Jesús Santrich is Free! Major WIN for Peace in Colombia

Jesús Santrich poses for photo with two of his lawyers, Gustavo Gallardo from Lazos de Dignidad, and Eduardo Matyas

The Alliance for Global Justice is pleased to announce that Jesús Santrich has been freed from his jail cell in Colombia. This is a major victory for supporters of the peace process. The arrest of Santrich was an attack on the authority of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace court (JEP). The threat of his extradition to the United States was a tactic to circumvent agreements signed into law in 2016. That accord ended more than 52 years of war between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP).Since its implementation, opponents have tried to end the accord by attempting to nullify key provisions, including the establishment of the JEP, and clauses having to do with extraditions of ex-combatants.

Santrich is a representative in the Colombian congress for the new legal political party, Revolutionary Alternative Common Force (FARC). Santrich was first arrested on April 9 2018 at the request of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The charges of narco-trafficking were based on testimonies by paid agents and informants, and on evidence that was not verifiable and never showed any involvement in narco-trafficking. The case against Santrich bore all the signs of the kind of set-up that has been so frequently used to put hundreds of Colombian activists in jail. The US had requested Santrich’ extradition, charging he was planning for the sale and distribution of cocaine in the US. However, the JEP rejected the petition when the DEA was unable and unwilling to show its evidence against Santrich.

The case has exposed in no uncertain terms the subservient relationship of Colombian President Iván Duque to US President Donald Trump, and to his mentor, former president and father of Colombia’s death squads, Álvaro Uribe. Santrich was originally ordered to be released on May 19th, however, as soon as he was wheeled through the prison gates, never out of custody of police or prison personnel, he was re-arrested, based on supposedly new evidence from the DEA, particularly a new video. But at no point on that video was any mention ever made regarding a shipment of cocaine, and the date of the video could not be confirmed. The JEP had demanded Santrich’ release, and their authority to do so had been confirmed twice in Congress and also through the courts. This happened despite direct US intervention including the appearance of then-ambassador Michael McKinley to lobby the Colombian congress to pass legislation to disband the JEP. Even before the release order was acted on, Uribe was speaking to press suggesting that Santrich would still be extradited. He said this could happen as the result of a presidential declaration of emergency. By rearresting Santrich, the Duque administration defied the agreements, courts, and congress of its own country to carry out the demands of the US government.

But yesterday, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that Santrich must be released, and has assumed investigation of the case against him, noting that members of Colombia’s congress can only be investigated by the Supreme Court. While this does not refer the case back to the JEP, it also does not undermine their authority or negate their previous rulings. Barring some extraordinary measure that would be a complete break with any legal precendent or notion of Colombian sovereignty, the possibility of Santrich’ extradition to the US is off the table. Nevertheless, AfGJ will continue to monitor the case because the willingness of the Duque administration to act in such a manner has already been illustrated.

The Alliance for Global Justice wishes to thank all our supporters who have sent so many emails, signed open letters, made phone calls, and held demonstrations for the freedom of Jesús Santrich and for peace in Colombia. This is a victory you helped achieve. Well done!

Here’s to peace in Colombia backed by international solidarity!