Former Dutch guerrilla’s amnesty ratified by Colombia’s JEP tribunal

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Tanja Nijmeijer, also known as Alexandra Nariño, joined FARC in 2002 and was involved in the Havana peace talks. Photo: FARC-EP

In a significant development within Colombia’s peace process, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) has reaffirmed the amnesty granted to Tanja Anne Marie Nijmeijer, a Dutch citizen who was a combatant within the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) guerrilla. The decision, announced after scrutiny by the Amnesty or Pardon Chamber (SAI) of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, marks a pivotal moment in Nijmeijer’s legal status and journey towards reintegration into Colombian society.

Nijmeijer’s amnesty, initially conferred on July 27, 2018, through a decree issued by the Colombian national government under the administration of former President Juan Manuel Santos, received validation from the JEP tribunal on Monday. The validation is based on the ex-guerrilla’s testimonies and legitimacy of the amnesty within Colombia’s legal framework.

“The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP) has ordered the materialization of the administrative amnesty for Tanja Anne Marie Nijmeijer, a former member of the FARC-EP, granted by the Presidency of the Republic in July 2018 for rebellion and conspiracy to commit crimes, in compliance with the Peace Agreement. Amnesties can only be granted to those signatories of peace who are not involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity,” announced JEP on “X”.

The Amnesty Chamber, after examining Nijmeijer’s case, reaffirmed her compliance with the criteria outlined for beneficiaries, particularly pertaining to political crimes and related offenses. The chamber’s determination not only validates Nijmeijer’s legal status but also highlights the integral role of the JEP in ensuring the implementation of transitional justice measures envisaged in the 2016 peace accord.

Nijmeijer was known within FARC with the alias “Alexandra Nariño”. At age 24, Nijmeijer joined FARC and helped the guerrilla as an operative in Bogota before eventually joining the organization as an armed insurgent that same year.

In 2007, her personal diary was recovered by the Colombian military, and excerpts of a video interview of her were released to the international press three years later. The former University of Groningen student was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice, along with 17 other defendants, for conspiracy to commit hostage-taking.

Nijmeijer was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington in 2010 for her role in the kidnapping of three U.S. citizens – Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes. The U.S. military contractors were held deep in the Colombian jungle by FARC for more than five years until their rescue by the Colombian military on July 2, 2008.

The confirmation of Nijmeijer’s amnesty, however, does not mark the conclusion of her legal odyssey. The JEP has emphasized the imperative of updating judicial records and expunging any legal processes associated with the amnesty granted to the Dutch citizen. This directive also underscores the need for comprehensive legal clarity and the removal of any lingering legal ambiguities that might impede the 46-year-old woman from leading a normal life in Colombia.

The JEP’s decision has sparked renewed scrutiny into Nijmeijer’s past activities, particularly her alleged involvement in attacks on energy towers in Antioquia between 2005 and 2007. In response to the JEP’s decision, Nijmeijer appeared before the Amnesty or Pardon Chamber on August 24, 2022, contributing to the truth-seeking process.

“Antonia Nariño” became a high-profile FARC member during the four-year-long peace talks in Havana, Cuba, where she oversaw two subcommissions dealing with gender and the removal of minors from FARC.

The reaffirmation of Nijmeijer’s amnesty by JEP signifies a crucial step forward for a foreign national involved in the FARC peace process, who, since demobilizing in 2017, moved to the southern city of Cali and finished her university studies in Romance Languages and Culture.

Tanja Nijmeijer was the subject of the 2023 documentary by German director Marcel Mettelsiefen. Photo: Cinema Delicatessen.