Colombia pardons 110 FARC rebels as part of peace deal

Pardons apply to political crimes, but not killings and rape, minister says, as FARC expels uncooperative commanders.

FARC rebels await orders for disarmament
Many of the FARC rebels are awaiting the order to disarm and move to concentration centres as part of the peace deal [EPA]

The Colombian government has pardoned at least 110 FARC rebels as part of a peace deal to end a 52-year conflict, the country’s justice minister said.

“I believe around 300 pardons could be granted in all,” Justice Minister Jorge Londono told a press conference on Wednesday, according to the AFP news agency.

The pardons, as well as an amnesty law currently before the Congress, apply only to “political crimes”, but not to more serious offences such as killings, rape and torture, he said.

All pardons will be reviewed by a judge before taking effect, he added.

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Another 5,500 jailed soldiers, police officers and other state agents convicted of crimes linked to the conflict could also be released if their offences are minor, he said.

The issue of meting out justice has been a stumbling block as President Juan Manuel Santos seeks to end half a century of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Separately, FARC said it had expelled five commanders for refusing to demobilise and join the peace process.

The five commanders, all from units in the country’s southeastern jungle, reportedly include one former participant in the four-year-long peace talks in Cuba.

“This decision is motivated by their recent conduct, which contradicts our political-military line,” the group said in statement late on Tuesday.

First deal rejected

Colombian voters narrowly rejected an initial version of the peace deal in October after opponents attacked it as too soft on the rebels.

Santos, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, then passed a revised version of the deal through Congress, where he has a majority.

However, some critics still say the deal grants impunity for crimes against humanity and will allow war criminals to hold public office.

Launched in 1964 from the ashes of a quashed peasant uprising, FARC today has some 5,700 fighters who are preparing to disarm.

Another 4,500 members of the Marxist rebel group are in prison.

Colombia’s conflict has killed more than 260,000 people and left 45,000 missing.

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Source: News Agencies