Colombia government presents FARC amnesty law before Congress

(Image credit: Wesley Tomaselli)

Hours after Colombia’s constitutional court approved a revised peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, the government presented Congress an amnesty law that is key for the guerrillas’ effective demobilization.

The amnesty law is part of the transitional justice system that will be put in place to try approximately 16,000 FARC members, 24,400 state officials and 12,500 civilians.

Transitional justice in Colombia: A very sharp double-edged sword

The bill is the most important to pass at the moment, because without it the FARC members have no judicial guarantee they can apply for amnesty after having moved into their demobilization, disarmament and reintegration camps (ZVTN).

This vetting of guerrillas will take place in the UN-controlled ZVTN camps by special amnesty tribunals that will decide whether a former FARC member can take part in a reintegration program or must stand trial if he or she is accused or convicted of grave human rights violations.

Imprisoned members of the military and other state officials can also request amnesty unless they are implicated in grave war crimes.

The bill is a major priority because, in order for both parties to comply to the peace deal, the FARC has to effectively have moved all its members into the UN-controlled ZVTN zones before December 31 with the agreed judicial guarantees.

Colombia’s FARC rebels won’t demobilize until ‘judicial obstructions’ are removed

Until now, the guerrillas are staying in provisional pre-demobilization camps that were put in place after Colombia’s voters rejected an initial version of the peace deal in early October.

The revised version of the peace deal wasn’t approved by the Constitutional Court until Tuesday.

Court ratifies Colombia peace deal; Congress to ‘fast track’ amnesty bill

The FARC, the military and the United Nations have already begun preparations for the mass transport of guerrillas and arms, but have yet to carry out the actual demobilization.

President Juan Manual Santos has called extraordinary sessions during Congress’ Christmas recess that would allow the legislative body to approve the amnesty law just in time.

According to Caracol Radio, the first of four debates on the bill will be held next week, which would allow its approval in the last week of December.

The entire demobilization and disarmament process of the FARC lasts 180 days after which the guerrillas will either be free men taking part in reintegration processes or be held captive while on trial for war crimes.

The entire peace process, which includes major reforms in agriculture and politics, is set to last an entire decade.

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