A bill to resolve the status of demobilized paramilitaries, who were left in legal limbo after the Constitutional Court overturned a law protecting them from prosecution, will be passed by the end of the year, according to Senator Armando Benedetti.
Both Benedetti and Senator Roy Barreras sought to reassure the demobilized that they would be legally protected.
“On Thursday we could be voting in the First Committees, and in the plenaries of the Senate and House by the 14. The 15 would vote on the settlement, so there is time enough for that,” Benedetti said, reports Semana.
Barreras said that the demobilized should remain calm, as the government will ensure that they can live in peace with their families, reports Caracol Radio.
The project will ensure that the demobilized will not face prosecution, provided they can prove they are not returning to crime. It is a response to the Constitutional Court’s decision last week to overturn a law that would have prevented demobilized paramilitaries being prosecuted for belonging to a criminal group.
The law was based on the “principle of opportunity,” which allows that in certain circumstances a prosecution need not go ahead if it is deemed better for society that it does not.
The court found that this violated the rights of victims and effectively provided an amnesty for criminals.
Both the Colombian government and the Organization of American States (OAS) expressed concern about this move. The OAS said that the court’s decision could cause “concern and anxiety” among the former paramilitaries, and that “imminent arrest warrants could end up convincing part of this population to leave the reintegration program and, in some cases, return to illegality.”
Colombia’s Ministry of Justice and the Interior on Monday presented the draft initiative to ensure that former combatants continue in the demobilization process and do not return to crime. Minister for Justice and the Interior German Vargas Lleras said that the new initiative would provide “stable conditions for the process of reintegrating demobilized [paramilitaries] back into civilian life.”
Benedetti explained that “The importance of the project is for all those people who are already in a peace process, and also because we ask people to leave the FARC and in that way strike blows against the terrorists of the FARC.”
“If this issue is not corrected it throws the peace process into the air and calls into question the word of the state,” the senator explained.
The government originally said that this decision could expose 17,000 – 18,000 of the 31,000 ex-paramilitary fighters to prosecution, but Senator Roy Barreras stated Tuesday that the move would affect 30,000 individuals.