Whilst Colombians have become accustomed to peace processes with both the FARC and the ELN failing, in terms of advancements within other negotiation periods this most recent agreement marks a historic breakthrough. In a handshake between Santos and ‘Timochenko’ (the FARC’s current commander-in-chief) overseen by Cuban President Raúl Castro, the Colombian government and the insurgency have agreed to a final agenda item of the negotiation framework- a formula to compensate victims and punish those responsible for human rights abuses.
The two sides agreed upon investigations and the creation of special tribunals that will be responsible for processing crimes. Combatants that immediately confess the nature of their crimes, provide information and compensate victims will be treated with a degree of leniency. Should they promise not to take up arms again, they will receive up to eight years of restrictions on their liberty and face confinement in designated areas that are yet to be determined. Those that confess once the trial has started will be eligible for reduced sentences to be served in jail. Finally, those who do not cooperate, and who are convicted of crimes against humanity, will receive up to 20 years in jail.
These tribunals will be responsible for multiple actors including members of the FARC, state agents and military officials who committed crimes in direct relation to the conflict with the insurgency. Moreover, it will also be applied to the conflict’s ‘funders’, such as businessmen and industrialists who played a role in providing finances to the insurgency based on their vested interests.The Colombian government and the FARC had already agreed upon other agenda items, including agrarian reform, political participation for demobilised combatants and joint efforts to combat the drug industry. The parts of the FARC’s proposals on political participation and solutions to the drug industry were incorporated into the agreements. However, the issue of kinds of penalties that were to applied to the guerrillas had always been one of the most difficult parts of the agenda, including issues of transitional justice. From the outset of negotiations, the FARC had made it clear that it would not accept a condition that resulted in jail time for leaders and combatants. Consequently, a final agreement on judicial processing marks a significant move in overcoming the last hurdle in terms of agenda.
However, there are two outstanding hurdles before peace can finally be achieved. Understandably, many Colombians have expressed disenchantment with the current policy towards the insurgency, arguing that Santos has made too many concessions towards the guerrillas. In a consequent Twitter post, Santos made it clear that Colombians will have the final say in endorsing the agreement with the insurgency. This means that there will likely have to be a referendum for the final peace agreement to pass, that will give Colombians the opportunity to voice their opinions through popular vote. Any peace deal will also have to pass the Colombian congress. Moreover, the practicalities of disarmament and demobilisation have not yet been specifically agreed upon, despite being implied in both a 60 day deadline and opportunities for voluntary crime admission as mentioned above. The next step for both sides is then to turn to the final stage of the implementation, verification and signing of a framework that ensures the non-reoccurrance of conflict between both parties, and a clearer structure for disarmament and demobilisation processes.The agreement over one of the most difficult and controversial agenda item is a pivotal move in finally securing peace between the Colombian government and the FARC. Whilst this can be seen as a positive step in achieving peace, it faces a tired population. Hopefully, March 2016 will mark the end of a conflict spanning over fifty years.