Colombia’s opposition called on Congress to freeze an ongoing peace process with the FARC after the guerrillas failed to surrender child soldiers as promised.
On Wednesday, Democratic Center senator and former President Alvaro Uribe proposed a suspension of the vote on the transitional justice system that is part of a peace deal with the rebels until the FARC turn over all members under 18.
The transitional justice system is currently under debate in the Senate, after having been approved in the House of Representatives last week.
“We in the Democratic Center, who do not agree with this project, propose that they postpone the vote until they return the kids,” Uribe said in a video posted to his Twitter account.
Propondremos aplazar votación en plenarias de Justicia Especial para FARC hasta que entreguen los niños secuestrados pic.twitter.com/TIu3MkO24r
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) January 25, 2017
According to FARC spokesman “Pastor Alape,” there are no more than 25 child soldiers remaining in the rebel group’s ranks, all under the age of 15.
However, Sergio Jaramillo, the government’s High Commissioner for Peace, cast doubt on this claim.
“If we say there are 20 or 25 kids in the FARC we fall into an error because those are under the age of 15 and the government considers a minor someone who is younger than 18. In that sense there are many more and they will have to leave immediately from the guerrilla ranks,” Jaramillo was quoted as saying by Blu Radio.
Humberto de la Calle, the government’s chief peace negotiator at the finished peace talks in Havana, also expressed his frustration.
“[The FARC] cannot continue to play around on the subject of minors. The guerrilla have to learn that they’ve entered a new phase and this requires responsibility,” he told local media.
The FARC are not complying with the very important commitment that is the delivery of the minors. This Congress has been very generous in supporting the peace process, in implementing it and in helping it flow, but the FARC must begin to comply, delivering the minors and moving to the areas of concentration.
Congress President Mauricio Lizcano
Uribe’s proposal to suspend the peace process appears to have support across party lines.
According to CM&, his proposal was supported by senators Viviane Morales of the Liberal Party, Claudia Lopez of the Green Alliance, Eduardo Enriquez of the Conservative Party and Jose Obdulio Gaviria, also of the Democratic Center.
For his part, FARC negotiator “Pablo Catatumbo” said that the return of the child soldiers is on schedule, to be carried out over the next two weeks, newspaper El Espectador reported.
Child soldiers of 15 and under will be surrendered to Colombia’s Family Welfare Agency while those of 16 and older will go through a transitional justice system that is currently passing through Congress.
This temporary justice system will pardon all minors not accused of human rights violations and allow lowered sentences for minors who did commit war crimes like homicide or rape.
The FARC has long been criticized for the use of minors in the war against the state they’ve been waging since 1964.
The use of child soldiers under 15 is a violation of international humanitarian law and one of the most common war crimes committed by the guerrillas in their half-a-century existence.