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World News

Ex-FARC commanders accept Colombia war crimes accusations

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Former commanders from Colombia’s demobilized FARC guerrillas on Thursday accepted accusations by a transitional justice court that they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the group’s 50-year war with the state.

FILE PHOTO: Carlos Antonio Lozada, Rodrigo Londono, Pastor Alape and Rodrigo Granda, former commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and now members of the political party Revolutionary Alternative Common Force (FARC) attend a news conference at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal in Bogota, Colombia September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

The ruling in January by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), created under the 2016 peace deal between the government and the rebels, was the first time the JEP attributed criminal responsibility for hostage-taking to former leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The former commanders were also accused of other war crimes connected with the treatment of kidnap victims, including murder and torture, among others.

“We recognize that during (the conflict) actions and conduct punishable in the eyes of international humanitarian law took place. Actions and conducts that have been individually and collectively recognized by the JEP, society in general, and in activities with victims,” a statement signed by six of the former rebel commanders and published on Twitter said.

The FARC used kidnappings for ransom to fund their war, while captured military or government personnel were used to pressure authorities into releasing jailed rebels, the JEP said last month.

By accepting the accusations, the former commanders could face restrictions on their freedoms for five to eight years.

If they had rejected them, the commanders would have faced up to 20 years in prison, per the terms of the peace deal.

The signatories were former top leader Rodrigo Londono - known best by his nom de guerre Timochenko - Jaime Alberto Parra, Pablo Catatumbo, Pastor Alape, Julian Gallo and Rodrigo Grande.

The JEP can also prosecute military leaders for allegations of war crimes, in addition to the cases it handles related to former FARC members.

Colombia’s conflict, which also includes former right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartels, has killed 260,000 people and displaced millions.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; editing by Grant McCool

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