Colombia approves amnesty agreed in Farc peace deal

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Leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) patrol by a roadway near to San Vicente de Caguan, Caqueta province, Colombia, January 9. 1999Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
At its height, the Farc was estimated to have some 20,000 active fighters (Image: 1999)

The Colombian Congress has approved a law offering amnesty to some of those accused of minor crimes in the country's decades-long civil conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos hailed it as a "the first step towards the consolidation of peace" with the left-wing Farc guerrilla group.

The amnesty is part of a revised deal agreed after the original pact with the Farc was rejected in a popular vote.

The conflict has killed more than 260,000 people and displaced millions.

The law will offer freedom from prosecution for some junior members of the Farc, the country's largest rebel group - and for some army soldiers. But in both cases they must only be accused of minor crimes.

Thousands of guerrilla fighters who are accused of minor crimes stand to be pardoned under the law.

The original peace deal, rejected at a referendum on 2 October, was seen by many as too lenient towards the rebels.

The government and the Farc then went back to the negotiating table to try to strike a new deal acceptable to those who had voted "no".

The main amendments included:

  • The Farc will have to declare all their assets and hand them over. The money will be used for reparation payments for the victims of the conflict
  • Concerns by religious groups that the agreement undermined family values have been addressed
  • A time limit of 10 years has been set for the transitional justice system
  • Farc rebels will be expected to provide exhaustive information about any drug trafficking they may have been involved in
  • The peace agreement will not form part of Colombia's constitution

The House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved the amnesty law on Wednesday.

The revised peace deal was ratified by Congress on 1 December. It is not due to be submitted to a popular vote.

Mr Santos has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the negotiations.