Colombia pressured to release FARC prisoners

The United Nations on July 14 charged that Colombia's government is undermining the country's peace process by failing to release imprisoned FARC members and protect disarmed guerillas. In an unusually harsh statement, the UN Mission in Colombia said the government should “act responsibly and swiftly to put an end to a situation that weakens peace building." More than 3,400 FARC members remain in prison six months after the congressional approval of the Amnesty Law and two weeks after the completion of the guerilla army's disarmament. More than 1,400 imprisoned FARC members have gone on hunger strike, demanding the government release them as promised in the peace deal signed on Nov. 24 last year and ratified by Congress shortly after. Only 837 imprisoned FARC members have been released.

On July 10, President Juan Manuel Santos formally granted amnesty to 3,252 imprisoned FARC members, bringing to 7,400 the number of guerilla adherents to be amnestied either by presidential decree of judicial process. The amnesties cover only those accused of "political crimes." Thos accused of more serious crimes are to be tried under the statem of "transitional justice" established by the peace accords. The citizens' group Larga Vida a las Mariposas (Long Life and Butterflies) has been holding public mobilizations around the country to demand the government follow through and actually release all of those officially amnestied. (Colombia Reports, TeleSur, July 14; El Tiempo, July 13; Jurist, July 12; Prensa Rural, July 4)

The government has started to follow through on its commitments to demobilized guerillas, making funds available for them during their re-integration intot civil society through the country's Banco Agrario. However, at least 90 demobilized fighters will be ineligible for such funds as they are sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for their supposed links to the narco trade. (El Espectador, July 11)

Reprisal attacks on demobilized FARC fighters are also continuing. Six former guerillas have now been killed in such attacks over the past three months—the latest on July 12, when the body of a demobilized fighter was found in Chontaduro vereda of Ituango municipality, Antioquia department. (El Tiempo, July 14; TeleSur, July 13)

The wave of attacks on social leaders who support the peace process also continues. According to Colombia's official rights ombudsman, People's Defeder Carlos Alfonso Negret, 186 social leaders have been assassinated since January 2016, with 52 slain within the current year. Hundreds more have been threatened with death. (TeleSur, June 13)

Meanwhile, 756 veterans of the armed forces and National Police have launched a hunger strike of their own, protesting their "unequal" treatement and demanding that current and former members of the security forces similarly receive an amnesty for any crimes committed over the course of the conflict. (El Espectador, July 13)