Back to program

Panel: Participation, Innovation and Contestation in Colombia

Activism of Afro-descendant Grassroots Organisations and its Impact on Colombian Transitional Justice

Dr. Adelaida Ibarra, Associate Lecturer, York Law School, University of York

Civil society is not a passive actor in transitional justice settings. On the contrary, it plays a fundamental role in
shaping the type of transitional justice model adopted and implemented in each context. Within the framework
of transitions from armed conflict to peace characterised by corrupt or ineffective national justice systems,
civil society organisations are one of the main change drivers. This paper analyses the impact that Afrodescendant
grassroots organizations have had in transitional justice in Colombia. For that purpose, it takes as
a case study the role played by the Process of Black Communities (PCN), a network of Afro organisations from
the Pacific, Caribbean and central Colombia, which advocate for the rights of the victims of this ethnic group
which was disproportionally affected by the armed conflict. This research gathers data from PCN archives,
academic sources, media articles, NGO reports, court documents and open-source videos to broadly identify
patterns of action and strategies of incidence adopted by PCN over time. It documents how Afro-Colombian
organisations mobilised to influence the peace agreements between the Colombian government and the FARCEP
guerrilla and its role in its implementation. Among the most significant achievements of the advocacy of
Afro-descendant and other grassroots organisations is the inclusion in the Peace Agreement of the ethnic,
gender and territorial approaches. This paper explains its advocacy from the beginning of the negotiations in
2012, how it achieved to be included at the end of the negotiations and its participation in the Especial
Jurisdiction for Peace.

Breaking the Mould? Social Movements and the “Ideal Victim” of Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Colombia’s Transitional Justice

Daniela Suárez Vargas, PhD candidate, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast

Social movements have emerged as democratising actors of transitional justice, contributing to its bottom-up
framing (Gready & Robins, 2017); they have challenged the universalistic narratives of victimhood prevailing in
the legalism of transitional justice, often backed by humanitarian agencies, academia, NGOs, and international
organisations (Madlingozi, 2010; Jones & Bernath, 2018). Social movements have placed in the spotlight the
realities and needs of those who have experienced the conflict firsthand, but who do not usually fit into the
traditional notions of legitimate victims (Rudling, 2019). In the case of Colombia, with the implementation of
the 2016 Peace Agreement, there has been greater engagement of social movements with the new transitional
justice mechanisms (Gomez Morales, 2018). Notably, they have placed the issue of sexual and gender-based
violence at the centre of the agenda of the transitional process (Céspedes,2018). Indigenous, Afro-descendant
women, LGBTQ, and female ex-combatant movements have been instrumental in challenging the traditional
narrative of the “ideal victim” of sexual and gender-based violence, which traditionally has been understood as
the peaceful, civilian woman and girl who lacks agency (Zulver, 2022; Bueno-Hansen, 2018). This paper
explores how these social movements are reshaping, resisting, or reinforcing the concept of the “ideal victim”
of sexual and gender-based violence in the Colombian transitional justice. The paper highlights the political
dimension of victimhood in Colombia, emphasizing that social movements wield it as a tool. They may use it to
grant legitimacy to their claims or to disrupt peace processes they deem untrustworthy.

Bridging the Gap: Transitional Justice, Victims, and Businesses and Human Rights in Colombia

Marta Paricio Montesinos, Doctoral Student, Faculty of Law, and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science
(Helsus), University of Helsinki

Although the transitional model (SIVJRNR) implemented in Colombia after the peace agreements between the
State and the FARC guerrilla has been recognized as an example for the international community, a
fundamental element is absent in the Colombian peace process: business actors. Although the Justice and
Peace courts have exposed how national and foreign companies financed paramilitary groups during the
conflict in exchange for security or to facilitate the provision of territories for their operation, the prosecution
of these companies, as well as their criminal responsibility, has been insufficient. This dynamic of impunity is
closely connected to the State’s international obligations to protect human rights, including the prevention,
investigation, and sanctioning of human rights violations perpetrated by companies. However, the Colombian
State has been reluctant to investigate these violations. In fact, these cases entail significant security risks and
workloads, which rely on the victims and civil organizations. Not only does the collection of information,
through rigorous complaints, reports, and documents, fall to civil society, but the State initiates investigations
only when victims resort to judicial and state reparation mechanisms. In that sense, this study argues and
explores how victims of the conflict in Colombia do not behave as mere recipients of rights but are active
actors who play a fundamental role in the transition to peace searching for truth and responsibility of private

Weaving Ontologies: Intercultural and Interlegal Translators at the JEP

Nina Bries Silva, PhD candidate at the European University Institute

There is a tremendous need to have a diverse range of judges seated on the country’s transitional justice
tribunal with different mode of thinking , from different regions, with distinct experiences, profiles and
challenges, but that are all thinking with la Colombia profunda, la Colombia mas excluida”, declared judges
Belkis Izquierdo during a public talk in March 2021. Belkis Izquierdo belongs to Arhuaco indigenous community
of the Sierra Nevada and is as such one of the so-called ethnic judges of the Colombia Special Jurisdiction for
Peace (JEP). The JEP was established in the wake of the 2016 Final Peace agreement as the Court dealing with
cases related to the armed conflict. The Court has the particularity that eight of its eighteen judges belong to
ethnic groups, also referred to as ‘ethnic judges’. Having the knowledge of both legal systems, i.e., the
dominant Western legal framework and the laws of their respective communities, those judges can navigate
between worlds and act as ‘intercultural translators’ (Boanventura de Sousa Santos), knowledge brokers’ (Sally
Merry) or ‘ontological diplomats’ (Viveiros de Castro). Based on qualitative research conducted with Nasa
indigenous’ representatives of the victims, as well as with members of the JEP, this paper investigates the role
played by those judges in facilitating the participation of indigenous groups within the transitional justice
process and strengthening the epistemic dialogue.

Living Participation in Transitional Justice Mechanisms: Enabling and Constraining Factors in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace Model (Colombia)

Juliana Galindo Villarreal, Lawyer, Associate at Guernica 37 Centre
Rebeca Huete Salazar, Associate at Guernica 37 Centre

Victim’s participation in transitional justice mechanisms in Colombia has gained momentum over the past
years with the implementation of the 2016 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the FARC-EP
guerrilla. In particular, the establishment of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP by its Spanish Acronym), the
justice component in charge of clarifying and punishing serious crimes committed during the armed conflict,
has opened the possibility to hundreds of individual and collective victims to raise their voices and
expectations due to the establishment of a legal framework that recognizes the victim’s centrality and other
guarantees and the implementation of formal and informal spaces for their participation. Despite these
evolutions and innovations, the victim’s participation before JEP remains a subject of negotiation and
contestation. The instrumentalization of the victim’s notion, the participation of some of them as a mere
formalism, and the limitations related to the judicial procedure (terms and technicalities), are some of the
main debates. This paper presents the enabling and constraining factors of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace
victim’s participation model that have been identified accompanying the communities and local organizations
that were victimized during the internal armed conflict in their claims of justice before the JEP since 2017. The
purpose is to bring empirical and analytical findings to contribute to the reflection of participation as lived