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Colombia / International Criminal Court2 September 2002

Colombia follows France’s bad example

3.09.2002 - Government confirms its adhesion to Article 124 of the Treaty of Rome.

Luis Carlos Restrepo, High Commissioner for Peace, said the government of President Alvaro Uribe would continue to adhere to the Rome Treaty’s Article 124. "It’s an open door in the peace process," he said. "It doesn’t mean that crimes are protected by immunity."

Reporters Without Borders and Damocles Network, an organisation that combats impunity, today voiced their dismay at Colombia’s decision to refuse the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over war crimes. Less than a month after becoming the 77th State to ratify the Rome Statute establishing the court, Colombia has taken advantage of article 124 of the statute, which allows a country to deny the court jurisdiction over war crimes committed on its territory or by any of its citizens for a period of seven years.

The decision coincides with an escalation in the internal armed conflict in Colombia, where some 40 journalists have been killed in the past 10 years, which makes it the western hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the news media.

image 94 x 99 (JPEG) "The killing of journalists is encouraged by the inability of the Colombian judicial system to punish those responsible, and now this measure deprives the news media of a valuable international legal recourse," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard and Damocles Network vice-president Jean-Pierre Getti in a joint statement. The two organisations called on Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Vélez (photo) to reverse this decision.

The Colombian daily El Tiempo reported on 1 September that the administration of former President Andrés Pastrana availed its of article 124 at the time of ratifying the Rome Statute on 5 August, and that it did this in consultation with the incoming President Uribe. This article was introduced into the statute at the request of France, which considered that certain of the statute’s provisions left its citizens overly exposed

Colombia’s decision will have serious consequences for efforts to combat the impunity enjoyed by those who kill journalists. In particular, it will deny the court jurisdiction over hostage-taking and attacks against the civilian population, including journalists.

The International Criminal Court, which came into force on 1 July, is the first permanent international tribunal charged with investigating and trying massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Its responsibilities include investigating the most serious crimes affecting the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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