BOGOTA – The leader of the FARC guerrillas said on Wednesday that reopening the debate on transitional justice, one of the most contentious points in the peace deal hammered out with the Colombian government, would be inappropriate.
“It would be out of line to revive a discussion that took us more than a year and a half, that was one of the toughest and most difficult discussions, in which the opinions of many people, many organizations were sought, especially victims’ rights groups,” Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, a.k.a. “Timochenko,” told Caracol Radio.
The leaders of the “no” campaign, headed by hardline former President Alvaro Uribe and the other members of his Democratic Center party, oppose the transitional justice model agreed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, because they say it would open the door to impunity for the rebels’ crimes.
That side came out on top by a narrow margin in an Oct. 2 referendum on the peace deal, which was finalized in late August after more than four years of negotiations in Havana and signed on Sept. 26.
The Colombian government and the FARC issued a statement on Sept. 23, 2015, unveiling their framework agreement on transitional justice, a milestone in the peace process that cleared the way for wrapping up the victims’ section of the accord less than three months later.
The agreement on transitional justice creates a Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a presumably temporary body that would have jurisdiction over all who participated directly or indirectly in the decades-old armed conflict.
One of that body’s chambers would focus on cases involving serious crimes that are not eligible for amnesty or pardon, such as crimes against humanity, genocide, hostage-taking, torture, forced displacement, extrajudicial executions and sexual violence.
That portion of the agreement also refers to a future amnesty law that will apply to members of the FARC who are not accused of committing serious crimes.
Timochenko said from Havana that he and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had signed this portion of the agreement and that it had later been further renegotiated.
“It seems to me it would be out of order to begin again. That would mean contemplating another six years, and I don’t think the country’s ready for that,” Timochenko said.
Asked whether he would meet with Uribe and another former president, Andres Pastrana, the two most prominent opponents of the peace deal, Timochenko said he had not received any request along those lines.
“We’ve said for a long time. The agreement was already finalized. And all the sectors were convened a long time ago, apart from the things that were done without much publicity, calling different people to contribute to the discussion that was taking place in putting together the accords. If anyone didn’t come, it’s because they didn’t want to,” he said.
Referring to the victory for the “no” campaign in the plebiscite, Timochenko said it had created a political situation that cannot be ignored.
“Personally, I think it was even good that that happened, because
it’s allowing a lot of doubts to be cleared up and it’s getting that significant sector of the Colombian people who didn’t vote, more than 63 percent, to take an interest in this historic development,” he added.
The rebel leader warned, however, that the current situation “can’t drag on.”
“The forces who don’t want peace. The forces who are eager for the fighting to continue and who reap benefits from the war are keen for the process to fail. And one of the ways to make it fail is if there’s a delay” in reworking the agreement, Timochenko added.