Colombia to rush approval of new peace deal, pending court decision

by Reuters
Thursday, 1 December 2016 17:20 GMT

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos signs a new peace accord in Bogota as Marxist FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono known as Timochenko looks on, in Bogota, Colombia November 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

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"We expect a decision in the coming days"

BOGOTA, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Colombia's government is ready to speed the passage of laws and reforms so it can carry out a peace deal with leftist FARC rebels, pending approval from the constitutional court, officials said on Thursday.

Both the senate and the lower house backed the accord in votes this week, giving necessary legislative approval to the deal to end 52 years of war in which more than 220,000 people have been killed and millions displaced.

But rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said they would not begin demobilizing until parts of the accord, including an amnesty law for most fighters, are approved by lawmakers. The government hopes the court will allow those laws to move ahead more quickly than normal by cutting the number of required debates.

"We expect a decision in the coming days and based on that decision of the Constitutional Court we can proceed to the implementation of the accords," Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo told journalists.

The coalition of President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, has a majority in congress and the laws are likely to pass easily. The right-wing opposition, led by former president and now senator Alvaro Uribe, demand that FARC leaders get traditional jail time and refused to vote on the deal.

The agreement to end Latin America's longest insurgency was put together in just over a month after the original pact was narrowly defeated in a referendum on Oct. 2.

The amnesty law, which would protect rebels not involved in war crimes or human rights violations from prosecution, would be the first to go to lawmakers, Cristo said. Some 7,000 fighters are set to lay down their weapons under the deal.

Other laws would include rural reform, victims compensation, removal of land mines and a United Nations-monitored ceasefire all agreed to in the peace deal. The FARC, which started as a rebellion fighting rural poverty, would be allowed to form a political party.

Though Colombians want an end to bloodshed, many in the largely conservative country of 49 million are wary of forgiving the FARC for decades of bombings, kidnappings and displacements.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Grant McCool)

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