Colombia's Breakthrough for Peace and Justice

By the Monitor's Board | The Christian Science Monitor, September 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

Colombia's Breakthrough for Peace and Justice


the Monitor's Board, The Christian Science Monitor


Countries that end their civil wars by affirming shared values usually have the best hope for long-term peace. That could be true for Colombia, which has just achieved a historic agreement aimed at healing its war-damaged society through a novel process of justice.

The pact, signed Sept. 23 between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is the most critical victory in long negotiations that are expected to produce a final peace deal next year. It strikes a difficult balance between restoring peace while still accounting for the violent acts perpetrated by both sides in one of the world's longest wars.

FARC's leftist rebels, who have been fighting for half a century and now number only about 6,000, have refused to lay down their arms without knowing how they might be treated for war crimes, which include kidnappings, torture of civilians, and recruitment of child soldiers. Those in the armed forces and paramilitary groups that also abused or killed civilians are worried about facing punishment under a final deal.

The agreement sets up a process that invites combatants to admit their wrongdoings and pay reparations to victims in return for only five to eight years of "restricted liberty," which means not serving time in prison but performing some other service for the good of society. Those who refuse to cooperate with the special truth-and- reconciliation tribunal could serve as many as 20 years in prison.

More than 7 million Colombians have been victims of this war, which makes the agreement difficult for many to accept. …

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