Colombia: ICC to reconsider closure of preliminary examination

Press release
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The president of the ICC’s Pre-Trial Division has assigned a Pre-Trial Chamber to review FIDH’s and CAJAR’s request to review the Prosecutor’s troubling decision to close the preliminary examination of the situation in Colombia.

The request was made by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (CAJAR), its member organisation in Colombia, in representation of Colombian victims of crimes against humanity. It asks the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to revoke the decision of the Prosecutor Mr Karim A. A. Khan QC to close the preliminary examination into crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court committed in Colombia.

The request is based on the fact that the Prosecutor’s decision – while dressed in references to complementarity in a press release and press conferences – was, upon closer examination, based solely on the “interests of justice” as per the Rome Statute. For this reason, a Pre-Trial Chamber has authority to review the Prosecutor’s decision, as per article 53(3)(b) of the Statute.

FIDH and CAJAR submit that the Prosecutor’s decision did not serve the interests of justice in the Colombian case, considering in particular victims’ interests. In fact, the closure of the preliminary examination on Colombia may mean that hundreds or thousands of victims of crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction will be deprived of knowing the truth and obtaining justice regarding the crimes committed. In Colombia, despite progress in some areas, there is still a systematic lack of investigation into the highest perpetrators of crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

FIDH and CAJAR also request that the Prosecutor, at a minimum, justify his decision to victims and the international community, providing a detailed explanation as to why an investigation was not opened in the Colombian case, as the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has done in other contexts, including UK/Iraq, Gabon, and Honduras.

Since June 2004 – and up until 28 October 2021 – the situation in Colombia had been the subject of a preliminary examination by the OTP, focused on crimes against humanity and war crimes. FIDH and CAJAR, alongside victims of crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction, had submitted to the OTP information regarding these crimes over the course of the 17-year preliminary examination. Yet, on 28 October 2021, Prosecutor Khan closed the preliminary examination on Colombia, without providing reasoned arguments behind his decision.

FIDH and CAJAR, in representation of victims, remain committed to fighting impunity; this is their motivation for their request to review and reverse the Prosecutor’s decision to not open an investigation in Colombia — a decision that goes against the fight against impunity and victims’ right to truth and justice.

At this step in the process, FIDH and CAJAR will not be answering requests by journalists. This will be done once a decision is communicated by the Pre-Trial Chamber.

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