Crimes committed by Colombia’s security forces, provide the FARC with more leverage in negotiations when it comes to the prosecution of rebel war crimes, said an expert on Wednesday.
Hans Rouw, DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) expert at Dutch NGO IKV Pax Christi, told Colombia Reports there is a “good chance that the rebel group will be able to negotiate impunity for a lot of their crimes.”
The expert explained that impunity for the FARC is more likely because of the human rights violations committed by the Colombian military, stating that “both negotiating parties, not simply the rebel group, have a stake in getting off scot free” in case international courts start investigating war crimes committed in Colombia during the conflict.
Rouw was keen to stress however, that any deal offering the guerrillas impunity must “strike a balance between negotiating to a peace agreement, with the demands of the population.”
“There is always going to be that balance between security and peace. Do you want them to disarm? The easiest way to go about that is to say we will forgive and forget everything. If you want sustainable peace however, there must be a form of reparation,” added the expert.
President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday said that the government will “not sacrifice justice for peace” during negotiations with the FARC.
The Head of state did concede however, that “we cannot pretend to investigate all acts committed in half a century of violence, but we want to build a realistic strategy, one that meets the rights of the victims in the best way possible.”
A key issue in relation to striking this balance, is the practicality of investigating all criminal acts committed by the rebels.
While the public prosecution has been granted more funds to deal with the FARC’s potential demobilization, Rouw suggests that the current back log of cases may hamper future investigations.
“From what I understand there are still approximately 20,000 paramilitaries waiting in judicial limbo.”
“That is very worrying for the case load they already have, let alone if additional cases from the FARC are being brought” added the expert.
Whether an agreement is reached with the rebels or not, the key for Rouw is transparency in the entire process leading up to an accord.
“An agreement cannot be reached behind closed doors. That will leave too much room for interpretation and will most likely lead to a negative interpretation.”
‘Transparency will minimize rumors and thus be more effective” added the expert.
The FARC and the government have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to a conflict that has lasted almost 50 years.
The last mass demobilizations of illegal armed groups, those of the paramilitary organization AUC between 2003 and 2006, and neo-paramilitary group ERPAC in 2011, have been strongly criticized because of what critics have called the granting of impunity to war criminals.
- Interview with Hans Rouw (IKV Pax Cristi)