March 11, 2019 / 3:10 AM / a month ago

Colombia's Duque to return peace legislation to congress

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s President Ivan Duque on Sunday said he objected to several items in legislation implementing a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group and will return the law to congress to be adjusted.

A cloth embroidered by the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia, with the phrase that reads: "the history of Colombia is always cruel and heavy for us women", is seen in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in Bogota, Colombia December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

In an address to the nation, Duque, who campaigned for president pledging to alter the 2016 agreement, said for “reasons of inconvenience” the government objected to six of the 159 articles in the so-called Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).

The JEP law established a tribunal to investigate, judge and sentence those considered responsible for crimes during a five-decade war with the government.

    Duque’s decision may create problems in the implementation of the agreement that put an end to the FARC’s role in a conflict that killed 260,000 people and displaced millions.

The terms of the JEP had been criticized by Duque for being too lenient on rebel commanders accused of committing war crimes.

“Colombians want and we need a peace that unites us and we all must contribute permanently to achieve that goal,” Duque said in a televised speech.

“All Colombians, with the exception of those who today are unable to renounce violence and stop their crimes, want peace in our nation. There is no false division between friends and enemies of peace. But we want a peace that genuinely guarantees truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition.”

Among objections, Duque said he wants the law to better clarify that the FARC must repay its victims with assets, he called for clarification over terms of extradition for crimes, and wants to toughen rules over sentencing for war crimes. He also objected to an article that suspends investigations by the ordinary judicial system to those who submit to the JEP.

Duque also said he would seek a constitutional reform that would exclude sexual crimes from being taken up in the tribunal, to clarify that repeat offenders lose peace accord benefits and crimes committed after Dec. 1, 2016, would not go to the JEP but would be tried in the ordinary judicial system.

Under the terms of the peace deal between the FARC and the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos, the group formed a political party, kept its famous acronym as the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, and was awarded five seats in the 108-member Senate and five in the 172-member lower house through to 2026.

The peace accord said that former rebels who submit to the tribunal can receive reduced sentences and avoid prison, but they must confess to any crimes and repay victims.

Duque, a 42-year-old protege of former President Alvaro Uribe, whose hardline offensive against the rebels helped push them to the negotiating table, has said he is incensed there would be “criminals” in Congress shaping laws after decades of kidnapping, extortion and killing.

Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Robert Birsel

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