A court in central Colombia has sentenced commanders of the country’s main rebel group FARC, including top peace negotiators, to 40 years in prison for a 2004 bomb blast that killed four and left 30 injured.
The Criminal Court of the Fourth Specialized Circuit in Villviencia, Meta Department, sentenced in abstentia current FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias “Timochenko,” current spokesperson for the FARC in peace negotiations with the Colombian government, Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” the deceased Pedro Antonio Marin, alias “Sureshot,” and 13 other members of the rebel group after an investigation conducted by Colombia’s National Human Rights Unit.
In a largely symbolic ruling – no arrests will be made during the FARC’s peace negotiations with the government to end Colombia’s 49-year armed conflict – the FARC members in question were found to be responsible for the crimes of murdering protected persons, terrorism and rebellion.
In 2004, four farmers were killed and 30 more were injured when a canoe rigged with explosives was detonated by a child in a port in Villaviencia.
This news comes less than a week after the Colombian Supreme Court found nine FARC members, including “Timochenko” and “Ivan Marquez“, guilty of the 2005 hotel bombing, also in Meta Department, which killed six and injured 20. The nine were sentenced to 31 years in prison.
It is unclear at this point how this ruling will affect the ongoing peace negotiations taking place in Havana, Cuba. Mounting charges against FARC peace negotiators will likely play a role in the final referendum that will decide the fate of any peace deal agreed upon by the government and the rebel group.
So far the two parties have only managed to agree on land reform; no agreement has yet been reached on the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the conflict and the rights of the victims.
Pressure has been growing to speed up the process, with Congress’ president worried that “the process is being drawn out to a dangerous extent, which doesn’t help its image in Colombia.”