The United Nations representative in Colombia said he is worried that the FARC guerrillas did not receive due process in an indigenous trial which found seven rebels guilty of murder, according to the BBC.
UN representative Fabrizio Hochschild said the rebels were not able to appeal their verdict and had no right of defense in a case surrounding the killing of two members of the Nasa tribal community.
“Although we understand the anger of the indigenous [group] and their wish to see these crimes don’t go unpunished as so many others, we are worried about due process,” Mr Hochschild said.
Indigenous guards on a Nasa reservation in the southwestern Cauca state were killed last week, reportedly after a dispute with a group of guerrilla fighters over propaganda posters commemorating the death of “Alfonso Cano,” one of FARC’s late leaders.
An indigenous trial with some 3,000 participants found the seven FARC guerrillas, themselves indigenous, guilty of their killings, handing down sentences from 40 to 60 years in prison. Two minors received 20 lashings and time in a rehabilitation center.
In a communique released Tuesday, the FARC, while saying they regret the incident, said most of the guerrillas were innocent. They were also critical of the behavior of the indigenous guards.
“The indigenous guards, in incomprehensible behavior, rushed in pursuit of the [FARC] militants, determined to take their weapons and detain them,” the FARC statement said.
Indigenous communities have the ability to conduct their own trials under Colombia’s constitution.
In addition the the trial, the UN has also expressed its concern over the incident and its implication for the ongoing violation of human rights in the conflict in Colombia.
“All parties of the conflict should respect the collective rights of the indigenous peoples,” said Hoschild in a press release.
Violations of these rights would go against the principles of protecting civilians set out by the Fourth Geneva Convention related to war crimes. The FARC have explicitly recognized the first three Geneva conventions, but have so far failed to recognize the fourth that deals with war crimes against civilians.
The FARC began peace talks with the government in 2012 but has continued to commit violent acts as the rebels and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos failed to reach agreement on a ceasefire for the duration of the talks.
Last month, the FARC said it is not responsible for violations of international humanitarian law.