Colombia’s Supreme Court weighed in strongly on the ongoing peace process between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government in Havana, calling for steep sentences on 9 top FARC officials, including two prominent members of the rebel group’s negotiating team.
The FARC, Colombia’s largest and oldest rebel group, was tried in absentia by the Court, which found leaders of its Front 43 guerrilla unit guilty of orchestrating a hotel bombing in the Meta department that left six dead and 20 injured in 2005.
Among those included in the decision are the FARC’s maximum commander, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry (aka ‘Timochenko’), and Luciano Marin Arango (aka ‘Ivan Marquez’) and Jorge Torres Victoria (aka ‘Pablo Catatumbo’) of the FARC negotiating team in Havana.
The Court ordered the guilty parties pay a fine of over $600,000 and a sentence of 31 years in prison, reducing what was originally a 40-year sentence because it deemed terrorism and aggravated homicide as implicit, to a certain extent, in the act of declaring open rebellion against the Colombian Republic.
The ruling — largely a symbolic gesture as the negotiators themselves will not be arrested during peace talks, and the other guilty figures have been wanted, and sought out unsuccessfully, for other crimes for some time now — is expected to change the dynamic of ongoing negotiations, especially if a peace deal is sent to voters in the form of a public referendum.
One of the most hotly contested subjects in the public debate surrounding the talks has been immunity for high crimes committed by the FARC. The FARC is seeking a path toward reintegration into official society, but members of the military, for one, have demanded the FARC be held responsible for its actions, as high-ranking officials from the armed forces have been tried and convicted for various human rights violations, and are subjects of ongoing investigations or court cases.