Just five days before Colombia’s presidential elections this May, incumbent Juan Manuel Santos will be expected to appear before the Constitutional Court to explain what political rights would be afforded former FARC rebels within his “Legal Framework for Peace” legislation.
The Constitutional Court announced Thursday that on May 20, President Santos — along with Colombia’s inspector general, prosecutor general, peace commissioner, and others — will be expected to stand before a public audience and explain how the country’s oldest living guerrilla group will be incorporated into civilian politics in the event of an eventual peace deal.
The Colombian government has been engaged in ongoing peace talks with the FARC since November 2012, and the parties have already produced a preliminary agreement on political participation for the FARC.
This hearing announcement comes after former Vice Minister of Defense Rafael Guarin issued a request challenging the Legal Framework for Peace legislation. Guarin hopes that the hearing will be in the form of a public debate.
“It is necessary to debate the constitutional conditions in order to exercise the right of political participation in the framework of a negotiation process in order to put an end to the Colombian armed conflict,” read the request put forth by Guarin.
Passed with overwhelming congressional support in 2012, the Legal Framework for Peace would consist of soft sentencing to demobilized guerrillas who confessed their crimes, provided the government first reached a peace deal with guerrilla groups. The law, a reformed version of the 2005 Justice and Peace law that saw to the demobilization of the AUC paramilitary group, would only be applicable to the FARC and the country’s second largest rebel group, the ELN.
While the government has heralded this legislation as striking a balance between considerations of FARC victims and the need for an end to the 50-year conflict with the rebels, many critics have called the bill too lenient considering the guerrilla’s accused crimes against humanity, while others such as the Human Rights Watch have dubbed the law “amnesty in disguise.”
The official text of the political participation agreement between the government and the FARC has yet to be made public, though the president will be expected to provide more concrete details during the court hearing.
The timing of the public debate, five days before Colombia’s May 25 presidential elections, will perhaps have an interesting effect on how voters see Santos’ bid for reelection.