The Colombian government has reached a deal with FARC rebels on reparations to victims of the conflict, one of the most sensitive issues to be discussed during the three-year-long peace process.
Representatives from Norway and Cuba, who have been brokering negotiations in Havana, announced the deal earlier today at a press conference attended by a group of victims from the conflict.
“We have taken a fundamental step forward for the construction of a stable and lasting peace and for the end of a war which has torn this country for more than half a century,” they said.
The conflict between FARC and the government has been on-going since 1964. More than 220,000 people have been killed by the fighting and more than 6 million Colombians are thought to have been displaced.
The issue of victim reparations has been on the negotiating table since August 2014. Divided into four central themes of truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees that the conflict will not be repeated, it is the justice section that has been a sticking point for both sides.
At the centre of the agreement announced today is the establishment of a special judicial system (JEP) for the punishment of war crimes, partially announced in September. The JEP will work independently and will consist of a series of different courts. One, Amnesty and Pardons, will cover lesser offenses related to the rebellion. Congress will have to determine whether or not this can include drug trafficking crimes.
Serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity will be dealt with by the Peace Tribunal. Shorter sentences of as little as eight years in prison will be offered to those who recognise their responsibility promptly.
Details on how the JEP will deal with crimes committed by state agents will be released in the next few days, Colombian Justice Minister Yesid Reyes told BBC Mundo. He said the processes would be “similar” to those applied to rebels.
Other measures announced include the creation of a Truth Commission – to uncover the causes and effects of the conflict –, the creation of a commission for the recovery of disappeared persons, the establishment of mechanisms to prevent a repeat of the conflict, and the provision of reparations to victims.
Reparations will take the form of admissions of responsibility from FARC members, the rebuilding of infrastructure, and material compensation.
The issue of Victim Reparations joins Land and Rural Development, Political Participation of the Guerillas and drug trafficking among the points successfully negotiated. Only two issues remain: the terms of disarmament and the mechanism through which the final agreement will be ratified.
A final agreement will be signed on the 23rd March 2016. However, President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the public will have to approve the deal by popular vote.