Colombia looks towards peace rather than punishment in FARC deal

30 September 2015 by Louisa Reynolds, Guatemala City (Guatemala)

Though hailed as ground-breaking, the agreement on justice and reparations reached between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group on 23 September has also been criticized for its emphasis on recognizing, rather than punishing, past wrongs. The signing of the final deal is expected to end one of the world’s longest-running wars.

Screenshot of the historic handshake of Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos with FARC supreme commander Timochenko (Photo: Twitter/@MarkKennedy721)
Image caption: 
Screenshot of the historic handshake of Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos with FARC supreme commander Timochenko (Photo: Twitter/@MarkKennedy721)

According to Colombia’s National Center for Historical Memory (NCHM), more than 220,000 people – 80 percent of them civilians – have been killed in the armed conflict that lasted over five decades and pitted left-wing rebels against government troops and right-wing paramilitaries.

Under the agreement’s non-punitive approach, crimes against humanity will not be subject to amnesty. A partial amnesty, however, will be granted for political crimes. Individuals who acknowledge their participation in crimes can receive reduced prison sentences or just a restriction of liberties.

The negotiations, which began in Havana in November 2012 [IJT-179], were almost derailed in June, when rebel fighters killed 11 army soldiers. The incident cast doubt over the FARC’s commitment to a peaceful solution, though external factors eventually sped things up.

“Tensions on the Colombia-Venezuela border and a desire to get this done in time for the Pope’s visit to Havana made the FARC swallow hard and get things done,” says Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

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