By: Morgan Lear
In 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was founded and soon became Colombia’s largest rebel group. The rebel group was considered to be the “armed wing of the Communist Party” and embraced a Marxist-Leninist ideology. In the 1960’s when FARC was founded, Colombia was experiencing inequality and repression by their government, largely dealing with possession of land. Inspired by the Cuban revolution in the 1950’s, FARC used force as a means to pressure the government into equal rights regarding ownership of land. FARC’s primary target was the Colombian security forces. While FARC “attacked police stations and military posts, and ambushed patrols,” they also “bl[ew] up oil pipelines, electricity pylons and bridges and bombed social clubs,” killing many civilians along with police. Analysts believe that this rebel group was being financed through drug trafficking or levying taxes on drug traffickers. FARC was also known for extortion and kidnapping for ransom in order to finance their mission.
After over 50 years of civil unrest, leaving over 200,000 people dead, FARC, the most powerful guerrilla force signed a peace treaty approved by Colombia’s Congress in November 2016. The main points of the agreement are as follows:
- Those who fully confess their crimes and make reparations to victims, may serve five to eight years in the “transitory normalization zones” that are considered an effective restriction of liberty, but not jail or prison. These zones are “the size of a rural hamlet.”
- The Special Peace Jurisdiction, the judicial system set up to prosecute these war crimes, will be given 10 years jurisdiction. No foreign judges are allowed.
- The agreement will not be incorporated to the constitution.
- FARC and its member must provide an inventory of all their assets in order to pay for reparations to their victims.
- Drug Trafficking affiliation may be amnestied on a case-by-case basis.
- FARC received 10 automatic congressional seats.
Turning now to the present, FARC’s leader Timoleon Jimenez has transitioned the guerilla group into the political arena. FARC will be keeping the acronym, “but the group’s chosen party name is ‘Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común’ or ‘Common Alternative Revolutionary Force.’” “It remains to be seen if the FARC will form a coalition to run for elected office in the 2018 presidential elections in Colombia.” However, the Colombian Senate has announce that it will allow 10 congressional seats to be secured by former FARC combatants that are interested in holding office.
What legal issues may present themselves after the peace agreement is signed between the Colombian government and FARC? What is the effect of FARC holding an elected office?
Critics of this peace agreement point out that the agreement does not comply with international law. A significant issue with the peace agreement is that it does not require prison time for FARC fighters. Under the Rome Statute, Colombia has an obligation to provide punishment for FARC’s human rights violations. However, FARC rejected the demands of the Colombian government for prison time. Instead, FARC agreed that its 8,000-plus guerillas will demobilize by transitioning to twenty rural areas as “transitory normalization zones” and turn over their weapons. The process will be monitored by the United Nations. In fact, FARC guerillas that “confess to atrocities will be exempt not only from prison or jail, but also from any ‘equivalent’ form of detention.” Human rights activists and the Colombian people find the agreement to be too lenient considering FARC killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions from their home.
Additionally, this peace agreement allows for FARC members to run for an elected position. “Under Colombian law, perpetrators of crimes against humanity should be barred from holding or running for office while serving their sentences.” Given that the agreement does not require prison or jail time for any of the FARC fighters, this law does not apply to them. Notably, the agreement did state that the top leader of FARC, if found guilty, may be given prison time. Although, they will also receive reduced sentence time. Additionally, the agreement expressly stated that confessed perpetrators would not be subject to any restrictions on their political rights. In fact, the Colombian government seems to be welcoming FARC members with open arms considering it announced 10 elected office seats are available for FARC members.
Indeed, FARC is not the first rebel group to later enter the political arena. For example, after the United States Civil War, many Confederates were granted amnesty and became a political figure for their home state. Unsurprisingly, the United States is still fighting the battles that were supposed to be put to rest after the Civil War. A large part of the institutional racism issues stem from the Civil War aftermath. Colombia will likely experience a similar situation. The mere peace agreement in 2016 between the Colombian government and FARC was extremely controversial, and was initially rejected in a referendum. This peace agreement took over four years to complete because of its magnitude and fragile state. “To many Colombians who had endured years of kidnappings and killings by the rebels, the agreement was too lenient.” The agreement allowed most of FARC’s fighters amnesty, and the top leaders to receive reduced sentences. Therefore, the Colombian people will likely not be as forgiving as their elected officials.
Although Colombia has moved one step closer to peace between it and FARC, it still has many obstacles to come. In the mist of the signing of a controversial peace agreement, FARC may run for election in 2018. Colombia may face new fractures in its government that it has never experienced before due to the introduction of FARC in the political arena. Additionally, implementation of the peace agreement has taken a slow start and may require heavier enforcement. Regardless, Colombia’s 52 year civil war has ended, and its reconstruction era has begun.
 Who are the Farc?, BBC News (Nov. 24, 2016), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36605769.
 Nicholas Casey, Colombia’s Congress Approves Peace Accord With FARC, New York Times (Nov. 30, 2016) https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/world/americas/colombia-farc-accord-juan-manuel-santos.html?mcubz=0. In order for Congress to approve the agreement, “the government bypassed voters this time, who had turned down the accord by a narrow margin on Oct. 2.” Id.
 Key Changes to the New Peace Accord, Colombia Peace (Nov. 2016), http://colombiapeace.org/2016/11/15/key-changes-to-the-new-peace-accord/.
 Timoleon Jimenez is an alias name. Timoleon’s real name is Rodrigo Londoño Echeveri. Timochenko, the guerrilla leader who talks peace, BBC News (Nov. 24, 2016), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36610281.
 Angela Barajas, Colombia’s FARC unveils new political party, CNN (Aug. 31, 2017), http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/31/americas/colombia-farc-new-political-party/index.html.
 Angela Barajas, Colombia clears path for former FARC members to hold office, CNN (April 28, 2017), http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/americas/colombia-farc-senate/index.html.
 Human Rights Watch Analysis of Colombia-FARC Agreement, Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/12/21/human-rights-watch-analysis-colombia-farc-agreement#_edn5 (last visited Sept. 4, 2017); Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture), adopted December 10, 1984, G.A. res. 39/46, annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51(1984), entered into force June 26, 1987, ratified by Colombia on December 8, 1987, art. 4.
 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), A/CONF.183/9, July 17, 1998, entered into force July 1, 2002, art. 77(1); Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY Statute), S.C. Res. 827, U.N. Doc. S/RES/827 (1993), as amended, http://www.icty.org/x/file/Legal%20Library/Statute/statute_sept09_en.pdf (accessed December 19, 2015), art. 24; Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR Statute), S.C. Res. 955, U.N. Doc.S/RES/955 (1994), as amended, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/StatuteInternationalC... (accessed December 19, 2015), art. 23; Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL Statute), January 16, 2002, http://www.rscsl.org/Documents/scsl-statute.pdf (accessed December 19, 2015), art. 19.
 Colombia’s government formally ratifies revised Farc peace deal, The Gaurdian (Dec. 1, 2016), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/01/colombias-government-formally-ratifies-revised-farc-peace-deal.
 Human Rights Watch Analysis of Colombia-FARC Agreement, supra note 14.
 Barajas, supra note 13.
 President Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation.; Retoration to Rights of Property Except in Slaves. An Oath of Loyalty as a Condition Precedent. Legality of Confiscation Proceedings Recognized. Exception of Certain Offenders from this Amnesty. By These Special Applications for Pardon May be Made. Reorganization in North Carolina. Appointment of a Provisional Governor. A State Covention to be Chosen by Loyal Citizens. The Machinery of the Federal Government to be Putin Operation. AMNESTY PROCLAMATION, The New York Times (May 30, 1865), http://www.nytimes.com/1865/05/30/news/president-johnson-s-amnesty-proclamation-restoration-rights-property-except.html.
 American History: The Civil War and Reconstruction: Aftermath of the Civil War, Lloyd Sealy Library, http://guides.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/c.php?g=288398&p=4496620 (last visited Sept. 4, 2017).
 Casey, supra note 7. “50.2 percent of Colombians rejected the peace deal and 49.8 percent vot[ed] in favor.” Julia Symmes Cobb & Nicholas Casey, Colombia Peace Deal Is Defeated, Leaving a Nation in Shock, New York Times (Oct. 2, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/03/world/colombia-peace-deal-defeat.html.