resignation.

This is because, in the decision, the peace tribunal affirmed that "the Colombian Public Prosecutor's Office is ordered to order immediate release," which required Martínez to release Santrich, according to this, in the resignation letter he read, he affirms that this challenge to the legal order can not be endorsed by the undersigned, my conscience and my devotion to the rule of law prevent me from doing so, for which reason I have submitted an irrevocable resignation to the office of Attorney General of the Nation."

Minutes later, the deputy prosecutor, María Paulina Riveros, has also submitted her resignation. While a shortlist is being held to choose who would replace Nestor Humberto Martínez, she would be in charge of ordering the release of Jesús Santrich, following the order of the JEP. Considering that the two highest figures of the Office of the Prosecutor will no longer be in charge, a delay in the release of the former chief could be expected.

However, according to the statements of former prosecutor Guillermo Mendoza Diago, collected by El Tiempo, the prosecution must abide by the decision of the justice and must release him. However, Mendoza said that investigations into the case can also be continued, since the Office of the Prosecutor has not lost jurisdiction or violated any right to continue the investigation. If proven necessary, the future of Santrich could change.

What will happen now?

While awaiting the release of Santrich, and while the entire country digests the news of both resignations, in the next few hours President Duque, who canceled his agenda in several cities in the country, will have an extraordinary meeting and is expected to also make statements about what happened. Similarly, the vice president Marta Lucia Ramirez will also return to the capital to the meeting.

In the meantime, the country is divided between the assertion about an institutional crisis or a questioning of the true reasons for the resignation of Nestor Humberto Martínez, to whom a large part of Colombian society had asked him to resign in relation to the Odebrecht case.

The Green Alliance senator, Antonio Sanguino, for example, told Caracol TV that he did not know "if his resignation is for the Santrich case or the other issues that have compromised a very important discussion in Colombian society." Similarly, Twitter has as a trend the hashtag #ChaoFiscal (Goodbye Attorney General), where people ask the real reasons for the resignation.



For its part, another sector of the public has expressed support for Martinez, stating that the JEP overreached its power and also claiming that the evidence is more than clear to continue with the extradition. Among them, the bench of the Democratic Center, the Conservative Party and Radical Change.

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With regard to this position, this sector of the country has taken advantage of to bring to light the issue of a National Constituent Assembly. This idea had been around for a few months, when the president of Congress, Ernesto Macías, had put it on the table. Now, in the height of the discourse of an institutional crisis, it has been re-shot with the reason that ordinary and transitional justice needs to be reformed to prevent this type of action from happening again.



Meanwhile, the entire country is divided as regards the decision of the Attorney General, whether or not it is an institutional crisis. For now, President Duque is expected to make some statements.

For his part, the Attorney General's Office has appealed the decision of the JEP. However, according to former Attorney General Jaime Bernal, when deciding that a guarantee of non-extradition is given, they must automatically leave him free, since the Prosecutor's Office had advanced his detention based on the request of the US Government. In this way, if the extradition goes down, there is no reason to keep him in jail. "The freedom is immediate so the Attorney General appeals, but while that happens, Santrich can be released as soon as they notify him," Bernal said.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
Translated from " JEP y su decisión de liberar a Jesús Santrich: se la explicamos"

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