Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace opens a National Case on Conflict-related Sexual and Gender-based Violence

Marking a new milestone in Colombia’s transitional justice process, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) has opened Macrocase 11 after a more than a year of preliminary investigations. This is a national case that will investigate crimes of “gender-based violence, sexual violence, reproductive violence, and other crimes committed because of prejudice based on sexual orientation, diverse gender expression and/or gender identity in the context of the Colombian armed conflict”.

As the transitional justice mechanism established by the final 2016 Peace Agreement between the FARC-EP and the government, the JEP has the task of investigating and punishing the most serious crimes committed during the armed conflict in Colombia.

According to the announcement made on 27 September 2023, Macrocase 11 will be divided into three subcases:

  • Sexual and gender-based violence against civilians committed by FARC-EP,
  • Sexual and gender-based violence against civilians committed by members of the Colombian security forces, and,
  • Sexual and gender-based violence committed within the ranks of the security forces and the FARC-EP.

The JEP has found that sexual and gender-based violence occurred in two “patterns”. First, these crimes were committed based on the victim’s sexual orientation, identity, or gender expression. It has been found that this violence occurred in 17% of cases, and was perpetrated with a motivation to silence, eliminate or expel LGBTQI+ victims. Second, crimes were committed against women solely “for being women”. This type of violence makes up an overwhelming 82% of cases and was motivated by the expectation that women fulfil specific gender roles and make themselves “available to men”, and the perception of women as “enemy property” that could be attacked and persecuted.

From the perspective of women who are victims of these serious crimes, the simple fact of being women together with other oppressing factors such as ethnicity, racialisation, age, and poverty all accentuate their vulnerability and increase the likelihood of falling victim to sexual aggression.

There has been growing pressure from national and international civil society organisations and Colombian women to open Macrocase 11. On one hand, this is due to an observed increase in crimes of sexual and gender-based violence in recent years, despite the Peace Accord. The statistics put forward by the JEP in its announcement speak to the pervasive nature of sexual and gender-based violence in Colombia:

  • Between 1957-2016, the JEP have identified at least 35,178 victims of sexual, reproductive, and other gender-based violences. All armed actors in the conflict are guilty of committing these crimes.
  • 89.2% were women.
  • 35% suffered this type of violence when they were children or adolescents.
  • 33% of incidents have been attributed to paramilitary groups, 5.82% to the FARC-EP and 3.14% to state security forces (in many cases the responsible actor has not been identified).

On the other hand, Colombian women and civil society organisations (CSO) had become increasingly worried that the JEP would run out of time to hear this case. The JEP’s mandate is limited to 15 years – expiring in 2033. Opening Macrocase 11 now leaves the JEP with 10 years to investigate and ensure that the truth is told in the sheer number of incidents highlighted above.

While the opening of Macrocase 11 has given a new form of hope to victims and the CSOs that have been demanding justice for years, the JEP must remain fully committed to investigating and prosecuting crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. Given the limited time that it has to do so, resources both from the Colombian government and the international community are essential. Further, the JEP must ensure that it prevents revictimization of those who have had the courage to speak out against the backdrop of increased violence in Colombia.