Colombia Debates New Law for Mass Demobilization of Paramilitaries

Paramilitary groups in Colombia have for years been contributing to the country's ongoing violence/Photo: EFE
Colombia Debates New Law for Mass Demobilization of Paramilitaries

The law echoes demands made by the FARC last week, calling for the demobilization of Colombian paramilitary groups that continue to engage in “dirty warfare.”

Colombia’s House of Representatives started debating a new bill this week that focuses on the mass demobilization of armed criminal groups in the country, which have, for years, been a major source of violence in the country.

According to media reports, the law will target criminal organizations known as “Bacrim,” a term created in 2006 by the government of former President Alvaro Uribe to distinguish between armed paramilitary groups and other “criminal organizations.”

Uribe’s government made this distinction in order to not undermine the country’s peace process with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the country’s main right-wing paramilitary group who has been accused of massive human rights violations. Any armed groups or drug trafficking organizations created post-2006 were deemed “criminal bands” or Bacrims, although the distinction remains dubious.

House Representatives announced last week the introduction of a bill to demobilize such groups, and will be discussed in the coming days.

“Today, if you want to bring criminal gangs to justice, you cannot because there are no legal tools,” said House Representative Hernan Penagos.

The primary goal of the new bill will be to provide prosecutors in Colombia with the power to offer incentives to large groups of criminals to surrender and lay down their arms – including the negotiating reduced sentences for such criminals.

One of the ideas, said Penagos, is that criminal groups would “deliver the stolen goods and to admit their crimes” if given the proper incentives.

The ability to provide reduced sentences and other legal bargaining chips has been used in the past with paramilitary groups and guerrilla fighters in the country in other demobilizing efforts.

The bill’s discussion comes on the heels of the FARC’s (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) statements last week, calling for the disarmament of paramilitary groups in the country who continue to engage in “dirty warfare.” The request comes as FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government continue their ongoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba in attempts to bring an end to the over 50 years of civil war in the country.



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