FARC fighters face indigenous justice

A Nasa indigenous court in Toribio, in Colombia's Cauca department, on Nov. 8 convicted seven FARC guerillas in the murder of two village leaders and related violence three days earlier. The two victims were members of the Indigenous Guard who had been removing FARC propaganda posters from walls in San Francisco corregimiento (hamlet) when they were killed. Five guerillas were sentenced to between 40 and 60 years in prison. The 60-year term was for the guerilla convicted in the slayings. Four receiving 40-year terms were found to have "fired indiscriminately" on villagers who confronted the guerillas in the incident, armed only with sticks. The men are to serve their time at the prison in Popayan, Cauca's capital. Two others—both minors—are to receive 20 lashes, and be held a rehabilitation center until they are 18. The verdict and sentences were decided after several hours of debate by an assembly of some 3,000 community members. Indigenous authorities in Colombia have jurisdiction in their own territories unless this contravenes national law. Gabriel Pavi, leader of the Northern Cauca Indigenous Councils Association (ACIN), said the guerillas were captured "in uniform and with rifles," and that "all are indigenous." 

The FARC issued a statement admitting responsibility for the killings and expressing "concern and regret"—while stopping short of an actual disavowal or apology, or any moves towards internal discipline in the case. Toribio is the scene of frequent clashes between the military and the FARC's Sixth Front—both of which violate the indigenous reserve's constitutionally guaranteed autonomy, Nasa leaders charge. Toribio's central village was the scene of a four-day battle for control of the town square in March. (BBC News, Miami Herald, Nov. 9; Intercontinental Cry, El Tiempo, Nov. 8)