Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday on Sunday pardoned 30 convicted FARC rebels as a sign of goodwill to the guerrilla group that is currently engaged in peace talks with the government.
The guerrillas who will be released have been convicted only on charges of rebellion. None of the pardoned rebels have been convicted on charges related to criminal activity or war crimes, according to the president.
The FARC had asked to release 80 of their men who are in prison and in need of medical attention. How many (former) FARC guerrillas are currently in prison is unclear, but according to the FARC “thousands” of Colombians — not just FARC guerrillas — are in prison on charges of rebellion.
“We appreciate … the government’s announcement to pardon 30 prisoners convicted for rebellion,” said FARC negotiator “Pablo Catatumbo” at a press conference in Cuba where the group and the government are conducting talks.
Additionally, said the rebel representative, the government has granted the rebels’ request to provide medical care to injured and imprisoned guerrillas.
Nevertheless, Catatumbo insisted on the release of these guerrillas so they could receive adequate health care outside of prison.
Colombia’s prisons are suffering major overcrowding and a notorious lack of hygiene.
The Office of the High Peace Commissioner indicated that more FARC guerrillas could be pardoned.
The current group of released prisoners will receive psychological support and help to reintegrate them into their communities.
The FARC hopes that all its imprisoned members are released from prison in the event a peace deal is signed and all those involved in Colombia’s 51-year-long armed conflict can appeal to transitional justice, which would pardon all FARC members not accused of war crimes.
The talks have been going on for three years and currently dealing with a pending truce and the FARC’s eventual disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
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