The Senate held the penultimate debate on a proposed constitutional reform that would see legal benefits given to demobilized armed actors in Colombia’s ongoing conflict.
The proposed bill, entitled the “Legal Framework for Peace,” passed the seventh of eight debates required to pass the reform into law.
The proposed legislation is part of a move by the Santos administration to reform the widely discredited Justice and Peace law of 2005, which aimed to facilitate the demobilization of the paramilitary group, the AUC.
The draft has spurred criticism from opponents who feel it would allow impunity for the worst human rights violators. Critics warned that the bill permitted guerrilla and paramilitary leaders to eventually run for political office.
A recently added amendment to the bill sought to clarify that leaders of illegal armed groups deemed most responsible for crimes against humanity were unlikely to gain political office.
“In the case of ‘Timochenko‘ there is no chance he will be eligible or have any representation in Congress because those most responsible for crimes against humanity may not be elected,” said Senator Roy Barreras in reference to the leader of the FARC, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko.”
Another paragraph added to the draft makes specific reference to government officials who are responsible for crimes relating to the armed conflict.
“In order to develop instruments of transitional justice, in the case of government agents, the tools referred to in this article may be designed to be applied specifically to the termination of armed conflict, for those who violated criminal laws,” the proposed bill reads.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos defended the reform May 23 in the wake of fierce opposition from officials and former President Alvaro Uribe, who called the bill “a framework of impunity for terrorism.”
The constitutional reform’s goal is “to develop a comprehensive strategy for transitional justice, which will satisfy the rights of victims and make the transition to what we all want, which is peace,” according to Santos.
Santos has reiterated that the Legal Framework for Peace will prevent demobilized guerrillas and paramilitaries from returning to illegality.
The eighth and final debate on the Legal Framework for Peace is scheduled for Monday in the First Committee of the Senate.