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Colombia's Congress ratifies peace deal with FARC rebel group

Colombia's legislators have approved the new peace deal agreed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group. Voters rejected an earlier version of the deal in a referendum.

Colombia's Congress passed a newly revised version of a peace treaty with FARC on Wednesday, ending a bloody conflict with the rebel group that lasted for 52 years.

The peace deal passed the Chamber of Representatives with a 130-0 vote, which followed a unanimous vote in the Senate earlier in the day.

The government and FARC have engaged in peace talks since 2012 in Cuba. A first version of the treaty was put up for a referendum vote in early October of this year. Voters rejected that deal by a narrow margin, with some critics saying it would give the rebels too much freedom to reintegrate into society without facing punishment. President Juan Manuel dos Santos has said there will not be a second referendum.

'A new era'

The revised accord includes 50 changes from the original draft. They range from prohibiting foreign magistrates from judging alleged crimes by government troops and FARC fighters to a commitment from rebels to forfeit assets.

Santos, who won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring about the peace treaty, said fighters must begin relocating within five days from Thursday and that disarmament would begin in 30 days. Santos hailed a "new era" for Colombia.

Hundreds of United Nations soldiers are due to oversee the process. The 5,800 remaining FARC fighters will demobilize to 27 "peace zones" in UN-supervised areas.

After 150 days, "they will have handed over all of their arms to the United Nations, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will have ceased to exist," said Santos before the Chamber of Representatives vote.

Kolumbien Friedensvertrag mit der FARC (picture alliance/AP Photo/I. Valencia)

Opponents of the deal gathered outside Congress in Bogota

Deal lacking 'balance'

Some critics of the deal fear FARC members could join smaller armies or gangs, including the National Liberation Army, which has been playing cat and mouse with the Colombian government over their own peace treaty.

Opposing members in parliament protested the new deal by walking out without voting, leading to the unanimous decisions by the Senate and Chamber of Representatives.

"There needs to be a balance between peace and justice, but in this agreement there's complete impunity," said former President Alvaro Uribe.

The conflict involving FARC lasted for more than half a century, and left more than 220,000 people dead and forced millions to flee from their homes. The Colombian government estimates there were 7.6 million direct and indirect victims of the violence over the 52-year conflict.

kbd/gsw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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