Is it better to seek tangible or intangible results?
When the now outgoing president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, pushed for a peace accord with leftist rebels known generally as FARC, it was with the goal of securing an end to a half-century of horrible civil war, terrorism and suffering. Amnesty, social reintegration and political representation were the cornerstones upon which the plan rested and it appeared to have worked. The vast majority of FARC and affiliated fighters left their hideouts in the equatorial jungles and mountains to surrender their weapons and avail themselves of the generous conditions offered by the government. By most accounts, the fighting ceased and a meaningful peace was achieved, a tangible and real conclusion to a bitter conflict.
A major part of the incoming president’s, Ivan Duque, campaign was criticising this historic peace agreement and promising to hold former rebel fighters accountable. No former FARC member would be allowed to stand for election unless he or she has first stood before the relative power of “justice” and compensated any victims deemed to have been wronged by them. The concern among many is that this new administration, by assuming this hard-line, will effectively undercut the entire peace agreement by holding the threat of prosecution over the slowly reintegrating former militants, potentially driving them back into the forests and hills to wage war once again.
The questions, then, are these:
- Is it shortsighted to endanger peace in the name of justice?
- Is it, by contrast, irresponsible to discount justice in the name of peace?