The surrender of child soldiers of the Marxist FARC guerrilla group will begin on February 1, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace announced on Thursday.
High Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo emphasized that this includes all FARC members under the age of 18, which means there should be more than the 25 minors the guerrilla have claimed remain in their ranks.
The announcement comes amid significant controversy this week surrounding the issue, including a proposal by Democratic Center senator Alvaro Uribe to freeze the peace process until the child soldiers are turned over.
A press release from the High Commissioner outlines four guidelines agreed upon to reincorporate the child soldiers into Colombian society.
First, the process will begin after the FARC are all gathered in the 26 transitional zones, currently scheduled for January 31, though the readiness, or lack thereof, of the camps where the guerrillas should demobilize and disarm has also been a point of controversy this week.
Second, the methodology surrounding the reintegration of the child soldiers has been solidified.
A multi-phase process beginning with the reestablishment of rights, followed by reparation and reincorporation, and ending with social inclusion will be applied.
Third, the minors will arrive in ten temporary grouping zones where “the diagnosis and review of their situation will be carried out, and the process of restoring their rights by the State will begin,” reads the statement.
Finally, the Presidential Advisory Council for Human Rights will lead the process, following guidelines set forth by the National Council of Reincorporation.
— Alto Comisionado Paz (@ComisionadoPaz) January 26, 2017
While an agreement was reached, the FARC also voiced their concerns over the “prison conditions” faced by child soldiers already turned over by the guerrilla group.
“Why is the prison treatment by the government institutions of the 13 children who have already left [FARC ranks] not spoken about?” Londoño tweeted.
¿Por que no se pronuncian sobre trato carcelario por parte de instituciones del gobierno a los 13 menores que ya salieron?#PazEsCompromiso
— Rodrigo Londoño (@TimoFARC) January 26, 2017
For now however, these concerns notwithstanding, the surrender of the FARC’s child soldiers has a path ahead.
Guerrilla members under the age of 15 will be handed over 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.