COLOMBIA: Justice delayed is justice denied


14 November 2015
COLOMBIA: Justice delayed is justice

Pipio’s cows responded to him when he called them by name.

In Colombia the problem is not so much unjust laws, as it is the failure to apply existing laws and legislation in a timely manner. The communities Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Colombia accompanies are hugely affected by these failures, as is the entire country. In effect, such delays result in the continued impunity for perpetrators of crimes, thereby undermining the rule of law’s ability to prevent future crimes. Victims are not only denied justice and compensation; they are also at risk of becoming repeat victims of repeat offenders. The situation in which the campesinos of Las Pavas community, whom CPT has accompanied for five years, have been displaced from their land four times, due to government collusion with the palm oil company Aportes San Isidro, is emblematic. 

Pipio Dies Waiting for Justice

One campesino of Las Pavas who will never see justice is Rogelio Campos Gonzales, better known to his friends in the community as “Pipio.” Pipio was one of the very few members of the Las Pavas campesino community who remained on his land in the face of continual harassment by armed security personnel of palm oil company Aportes San Isidro (ASI). Most of his neighbours had given up and moved back to the nearby village of Buenos Aires. Pipio died on 13 April 2014 after suffering a heart attack. 

A New Light at the End of the Tunnel

There is, however, a new cause for hope. In late September 2015, the Colombian Constitutional Court made another ruling that favours communities like Las Pavas. This ruling overturned an old agrarian law that allowed former title-holders like Aportes San Isidro to remain on the land while they appealed INCODER’s decision to the State Council. This new ruling means there is nothing standing in the way of Colombian Institute for Rural Development  (INCODER) from evicting Aportes San Isidro from the land, granting titles to the campesinos of Las Pavas and protecting them from any further harassment from the palm oil company.

Justice at Last?

When the local judge ruled in favour of Aportes San Isidro in 2009, state security forces were very quick to forcefully remove the campesinos from this land. After their long and arduous struggle can the campesinos of Las Pavas now safely assume that the Colombian judicial system will be as quick to do them justice? Or will judicial expediency continue to occur only when and if it favours the rich and powerful?

Those who survive Pipio are left with questions: If Aportes San Isidro had not been allowed to impede vehicular access to the community by installing a guarded gate would it have been possible to get Pipio to a hospital in a timely manner? Will we ever receive titles to our land and be left to work it in peace? Or will we, like Pipio, die waiting?


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November 11th marked the 27th anniversary of the Segovia Massacre where 43 persons were killed by a right-wing paramilitary group in collusion with the Colombian Military. We have been given the privilege of partnering with CAHUCOPANA since 2006, who have persistently held the government accountable for their crimes, and have demanded that a guarantee be given that something as horrific as the massacre of Segovia never happen again.

This image was made last year during a theatrical performance organized by CAHUCOPANA about the power of collective memory rather than forgetting, as a tool for progress, peace and reconciliation.

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