Colombia’s now-demobilized FARC guerrillas used several NGOs to help compose the demobilization list that proved to contain unaffiliated criminals in order to allow them to obtain judicial leniency as part of the implementation of an ongoing peace process, reported newspaper El Tiempo on Tuesday.
According to the daily newspaper, a group called “Larga Vida a Las Mariposas,” which includes at least seven NGOs working in seven areas of the country for the good of so-called political prisoners helped the FARC compile a list that was delivered to government officials.
The list, which was supposed to contain names of those directly affiliated with the Marxist-inspired movement, reportedly, upon closer scrutiny contained drug traffickers and common criminals who would certainly not be eligible to benefit from a special judicial process.
When contacted by El Tiempo, one of the visible heads of the NGO, John Leon admitted that the organisation was responsible for compiling the initial list of approximately 6,00 names along with the leadership of the FARC.
“We went to collect information in the prisons of people who claim to be FARC. We also reviewed the procedural documents related to cases, “said Leon.
Leon however claimed that while the NGO made up of, among others, the Foundation Lazos de Dignidad, Corporacion Solidaridad Juridica y Yarokamena Corporation were involved in compiling the names, the final list was confirmed by the FARC.
“We delivered names, but the FARC, sovereignly, delivered the final lists,” he said.
Colombia’s vice-president Oscar Naranjo criticized the FARC leadership for what he considers a deliberate attempt to deceive the government describing the inclusion of the suspected traffickers on the list as “serious.”
“Here the government’s commitment is clear: we will not allow the process and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to be used to open space for criminals,” added the vice-president.
According to the peace commissioner, the government has already denied integration of some 2,800 common criminals who attempted to join the demobilization process in order to avail of judicial benefits.
These latest discrepancies in the list for those eligible for entry to the transitional justice mechanism have fueled suspicion that the FARC leadership is not showing full transparency.
Democratic Center Senator Alfredo Rangel slammed what the sheltering of common criminals under the umbrella of the special justice system, calling for an investigation into the FARC leaders who included them on the list.
“It is absolutely certain that these criminals were aided by FARC leaders who included them in the lists in exchange for money, there they committed several crimes that should exclude them from the JEP and be tried by ordinary justice. These leaders of the FARC must be investigated by the prosecution,” said Rangel to Kienyke.com.
The FARC’s counsel, Diego Martinez claimed that the process of registration of the ex-guerillas has been very rigorous and that the lists with the names were put together in good faith, however he said “it is difficult for the Secretariat to know who is who in a population of 12,000 ex-combatants,” reported El Colombiano.
The transitional justice mechanism is one of the more controversial aspects of the peace deal signed between the now-disarmed rebel group and the government.
As part of the deal, former FARC guerrillas can be released from prison, evade extradition to the United States and avail of reduced sentences for crimes committed provided they comply with the justice system.
The favorable conditions however have reportedly led to a spate of claims by various criminals that they were associated with the FARC in order to benefit from the process.
In July, a number of alleged drug traffickers who were claiming to be FARC guerrillas in order to avoid extradition to the United States say their claims to be included in the peace process rejected.
When paramilitary group AUC demobilized between 2003 and 2006, similar claims were made about part-takers in the peace process with the FARC’s former arch enemies.