|“The truth will set us free”
Paramilitary leaders in an open letter to Colombia’s president
The paramilitaries were formed as private armies in the 1980s to help land owners protect their property from left-wing guerrillas who had been fighting since the 1960s.
They targeted the guerrillas, their civilian supporters, civic leaders, human-rights workers, journalists and eventually anyone who revealed the extent of their infiltration of Colombia’s public institutions.
“We ask publicly that those who urged us on, collaborators and direct beneficiaries, the businessmen, industrialists and political leaders … members of the security forces, join us in this task without apprehension or fear,” said the letter.
A number of other prominent politicians are expected to be investigated soon. The paramilitaries have previously said that they controlled as much as 35 per cent of the country’s congress.
As part of the peace deal the leaders will stand trial in special tribunals where they can be sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison.
Leaders must confess to all their crimes. If they don’t, they can be judged for each crime they failed to admit, and be tried in regular courts where they would be likely receive substantially longer sentences.
Critics of the peace deal have said that it is too lenient and encourages the paramilitaries not to tell the whole truth.