Colombia passes FARC amnesty law under peace deal
Iran Press TV
Thu Dec 29, 2016 11:18AM
The Colombian congress has approved legislation that grants amnesty to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as part of a recent peace deal between the country's government and the rebel group.
The bill was passed both in Colombia's Senate and the lower house of the congress on Wednesday, forgoing prosecution against those FARC rebels who are known to have committed only minor crimes during the country's 52-year armed conflict.
The legislation covers most offenses committed by the rebels but will not absolve those who committed war crimes or human rights violations. The amnesty also applies to members of the country's military.
"Thanks to the Congress, which in a historic vote approved the amnesty law, [a] first step toward consolidating peace," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on his Twitter page.
The measure was, however, met with strong opposition by the country's right-wing Democratic Center Party, run by former president Alvaro Uribe and his allies, whose members abstained from voting.
The opposition argued that the deal granted impunity to rebels guilty of war crimes and gave them seats in Congress rather than sending them to prison.
The leftist rebel group and Colombia's government said in a joint statement that they would determine by January 2017 how many rebels were not eligible for the clemency order.
Those rebels found guilty of serious crimes like massacres, sexual violence, or kidnapping will not be entitled to amnesty and will instead serve alternative sentences, such as working to remove land mines.
Bogota and the FARC rebels first reached a deal to end their armed conflict on September 26. That deal, which had taken some four years to negotiate, was, however, rejected unexpectedly by a razor-thin margin in a referendum on October 2, with opponents saying that it was too lenient on the rebels.
The two sides then re-launched talks to modify the deal to the satisfaction of the opponents. A final version, a 310-page document, was signed on November 24 and won unanimous approval by both the Senate and the lower house of Congress in late November and early December, finally ending 52 years of deadly violence. It was not put to a referendum again.
Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for "his resolute efforts" to put an end to the civil war in country, which has claimed the lives of at least 260,000 people, left some 60,000 missing and displaced seven million others, according to official figures.
Some 7,000 members of the FARC rebel group are expected to lay down their arms over the next six months under the peace deal.
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