Newsletter # 5. Methodology for the submission of observations to the voluntary versions of those appearing before the Recognition Panel in Case 001
Translated with the support of United Nations Online Volunteering and the volunteers Lilian Kassin, María Alejandra Saldarriaga and Alejandro Gallegos
This newsletter focuses on the methodology for submitting observations to the voluntary statements of the people appearing before the Judicial Panel for Acknowledgement of Truth and Responsibility and Determination of Facts and Conducts (SRVR) in Case 001 - Illegal Detention of People by the FARC-EP. In the first part, the presentation of observations to the voluntary statements by the victims is explained. The second part deals with the conditions and methodology for the presentation of observations to the statements in the Case, as established in the SRVR's Order of November 22, 2019. Finally, some practical difficulties encountered by accredited victims in Case 001 in presenting their observations to the voluntary versions are raised.
The voluntary versions of the appearing parties, as contributions to the search for the truth, are intended to enable the collection of information by the SRVR for analysis and comparison. These occur after the SRVR makes available to the appellants the reports presented to the SJP by victims, social organizations and state entities on facts or conducts that relate to them, in order to hear their versions of the facts and obtain their contributions to the truth for the broad and sufficient clarification of the facts of which they have knowledge, which does not imply that they must accept their authorship or participation in them (Law 1922 of 2018, Art. 27A). The SRVR must send the victims the calendar of the voluntary statements previously so that they can suggest questions to the appearing parties and suggest people who should be called to render voluntary statement. Likewise, in some cases or prioritized situations, such as Case 003 –Deaths illegitimately presented as casualties in combat by State agents– and Case 004 –Territorial situation of the Urabá region–, the SRVR has allowed the direct participation of the victims and their judicial representatives in the hearings where the voluntary statements take place (see Newsletter 4).
Subsequently, the SRVR sends the voluntary versions to the victims and their judicial representatives so that they can present their observations on the statements made by those appearing (Law 1922 of 2018, art. 27D), either orally or in writing (art. 9). According to the SRVR, the observations on the voluntary statements are “a mechanism for the Panel to analytically reconstruct the cases it has heard, for ‘the collection of information to contribute to the search for truth’" (Order of November 22, 2019). In the process of transferring voluntary statements and presenting observations on them, victims have the right to psychosocial accompaniment (Order of November 22, 2019).
The SRVR established a methodology for the transfer and submission of observations to the voluntary statements in Case 001, in accordance with the framework established by Law 1922 of 2018, through the Order of November 22, 2019. This methodology can be seen in the following chart:
Graph 1. Methodology for the submission of observations to the voluntary statements in Case 001 (Order of November 22, 2019)
(Prepared by the authors based on the Order of November 22, 2019)
The SRVR made a significant effort to offer the accredited victims in Case 001 different opportunities for transfer: the Territorial Transfer of Observations Conferences that took place in the cities of Cartagena, Medellín, Florencia, and Villavicencio; personal transfer at the SJP headquarters in Bogotá, which will take place until February 3, 2020, according to the recent Order of January 13, 2020; and access to digital information. However, from the perception of victims and judicial representatives acting in this Case, the following difficulties can be pointed out:
While an effort was made to make a territorial deployment to cater to the large number of victims, this was not enough, and victims participation was limited. For example, the Transfer Conferences were attended by approximately 200 people, representing only 10% of the accredited victims. At the same time, the choice of the city of Cartagena as the epicenter for the victims of the Caribbean and Magdalena Medio Bloc to attend was not fortunate, as only 12 people attended. Considering the distance to the territories where these victims reside, it might have been more appropriate to make an additional transfer in the mediated cities of Valledupar, Cucuta, Bucaramanga, or Barrancabermeja.
Likewise, the information conveyed at the Conferences was limited. The information was transferred in two stages: (i) a group reading of some paragraphs of the national written version presented by the FARC-EP on September 23, 2019, and (ii) the showing of videos of some moments of the expansion of that version in the territory. Therefore, it is possible to point out that the objective of transferring the voluntary versions on these Conferences was not fulfilled.
The Order of November 22, 2019, provided that the representatives would have access to the information from December 14. However, due to technical difficulties and security protocols in the delivery of videos and virtual access, the information was transferred in installments from December 26 to date.
Also, several victims have reported difficulties in using the digital media established in the Order, both to access the voluntary statements and to present the observations, and many of them do not have use and handling of e-mail and computer equipment. In many cases, the victims provided the SJP with an e-mail address as eventual contact information through their relatives, and not as a direct, effective and adequate participation channel.
In general terms, the information conveyed to victims and their representatives is quite extensive (collective national written version, 33 individual written versions, videos of the expansion of the collective version by blocks). Although in some cases this information was systematized, specifying the alleged responsibility for the facts in order to only transfer the relevant information, it continues to be a large amount of information to read and watch, and therefore many victims face difficulties in getting to know the full content of the appearing parties' versions in the estimated time for the presentation of observations.
In view of the above, the SRVR, through the Order of January 13, 2020, has informed that the deadline for the submission of observations is extended until February 28, 2020. However, considering the large number of accredited victims, and the difficulties, limitations, and obstacles identified, it is very likely that only some victims will be able to know the voluntary statements and submit their observations in a timely manner.