Colombia’s search for sustainable peace—after signing the 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—is widely acclaimed as an ambitious model. However, with the help of international partners and the support of the global community, Colombia has made tremendous strides to contain its long history of violence, address underlying socio-economic causes of civil strife, and conscientiously make amends for historical grievances. The justice system confronts lingering challenges often related to organized crime, including narcotrafficking, money laundering, and corruption. The ability of Colombia’s judicial system to address cases effectively and efficiently in these and other criminal justice areas is essential to the country’s successful transition and development.
For ABA ROLI, strengthening the courts is a key strategic goal. This goal ensures the cycle of criminal justice is completed in a just and equitable manner, from arrests and investigations by the police, to the preparation of cases by the prosecutor, and ending with fair and transparent trial processes. Since 2019, ABA ROLI has worked to improve the capacity of Colombian court personnel to function effectively, efficiently, and justly. Well-trained, professional, and ethical judges and judiciary staff are critical to delivering justice by reducing impunity, punishing corruption, and gaining the trust of the citizenry. Improving the skills and competencies of judges and key judiciary personnel is critical to ensuring the judiciary delivers effective due process and procedural justice that adheres to the Colombian Constitution and international standards.
Another key strategic goal of ABA ROLI is strengthening protections for the human rights of migrants. Colombia is subject to a complex array of emerging and evolving development challenges arising from the influx of approximately 1.4 million Venezuelans in recent years. Migrants and Colombian returnees face a confluence of challenges that communities who receive these migrants have endured for years, such as limited public protection and justice services, the presence of illegal armed groups, complex criminal dynamics, and a lack of economic inclusion opportunities—particularly for vulnerable population groups. These mixed migration flows elevate the risk of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced recruitment, forced disappearance, and different forms of gender-based violence (GBV). ABA ROLI is responding to this complex challenge by facilitating the delivery of technical assistance to Colombia’s institutional actors to prevent and respond to human rights violations; strengthen community protection and security; and develop networks, with a focus on legal rights and processes. These actors include the Colombian government, legal profession, and civil society groups focused on justice and human rights. We incorporate the principles of gender equality and social inclusion throughout our work.
The combined challenge of Colombia’s location and economy— exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—have created a child trafficking triple threat: today, it is a point of origin, destination (particularly in the travel and tourism industries), and transit (migration). Despite Colombia’s efforts to address the worst forms of child labor, children are still subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and illicit activities, forced labor, and recruitment by illegal armed groups and criminal groups. Further evidence of Colombia’s commitment to combating trafficking in person’s (TIP) is its designation as a Tier 1 country; Colombia complies with the standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). However, Colombian authorities have not provided adequate services to identify victims. Victim protection services in departments remain underfunded, and civil society organizations (CSOs) need support to increase access to services and assistance for victims. As such, another of ABA ROLI’s strategic lines of effort is strengthening the justice sector’s capabilities to investigate and prosecute TIP cases through improved coordination between and among law enforcement, first responders—including health and social welfare officials—and CSOs. ABA ROLI also works to improve victim identification and referral mechanisms and enhance institutional awareness of TIP among law enforcement and prosecutors involved in the investigation and prosecution of these cases, and for the judges who adjudicate TIP cases.