Rebel group FARC on Saturday said it will recognize members of Colombia’s military who have been the victim of guerrilla war crimes or other violations of international humanitarian law.
The group did so one day after Colombia’s State Council ruled that soldiers and police — despite being a member of one of the main victimizers in the conflict — are legally allowed to be deemed victims of the conflict they participated in, setting a legal precedent which could affect their eligibility for reparations.
According to the high court, “a person may be rendering their obligatory military service, [but] at no moment does he/she cease to be a citizen subject to human rights protections.”
FARC negotiator “Carlos Antonio Lozada” said the rebel group will recognize soldiers and policemen as victims if they have suffered violations of humanitarian law, which include war crimes.
Lozada was recently flown to Cuba where the talks are held to negotiate directly with the military about the eventual end to violence between state and rebel forces.
According to Lozada, members of the security forces “are only victims if they have suffered proven infringements of international humanitarian law applicable to combatants.”
The applicable laws are the first three of the Geneva conventions and the Second Additional Protocol, said Lozada.
Particularly by recognizing the third Geneva convention, the FARC agreed to be held responsible for the treatment of prisoners of war. The rebels are know to have held captured soldiers under horrible conditions in some cases for more than 10 years.
According to Human Rights Watch, “the FARC has a long history of holding captured members of the government security forces in miserable conditions for many years.”
Additionally, rebel prison guards for years were ordered to execute military prisoners in the event of an attempted rescue operation by state forces.
The FARC released its last captives in early 2012 and has since handed over captured members of the military and police to the Red Cross.
The rebels have protested the recent inclusion of a member of the military to the victim representatives engaged in the talks. In spite of General Luis Mendieta’s 11-year captivity in the jungle, the FARC refused to recognize him as a conflict victim.
Additionally, the rebels have demanded that imprisoned guerrillas and “political prisoners” will also be recognized as victims.
Both the FARC and the government recognized their role as victimizers in the armed conflict in June via a historic joint declaration at the beginning of talks on victim reparation.
The two warring parties have been engaged in talks since November 2012 and have found agreement on rural reform, political participation and drug trafficking.
If the current negotiation regarding victims is concluded successfully, the parties move on to negotiate the formal end of the war.