BOGOTA – Leaders of the former guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) recognized on Monday their “ethical and political” responsibility for the numerous kidnappings of civilians committed during more than half a century of armed conflict in Colombia.
“We recognize the existence of retentions to civilians and assume on behalf of the men and women who were part of the organization, our collective, ethical and political responsibility for the damage caused to the people and families who were victims of this unfortunate practice,” said Rodrigo Londoño, president of the Revolutionary Alternative Force of Colombia (FARC), now a political party.
The former guerrilla leader, known in his time as a fighter as Timochenko, spoke at a hearing of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in which more than a dozen former FARC leaders delivered a document on the kidnappings committed, such as part of the commitment acquired in the peace agreement signed in November 2016.
Londoño added that the collective appearance before the magistrates is a sign that they want to “bring full truth” and said that the document answers questions asked by the JEP about how the crimes were committed and their objective.
“We do not want to justify any conduct that was in violation of International Humanitarian Law, but to make known in our own voice the objective reasons that led many Colombians to build what the FARC were,” he said.
The ex-guerrillas’ hearing was held as part of “case 001” opened by the court, also known as “the kidnapping one” and in which each of the appearing parties previously attended individually to explain their responsibility in the crime that the members of the FARC used to call “retentions.”
The JEP is the backbone of the agreement signed between the government and FARC and is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes committed during the country’s armed conflict.
During the session, which lasted for about an hour, Londoño stressed that the former guerrilla leaders will honor their commitment to the agreement “telling this jurisdiction all the serious events because the victims and the country demand it.”
Former guerrilla leader Pastor Alape, who also intervened before the magistrates, said that the ex-combatants must give up all their “efforts” and “energy” so that there is justice and “strengthening the dreams of a new nation” is achieved.
“We believe that it is necessary to appear in this scenario of justice to sow hope ... We aspire to contribute so that at some point this society, from the individuality of each of the people who were affected by the conflict, can forgive us” concluded Alape.
FARC collected between 1996 and 2012 at least 3.6 billion pesos (about $1.25 billion) for kidnappings, according to the first report that the Colombian Prosecutor delivered to the JEP on its investigation of the armed conflict.
From the 1990s when FARC intensified the crime of kidnapping and made it one of its main sources of financing.
The Attorney General’s Office has 6,162 investigations attributable to FARC for kidnappings involving 8,163 victims.