After a week which saw the assassination of several indigenous, community and social leaders, Colombians finally received the good news that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) prohibited the extradition of political prisoner Jesús Santrich to the US. The JEP also demanded that Santrich be freed due to irregularities committed during his legal process.
Jesús Santrich, who was one of the members of the Peace Negotiation Team of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a member of the political party Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, was arrested on April 9, 2018. Santrich was accused of trafficking cocaine to the US and Colombian authorities claimed the demand for his arrest came from a US court, and that extradition to the US was a possibility.
The arrest of Santrich and his incarceration was denounced nationally and internationally as a direct violation to the Havana peace agreements and a serious threat to the already weakened peace process. Article 71 of the Final Peace Agreement has a provision about extradition of people who are participating in the JEP, “Extradition cannot be conceded, nor preventative custody with the intention of extradition in regards to acts or behavior being studied by the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and No Repetition.” In December 2017, Santrich approached the JEP, stating that his arrest and potential extradition were in violation to these agreements that were ratified by Colombia’s Congress.
At the time of his arrest, Colombian authorities alleged that Santrich was being accused of committing a crime after the Peace Agreements were ratified so the crime could not be judged by the JEP. However, the JEP decision that came out today states that there is no evidence to prove that the alleged crime took place after the peace agreements were ratified and hence was subject to its jurisdiction.
Shortly following the JEP’s announcement, attorney general Néstor Humberto Martínez announced his resignation, denouncing the decision to not extradite Santrich. He called on citizens to “mobilize with determination to re-establish the legality in Colombia and the defense of peace.” It is worth noting that in January this year, protests broke out across Colombia demanding the resignation of Martínez who has been accused of corruption and withholding information that links Colombian politicians with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
While the order for Santrich’s freedom has been given, his freedom will have to be fought for, and the struggle to free other political prisoners and the unjustly criminalized social leaders will have to be intensified. For example, Simón Trinidad, a political prisoner from the now demobilized FARC, was extradited to the United States in 2004 and has spent the last 15 years in complete isolation in a “supermax” federal prison in Colorado where he has been subjected to inhumane treatment. In 2016, the US dismissed the request from the FARC peace negotiation team to release Trinidad to Colombia so he could be tried under the JEP.