Colombian rebels sign pact for repatriations of war victims

Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels sign deal to repatriate conflict victims in attempt to end Latin America's longest war by mid-March

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

FARC negotiator Catatumbo shake hands with Colombia’s government negotiator Pearl during a conference in Havana.

Updated Dec 16, 2015

Representatives of the Colombian Government and leftist FARC rebels signed an agreement on Tuesday on reparations for war victims and the establishment of special tribunals to try former combatants once the two sides reach a definitive peace pact.

The signing ceremony in Havana helps put peace talks back on track towards reaching a March 23 deadline for a comprehensive plan to end Latin America's longest war, which has killed 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964.

The partial agreement was the result of 18 months of work in which victims of the rebels, government troops and right-wing paramilitary groups participated and offered proposals. Sixty of them gave testimony to peace negotiators in Havana, site of the peace talks for the past three years.

The accord creates a truth commission to clarify what happened in the war and promises to search for the missing, identity their remains and return them. It also attempts to ensure those affected will not be victimised again.

In September, the Colombian government and guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reached a breakthrough agreement to establish special courts to try former combatants, including guerrillas, government soldiers and members of right-wing paramilitary groups.

While attempting to offer as much amnesty as possible, the courts would reduce sentences for those who admit guilt and exclude from amnesty those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Tuesday's agreement formalises the new justice system, which has caused consternation in Colombia, where critics complain FARC members might escape punishment or extradition to the United States, where some are wanted on drug-trafficking charges.