The Aug. 1 editorial "Justice and Peace in Colombia" counseled deference to Colombia regarding its efforts to demobilize right-wing paramilitaries, citing examples in which other countries have traded justice for peace.

Colombia's new Justice and Peace Law, however, promises neither peace nor justice.

Drug lords and mass murderers will go largely unpunished, and, if they are convicted, they will serve sentences of just a few years in most cases. The penalty for those who do not fully disclose their crimes is similarly farcical.

Some argue that these measures are better than nothing, but for victims of paramilitary violence, the law adds insult to injury.

Those concerned with drug trafficking will be equally disappointed, as the law bars the use of a powerful tool -- extradition to the United States. These sacrifices might be palatable were the law to deliver peace, but it almost certainly will not.

Despite a unilateral cease-fire declared in 2002 and the demobilization of roughly half of the largest paramilitary group's members in recent years, assassinations and drug trafficking by paramilitaries continue to be common in Colombia.

By failing to demand that demobilized paramilitaries reveal the whole truth about their organizations' crimes, assets, leadership and financing, the law enables these groups to maintain their violent stranglehold on political, social and economic life in much of the country.


Executive Director

Center for Justice and International Law


CEJIL litigates cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of victims in Colombia and throughout the Americas.