Colombia: war crimes at issue in FARC talks

Amid concerns over impunity for past atrocities in Colombia's peace process, a court in Villaviencio last week sentenced ex-FARC commander Gildardo Forero García, AKA"'Arley" to 40 years in prison for his role in the guerillas' August 1998 siege of the town of Miraflores, Guaviare, department. Three civilians were killed and many wounded in the siege as the guerillas used improvised "cylinder-bombs" indiscriminately. Sixteen members of the security forces were also killed in the siege, and many taken captive by the guerillas. (El Espectador, Feb. 5) The previous week, former army sergeant Iván Mauricio Ochoa Yepes was sentenced to 43 years by a court in Medellín for the "false positive" killings of two civilians, including a minor, at Concepción, Antioquia, in April 2006. The human rights division of Colombia's Fiscalía said that it is investigating 2,308 "false positive" cases. (El Colombiano, Feb. 7;, Jan. 29; Radio Caracol, Jan. 24)

On Feb. 8, survivors of the 2003 Nogal nightclub bombing in Bogotá held a ceremony to remember their loved ones. The bombing is believed to have been carried out by the FARC, but sruvivors accused the government of blocking investigations into the case, potentially to protect politicians who may have had advance notice. (El Tiempo, Feb. 8)

Colombia's Unit for Reparations and Attention to Victims continues to investigate the legacy of paramilitary violence during the conflcit. It says it has regsitered 20,000 complaints agaist imprisoned warlord Ramón Isaza AKA "El Viejo" and his son Oliverio AKA "Terror"—including many accusations of sexual violence. (El Tiempo, Feb. 8) 

The Fiscalía announced that it is developing a security plan to assure that surviving paramilitary groups—known as "Bacrim," for criminal bands—do not take over territories abandoned by the FARC after their anticipated demobilization. (El Tiempo, Feb. 6)

In a symbol of de-escalation and reconciliation in Colombia, on Feb. 2 two former implacable foes among the country's political leaders—hardline ex-president (and current senator) Alvaro Uribe and leftist ex-senator Piedad Córdoba—met for talks on the peace process. The meeting took place at the cathedral of Riohacha in Guajira department. (La FM, Feb. 3; El Colombiano, Feb. 2)

The Victims Reparations Unit estimates that Colombia's civil war has claimed 6 million lives over 50 years.