Colombia’s Constitutional Court has begun discussions regarding the controversial prospect of granting political participation to the country’s largest guerrilla group.
As the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the rebel group FARC steadily advance, the Constitutional Court must decide if the rebels will be allowed to participate in politics in the event that a peace agreement is signed.
Last week, according to Semana magazine, the Court convened government officials and experts to discuss what has become one of the most controversial topics surrounding the ongoing peace negotiations.
Attendees included Colombia’s Prosecutor General, the country’s Inspector General, as well as victims of the longstanding armed conflict.
Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC, which are currently entering their fourth round, have been occurring in Havana since November 2012.
The Court’s discussion focused on a claim made by Colombia’s ex-Deputy Minister of Defense, Rafael Guarin, who stated that individuals involved in war crimes, including terrorist acts and narco-trafficking, should be prohibited from participating in politics.
According to Semana, the discussion was centered around three defining opinions, which argued either for no political participation, unconditional participation, or participation with certain stipulations.
Colombia’s Inspector General, Alejandro Ordoñez, argued that on behalf of the victims and international law, political participation should be prohibited to perpetrators of “war crimes.” “Severe crimes should receive severe penalties,” Ordoñez stated.
The country’s Prosecutor General, Eduardo Montealegre, took an opposite stance, arguing that preventing the FARC from participating in politics would go against the principles of democracy and the search for peace.
The Colombian government, represented by the High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo, stated that political participation must be the “center of any peace agreement.” Contrary to the Inspector General, Jaramillo argued that there are no international statutes that limit ex-combatants from participating in politics. Instead, political participation should be dependent on the degree to which the individual contributes to the sustainability of the peace process.
On Tuesday, Colombia’s chief negotiator in the peace talks with rebel group the FARC announced that the issue of victims’ rights and reparations are at the center of the fourth round of negotiations.
Chief negotiator and former Vice President Humberto de la Calle said in an official press release that victims of Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict are at the center of the peace process now taking place in Havana, Cuba.
“We did not come to negotiate their rights, but to agree on how the government and the FARC respond to them in the best way; how to satisfy their rights to truth, justice, and reparation, and ensure that the pain and tragedy they lived through does not happen again,” said De la Calle, adding, “those are the supreme interests of the government in this chapter of dialogues.
The Colombian government and the FARC have already agreed upon three out of six points on the peace agenda. These include issues of agricultural development that are aimed at improving the quality of life for millions of farmers, agreements on political participation to strengthen democracy, and settlements on how to deal with illicit drugs.
The FARC has been fighting the Colombian state since its formation in 1964 in what has become the oldest internal armed conflict in the world. An estimated six-million Colombians are direct victims of the fighting between rebels, the Colombian military and state-aligned paramilitary groups.
Three previous attempts at peace talks between the government and rebels failed, but the Cuba talks have gone uninterrupted since their inception, despite continued hostilities between rebel and public security forces in Colombia.
¿Del monte al Congreso? (Semana)