Proposed bill aims to treat all fighters equally

A bill presented to Colombia’s Congress Friday seeks to provide equal treatment for both soldiers and demobilized paramilitaries who are facing trial, reported newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.

“It is very difficult to acclimate prospects for peace when an [illegal] fighter on one side benefits … and a legal combatant ends up being criminally accused,” the chairman of the Senate’s Peace Commission Roy Barreras told the newspaper.

This is in reference to the Justice and Peace Law that Colombia’s Congress passed in 2005, which offers reduced sentences (a maximum of 8 years despite the crime) for paramilitaries who lay down their arms.

“What I am proposing is to address the circumstances of the victims, to create a new law for combatants that looks at the circumstances for which they had been in arms,” Barreras told El Nuevo Siglo.

He added that no legal framework currently exists “for those who have been in arms, legally and illegally. This means, of course, a revision of the laws pertaining to the demobilized and reintegrated, in the present and future.”

Demobilized fighters, who were participating in the Justice and Peace Process, fell into legal limbo when the law came under scrutiny for failing to sufficiently prosecute people who had committed crimes against humanity. In December 2010 a law was passed by Congress which will create a special commission to deal with ex-paramilitaries on a case-by-case basis.

According to Barreras, the current law only serves the present situation of demobilized fighters but offers “no legal scene for future demobilization,” which he believes could be remedied with the new bill.

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