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COLOMBIA
FARC demobilization process begins
Latinamerica Press
2/27/2017
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Some 7,000 combatants are concentrated in 26 areas where they will lay aside their weapons and re-enter civilian life.

The last group of combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) arrived on Feb. 18 to La Montañita municipality, located in the southern department of Caquetá, one of the 26 zones where some 7,000 guerrilla fighters are concentrated as part of the disarmament process and their re-entering into civilian life.

After Colombians took to the polls and dismissed the Peace Agreement in a plebiscite held on Oct. 2 — called for the people to express their approval or disapproval of the Peace Agreement signed on Sep. 26 between President Juan Manuel Santos and the top leader of the FARC Rodrigo Londoño —, a second agreement was negotiated between the government and the FARC based on what had been previously signed, which was endorsed by the Congress on Dec. 1.

Under the terms of the second agreement, the lay down of weapons is to take place between Mar.1 and June 1under the United Nations’ supervision. Once this process is finished, the weapons will be melted and the metal obtained will be used to build three monuments to be placed in Colombia, Cuba and the city of New York.

The guerrillas will remain gathered for six months, period that began on Dec. 1, time during which they will receive job training, be issued identity cards and be registered into the national health system.

It is foreseen that by May the FARC will hold a congress to allow them to form a legally recognized political party. The FARC will be assured to have a limited number of parliamentary seats during the next two legislative periods.

Guerrilla leader Jorge Torres Victoria, also known as Pablo Catatumbo, who is in charge of mobilizing the FARC combatants, denounced in a letter published on Feb. 8 the slow action by the government to put into effect the works that would allow the settlement of the demobilized guerrillas in 26 veredas (small rural geographical units).

“The uphill hike to reach the open field that should have been the designated rural area went without a hitch. Neighbors from the area were greeting us waving white flags and came to the road to walk along with us. The advance parties coming from the pre gathering points were already there when we reached the area. Both, guerrilla members and the population of the area looked startled at looking at the large barren area: there were not even the foundations of the common areas, or the expected material, not even a minimum water supply,” said Torres Victoria, head of the Alfonso Cano Western Bloc that operated in the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca.

On Feb. 17, the representative of the United Nations mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, stated to Colombian authorities that most of the camps “were neither ready, according to the criteria accorded with the government, nor had the area been delimited with any precision,” something that could lead to incidents.

The High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo, and Chancellor Angela María Holguín, answered Arnault concerns, stating that the major difficulties had been dealt with and that “the construction of the camps is progressing at a good pace.” They also said that the delimiting is the responsibility of the Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MMV), made up by members of the United Nations, the government and the FARC. At the same time they expressed their own concern with the silence coming from the MMV in relation to many acts that infringe on the protocols and regulations that pertain to the definite and bilateral cease fire and end of hostilities, and the lay down of weapons.”

Advances made in legal matters
The demobilization by the FARC of minors under the age of 18 must take place immediately, such as the guerrilla group promised. According to Jaramillo, the agreement is that once the FARC settles in the rural areas and provide information on the number of underage combatants, “these minors will begin to be transferred to transition areas in nearby municipal centers, where they will go through an evaluation process.”

Arnault, on his part, insisted in the need for the surrendering of weapons to go hand in hand with real advances made in legal, socio-economical and security matters that will permit to alleviate the worries of the guerrilla members.

The government issued a decree on Feb. 18 regulating the Amnesty Law approved on Dec. 28, to be applied to “political offenses of rebellion, sedition, political disturbance, conspiracy and beguilement, illegal seizure and retention of authority and related crimes” committed before Dec. 1, when the Peace Agreement came into force.

Those who are interested in receiving amnesty must present a request and the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace must confirm if the applicants are indeed members of the FARC. However, since some crimes may not be commuted by amnesty, as it is established by international legislation, those combatants who have remained jailed for five years will be entitled to request parole. Also, guerrilla members who have been sentenced for crimes not commuted by amnesty and who have been incarcerated for less than five years may request to be transferred to the assigned rural areas to complete their sentences until the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is in place.

The JEP, created on Sep. 23, 2016, will exercise judicial power and become part of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-repetition (SIVJRNR). This authority “will fulfill all the duties of the Colombian State to investigate, clarify, prosecute, and bring to trial and dictate sentence for the serious violations of human rights and the serious infractions of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that took place in the context and due to the armed conflict.”

Despite the good intentions, different analysts have expressed their concerns that many of the reforms included in the Peace Agreement may not be followed up by the next government that is to be elected in June 2018. Also, there is the risk that US President Donald Trump, who took office on Jan. 20, backs down from the US commitment to provide this year approximately US$450 million for post-conflict. —Latinamerica Press.


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FARC combatants will return to civilian life after handing over weapons. / InSight Crime
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