The Colombian government has pardoned at least 110 FARC rebels as part of a peace deal to end a 52-year conflict. FARC rebels have also expelled five commanders for refusing to demobilize and join a peace process.
Justice Minister Jorge Londono confirmed on Wednesday that at least 110 rebels belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been pardoned by the Colombian government.
"I believe around 300 pardons could be granted in all," Londono told a press conference.
The pardons, as well as an amnesty law currently before Congress, apply only to "political crimes" and not more serious offenses such as killings, rape and torture, he said.
All pardons will be reviewed by a judge before taking effect, Londono added.
The measure is part of a legislative project that was endorsed in the Constitutional Court of Colombia on Tuesday by eight votes to one.
Violation of human rights not covered
According to the text, "amnesty is an instrument that annuls or extinguishes criminal, disciplinary, administrative and fiscal action for conduct related to the armed conflict, for political crimes, but does not proceed against crimes that violate human rights."
In addition to the FARC rebels, some 5,500 jailed soldiers, police officers and other state agents convicted of crimes linked to the conflict could also be released if their offenses are minor, Lonono said.
The issue of administering justice has been a stumbling block for President Juan Manuel Santos as he seeks to end half a century of conflict with FARC.
Voters narrowly rejected an initial version of the peace deal in an October referendum after opponents deemed it too soft on the rebels but Santos later passed a revised version of the deal through Congress, where he has a majority.
Critics claim that the deal grants impunity for crimes against humanity and will allow war criminals to hold public office.
FARC expel unabiding rebels
Launched in 1964 from the ashes of a quashed peasant uprising, FARC today has some 5,700 fighters who are preparing to disarm under the peace deal. Another 4,500 members of the Marxist guerrilla group are in prison.
News of the amnesty on Wednesday came as FARC rebels expelled five commanders for refusing to demobilize and join a peace process.
"This decision is motivated by their recent conduct, which contradicts our political-military line," leaders of FARC said in a statement.
"We call on all combatants who have been tricked into this futureless path to distance themselves from this mistaken decision taken by their commanders," the statement added.
Some 7,000 FARC rebels now have six months to move to demobilization zones and hand in all weapons. More than 260,000 people have been killed and some 45,000 left missing as a result of Colombia's conflict.
ksb/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)