Colombia Amnesty Decree Eases Fears Over FARC Prisoners

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The Colombian government has issued a new decree to facilitate the release of incarcerated FARC guerrillas, removing an obstacle to the amnesty process that had become one of the most serious short-term threats to the implementation of Colombia’s peace accords.

On July 19, Colombia’s Justice Ministry issued Decree 1252, establishing the legal framework for suspending judicial process and granting amnesties and pardons for the thousands of members of the demobilizing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) that remain in prison, reported El Espectador.

The decree, which stands as a complement to last year’s amnesty law, ensures the judicial situation for the remaining incarcerated FARC members will be rapidly resolved by stipulating that all cases must be processed within 10 days of a claim, and establishing sanctions for judges that fail to do so, reported El Universal.

The new decree also attempts to unravel the entangled legal situations of many FARC members. It states that FARC members convicted of certain crimes, some of which are not covered by the amnesty, will receive conditional freedom as long as they have already served at least five years in prison.

In response to the law, FARC leader Seusis Pausias Hernández, alias “Jesús Santrich,” ended the hunger strike he began nearly a month ago over the long-delayed release of imprisoned FARC members, reported El Espectador.

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Resolving the legal situation of FARC prisoners had become a major stumbling block in implementing Colombia’s peace accords, to the extent that even the United Nations had condemned the Colombian government over its seemingly endless delays in releasing the prisoners.

By the start of July, more than six months after the passing of the amnesty law, only 30 percent of FARC prisoners had been released, according to prisoner’s rights groups. A report by a coalition of such networks details how the FARC have recognized 3,400 prisoners as members, while the government has certified 2,400 as FARC militants. Of those who were certified, 285 had been granted amnesty, 254 were granted conditional liberty and 283 moved to FARC demobilization camps.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace Process

The delays over amnesty have been one of the FARC’s principal concerns throughout the demobilization process, contributing to distrust of the government and its will and capacity to deliver on its promises.

However, over 7,000 FARC members have now benefited from amnesty, and if they are soon joined by their imprisoned comrades, this will remove one of the largest sources of anxiety and possible dissent among the FARC ranks.

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