Will the former paramilitary warlords in USA talk?

The former paramilitary warlords in Colombia who have been extradited to the United States are going to testify very soon and are going to give 60 testimonies. Colombia’s Justice and Peace attorney Luis González said so in Washington, during a meeting of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, OAS).

During that meeting Colombia’s government and non-governmental organization had fierce discussions on several human rights matters, of which the trial of the paramilitary warlords is one. Freedom of speech and the ties of politicians with paramilitaries (‘parapolitics’) are other.

Of course the Colombian government doesn’t like this, but as long as it goes on blaming human rights groups and the leftist opposition of ties with the guerrilla, it will have to face it. It would be better to have an open dialogue with the opposition and human rights groups in Colombia, so that they feel themselves taken seriously by their own institutions and don’t feel the need to seek help abroad.

But back to attorney Luis González, who with a relatively small team has the gigantic task to trial the thousands of paramilitaries who demobilized a couple of years ago. An awful job, if you ask me, but I believe that Mr. González sincerely wants to make the best of it and achieve the three goals of the Justice and Peace Law: Truth, Justice and Reparation to the victims.

I hope his promise (or prediction?) about the 60 testimonies will come true, because when about a year ago first ex-warlord Macaco and shortly after 14 other former paramilitary leaders were extradited, I understood perfectly the worries of the victims, who feel they will never hear the truth about the killings and disappearances, let alone that they will be repaired.

It is still hard to believe that in the United States those slaughterers will be tried for drug trafficking, while in Colombia they have committed thousands of crimes against humanity. It is only a few weeks ago that the last ex paramilitary, HH, who was confessing quite a lot of crimes and who was perhaps the most frank in his confessions, was sent to the United States as well.

Human rights groups and victims organizations say Colombia’s president Uribe extradited the paramilitaries because they were telling too much about ‘parapolitics’. If this is true, hopefully his strategy proves to be of no use.

There is one other thing. Of course it is important that the truth about parapolitics will be known, but for the thousands of (relatives of the) victims the most important thing is to know where their beloved were buried, who killed them and who gave the order. and most importantly, that they will be given back the land which was taken from them.

Human rights groups are afraid that the extradition of these warlords isn’t really a punishment, that they will be free in a few years and be able to enjoy all the land and farms and other luxuries they robbed. But have you seen for example Salvatore Mancuso, before and after the extradition? He has grown bald and thin. If one wouldn’t know about his past, one would feel sorry for him.

This column was published in Colombia Reports.

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