If FARC guerrillas receive reduced sentences in the wake of an eventual peace deal with Colombia’s government then retired members of the country’s security forces should too, according to the organization representing retired security force operatives.
In an interview with news network CM& on Monday, Jamie Ruiz, president of Arcore (Association of Retired Officials of the Security Forces), stated that “if there are benefits for the [FARC] terrorists, there must be similar benefits for soldiers and policemen.”
“It’s a question of symmetry,” Ruiz said. “If soldiers and policemen, through fighting in the same conflict, have fallen foul of the criminal law, it would not be fair… for the terrorists to ask for zero days in prison, and the soldiers to face 50 or 60 years in prison.”
Ruiz’s comments come a week after President Juan Manuel Santos suggested that those members of the armed forces who had committed “errors” during the 49-year armed conflict with Colombia’s main rebel group FARC could be absolved of their crimes or given shorter sentences, if doing so would contribute to a lasting peace.
He had previously insisted that the legal framework for peace, which will establish the legal parameters on an eventual peace deal with the FARC, will leave “no room for impunity”, but has since softened his stance.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has long been worried that those guerrillas and members of the armed forces who committed grave crimes during the armed conflict will not face punishment for their crimes.
The ICC’s Prosecutor General, Fatou Bensouda, said in August that “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community must not go unpunished.”
In an attempt to allay fears of this, the Director of the Police, General Rodolfo Palomino, stated on Monday that the police would “never suppress an investigation that promised to shed light upon abuses by the armed forces.”
On the same day 2 ex-colonels of the army were sentenced to 19 years for conspiring with paramilitary commanders to assassinate civilians in order to inflate his unit’s apparent effectiveness.
The so-called ‘false positives’ scandal, in which an estimated 4,000 civilians were killed then dressed as guerrillas in order to be presented as combat kills, was revealed in late 2008 when investigators linked the bodies of unidentified rebel fighters found in the north of the country to people who had been reported missing in Soacha, a city south of the capital Bogota.
Colombia’s Prosecutor General has made it clear that under no circumstances will those members of the armed forces implicated in the ‘false positives’ scandal find leniency before the law, whatever the outcome of the ongoing peace process between the FARC and the government, who have been in talks since November.