Colombia’s Congress on Monday passed the extension of war-related legislation that provides a legal framework for the government to engage in peace talks with rebel groups.
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo requested that Congress approve the extension of the “Law of Public Order,” which has be approved every four years since 1997, according to El Tiempo. While the law has passed the first debate, others remain.
The law allows the government to engage in the current peace negotiations with the FARC guerrilla group by allowing the president to lift capture orders for guerrilla leaders participating in the talks.
According to Senator Roy Barreras of the president’s U Party, the Law of Public Order is also necessary to manage demobilizations of illegal armed groups.
“The extension of [the Law of Public Order] is indispensable to maintain the conditions of demobilization of 2,000 members of armed groups per year and guarantee the legal security of the 56,514 who have already laid down their arms,” Semana reported Barreras as saying.
The law would also be necessary to allow for peace talks to take place with the ELN guerrilla group, which has reportedly already engaged in exploratory talks with the government.
When the law was passed four years ago, it had prohibited the formation of a demilitarized zone for talks, something that had a occurred in past efforts. This round of talks have taken place outside the country in Havana, Cuba.
Controversy over use of the law arose recently after it was reported that the FARC leader “Timchenko” had visited the peace talks in Cuba.
Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo said that these trips had been authorized by the national government.
The conservative opposition, led by former President and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, condemned the approved trip and stressed the apparent division between the president and his defense minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon.
Pinzon had made the trips public after finding out about them “through military intelligence” that had told him Timochenko had traveled to Cuba on a plane of the Venezuelan government, one of the guarantors of the peace process.
Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, a political ally of Uribe and in charge of overseeing the administration, called the FARC leader’s tip an “institutional scandal” and said the government had the legal obligation to request the rebel leader’s extradition as he has been convicted for several war crimes.