Reconciliation Process Instituted by Syrian Gov't Makes Progress

In the presence of the government authorities of the central province of Homs and the Russian Center for Reconciliation, about 27 cities and towns of that territory have joined to the reconciliation deal, media outlets from this country reported today.

After recognizing Russia's efforts to achieve peace in the areas in conflict, representatives of local organizations agreed that the momentum of the national reconciliation process contributes to the unity of the Syrian people.

It also enables the safe return home of thousands of displaced and Syrian refugees to this territory.


Tadmur, in Palmyra; al-Amriya, Jandar and USh al-Warwar are among the cities that took refuge in the occasion to the reconciliation deal.


As part of the reconciliation plan itself, more than 110 opposition elements laid down their weapons in front of the authorities in the city of Qamishli, Hassakeh province, about 710 kilometers north of Damascus.


The unarmed elements signed an official document in which they pledge not to commit illegal acts that disturb citizen security, Hassakeh governor, Jaez Al-Musa, said.

More than a hundred opponents received last weekend a pardon from the authorities in the southern province of Deraa, shortly after they vowed to comply with the laws of this Levant state.

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Amid Prisoner Hunger Strike, Colombia's Santos Signs Last Amnesty for FARC Members

The former rebels are demanding the release of all political prisoner and say only 832 of 3,400 have been included in the deal.

The Colombian government announced Monday a new batch of amnesty legislation that would apply for 3,600 members of the FARC, without clarifying if it applied to the members in the current transitional zones or political prisoners.

RELATED: Jailed FARC Members Continue Hunger Strike for Promised Amnesty

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia criticized Santo's previous amnesty announcement since only 832 of 3,400 members who are currently imprisoned were part of the deal.

Santos announced this was the third and last agreement he will sign and said more than 7,000 members will receive amnesty or be released from prison. Until now 1,346 political prisoners have been on a hunger strike for the past two weeks demanding release.

A list of 455 human rights defenders and personalities from all over the world, including Nobel Peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, signed a letter to the Colombian government to demand the release of the political prisoners under the peace agreement and asked for Pope Francis' intervention in the name of those being held.

"There is no reason to keep thousands of political prisoners imprisoned, especially those who are covered by the Peace Agreement between the government and the FARC, who, in compliance with the agreement and Law 1820, were to be released on December 31, 2016," read the letter.

It's been six months since the Colombian Congress signed the Amnesty and Pardons Act, but the FARC condemned the state's failure to release prisoners within the framework of the peace agreement signed last year.

According to the deal negotiated since 2012 and signed in Cuba, arrest warrants will be also nullified and requests for amnesty must be resolved within a period no longer than three months after they are presented to a court.

RELATED: Colombia's FARC Launches Coop As First Act After Disarmament

The FARC delivered 7,132 weapons last month to end decades of armed conflict and to start its transition into political life. The United Nations still needs to give all the certificates to the former rebels making their delivery of weapons official.

The 26 transitional zones where members gathered during the implementation of the peace deal will cease to exist and give way to their return to civilian life. The group has denounced the paramilitary violence that has increased in areas vacated by the group, leading to more murders and threats to social justice leaders in the country.

The FARC will now form a political entity and receive five seats in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate beginning in 2018 during two electoral periods. Any member of the FARC will be able to occupy those seats.

The country's second largest group, the National Liberation Army began a similar process of peace talks, which have been taking place in Ecuador since the beginning of 2017

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Colombian Senate to Final Debate on Transitional Justice

Bogota, March 13 (Prensa Latina) Colombian senators resume today the analysis of the legislative project that will give life to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), considered the backbone of the agreement between the government and FARC-EP insurgents.

After spiny discussions and other setbacks such as the absence of congressmen, the final debate of this rule will take place in the Senate plenary meeting, one of the most controversial of the package planned to implement the agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC) -EP).

Under the JEP salons and courts will be constituted with the objective of investigating, judging and punishing those responsible for the long conflict with premises such as zero impunity for crimes against humanity but benefits of pardons and amnesties in cases of political and related crimes.

Likewise, the treatment of the military and other agents of the State is contemplated in a special chapter within the project.

Last Saturday President Juan Manuel Santos assured that this is one of the most important decisions that the Capitol will take throughout its history and requested support from representatives of all parties to approve the creation of the JEP.

In the Congress of the Republic we must vote for the model of transitional justice (to move from war to a scenario of relaxation), of special justice, so that we can consolidate peace; I call on the senators to be present, stressed the president.

Meanwhile, the president of the highest legislative body, Mauricio Lizcano, commented that not to approve the JEP would be equal to leave unpunished all the serious crimes that occurred in the context of the confrontation and prevent the victims from knowing the truth.

The agreement reached in Havana and initialed in this capital on November 24 includes a comprehensive system to clarify the truth, to apply justice, to repair the damages caused to the victims of the conflict (totaling almost 8 million) and to give them guarantees of non-repetition.

Some 7,000 FARC-EP guerrillas are concentrated in 19 zones and seven points (smaller than the first ones) of 14 departments where they will leave the armament in their possession.

The validation of the JEP and the application of the amnesty law, previously sanctioned, are two of the demands of the guerrilla, the largest in the country.

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Colombia Thanks Cuba for Supporting Peace Process

Colombians in solidarity with Cuba will be traveling the island next Saturday to thank Cuban support for the peace talks with the FARC-EP and the ElN, according to coordinators.

We will never finish off paying Cubans generously for supporting the peace negotiations with the FARC-EP and the equally insurgent ELN, one of the organizers, Alirio Uribe stated.

In a press conference, the lawmaker stressed that Cuba has been witnessing of the public meetings with that first guerrilla for four years.

On November 24, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC-EP leader Timoleon Jiménez signed the final agreement, by pledging to end clashes and hostilities between both parties.

The members of the Colombian delegation, among them representatives of 'Vamos para los derechos' group, will be our spokespeople, the objective is to say to a brother people: here we are and we want to thank you, the parliamentarian stressed.

During the official stay, they will pay homage to the Cuban historic leader, Fidel Castro.

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Colombian Congress to Discuss Amnesty Law, Key for FARC-EP

Bogota, Dec 19 (Prensa Latina) The Colombian Congress will today discuss the amnesty law linked with the peace process between the Government and FARC-EP insurgents.

The discussions will be shorter than usual after the Constitutional Court authorized the use of a fast track mechanism.

The amnesty law will give a legal pardon to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People's Army (FARC-EP), who did not commit serious crimes in the context of the internal conflict.

According to analysts, its approval would be a stimulus for other core processes such as the disarmament of members of the guerrilla group, the largest in the country.

On November 24th, President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of FARC-EP, Timoleón Jiménez, signed a conclusive peace agreement after nearly four years of talks in Cuba.

In the coming days, the Colombian parliament will examine other initiatives such as one aimed at facilitating the creation of a political party, once the disarmament is over.

The interior minister, Juan Fernando Cristo, has announced that a law will be proposed to ensure the participation of the FARC-EP in the debates planned within the Senate and the House of Representatives with the objective of implementing the consensus signed by Santos and Jiménez.

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Colombian Victims of War Greeted by Tens Thousands for Peace

Some 3,000 victims and 7,000 Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and rural people are expected to march in Bogota alongside supporters.

Tens of Thousands of Colombians again flooded the streets of central Bogota Wednesday in support of Indigenous communities and other victims hit hardest by over 50 years of armed conflict to pressure the government and the country’s largest guerrilla army, the FARC-EP to quickly resolve the political crisis sparked by the recent defeat of the historic peace accords at the polls.

OPINION: Colombia: The Just Cause for Peace and Unity

Under the banner, “For the victims, an agreement now!” demonstrators filled Bogota’s Bolivar square to greet with applause and flowers some 3,000 victims and 7,000 campesinos, Indigenous and Afro-descendant people who marched into the central plaza to raise their voices in the name of peace in Colombia.

The Indigenous delegation departed from the National University in Bogota, where student movements organizing for peace have been blossoming and was joined by the victims, gathered at the National Center for Historical Memory, en route to Bolivar Square in the heart of the capital city’s historic center.

Bolivar Square has been home to an encampment for peace for the past week after activists launched an indefinite occupation to demand a definitive end to the conflict, continuation of the bilateral cease-fire between the military and the FARC, and clarity about the fate of the final peace deal.

The landmark agreement between the government and the FARC-EP — concluded after nearly four years of talks in Havana, Cuba — was signed Sept. 26, but was cast into limbo after voters narrowly rejected it by less than 0.5 percent in a plebiscite on Oct. 2.

RELATED:​​​ Plan Colombia Casts Shadow on Indigenous Rights as Peace Nears

The central plaza also hosted an art installation in memory of the victims of the conflict Tuesday, when Colombian artist Doris Salcedo and hundreds of participants draped the entire squares in miles of white cloth bearing the names of thousands of victims, written in ashes.

Organizers of Wednesday’s “March of Flowers” in support of victims wrote on social media that the event planned to receive Indigenous communities and victims' organizations “with honors” to demand that Colombia never again suffers the brutality of war.

“We want to invite all citizens to exercise empathy and solidarity with these heroes of forgiveness, the victims of violence and Indigenous peoples,” reads the call for participation in the event on Facebook.

Areas of Colombia most impacted and victimized by the more than half-century of civil war – mainly on the periphery of the country – voted in support of the peace deal. Many large cities, such as Medellin — the stronghold of far-right former president and leader of the “No” campaign, Alvaro Uribe – rejected the agreement, while other cities such as Bogota and Cali voted “Yes.”

After the defeat of the deal at the ballot box, victims lamented the lack of solidarity the rest of the population showed toward the communities most eager to see an end to violence.

Proponents of the “No” camp argued that the emphasis on truth rather than criminal prosecutions in the transitional justice portion of the deal would grant impunity for crimes committed during the conflict, and rejected the proposed participation of FARC-EP members in Congress. The “gender perspective” incorporated into the deal – including measures to protect LGBTI rights – also sparked a homophobic backlash that saw socially conservative groups also push for a “No” vote.

Since the plebiscite, both FARC-EP and government negotiators have resumed dialogue in Havana. The next steps on the path to peace remain unclear.

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Colombia: Top Peace Negotiator De La Calle Offers Resignation After Failed Plebiscite Vote

Humberto de la Calle said he took "full and exclusive responsibility" for errors committed at the negotiations.

Colombia's chief negotiator at the peace dialogues with the country's leftist rebels has offered his resignation, hours after Colombians narrowly voted down the peace deal in a non-binding plebiscite Sunday.

RELATED: Who in Colombia is Campaigning for 'No' to Peace?

Humberto de la Calle, who has led the negotiation team for President Juan Manuel Santos, spoke to media Monday morning, heaping praise on Santos and saying that he took "full and exclusive responsibility" for errors committed at the negotiations.

It will now be up to Santos to decide if he accepts de la Calle's resignation, although the negotiator said that "peace is not defeated and (I) am willing to continue working where appropriate."

In Sunday's vote, the "No" won by a narrow margin, with 50.21 percent, or 6,431,376 votes, to 49.78 percent, or 6,377,482 votes for the "Yes" vote – a difference of some 66,000 votes.

Voter turnout was very low at under 40 percent, with only 13 million of the 35 million eligible voters making it to the polls.

The surprising results — which were contrary to all exit polls that predicted the "Yes" vote winning easily — are showing that the areas most affected by the conflict have overwhelmingly voted "Yes" for peace. For example, in the heavily affected area of Choco – with 95 percent of the vote counted – 79 percent voted "Yes." The Caribbean provinces have also voted "Yes."

In the capital, Bogota, the "Yes" vote won by 56 percent to 44 percent for the "No" vote.

The plebiscite was non-binding and now the Colombian Congress can still elect to pass the laws necessary to comply with the accords, although the amnesty law was built into the plebiscite, and without its passage the agreement is basically null.

The FARC-EP had consistently called for a constituent assembly instead of a plebiscite, arguing that an assembly would be much more representative and would guarantee the participation of the most marginalized and affected peoples in Colombia and would go beyond a simple yes or no vote.

RELATED:​ Colombians to Vote Whether to End or Continue 52-Year War

In light of the vote, the FARC-EP said in an official statement that it will continue to pursue peace, using its "word as a weapon of construction towards the future," and concluding that it is confident peace will prevail.

President Santos said he will abide by the vote but will not give up on peace, sending negotiators back to Havana, Cuba, to meet with their FARC-EP counterparts. He said he will also convene a meeting tomorrow of all political forces including the "No" forces to dialogue about what can be done. Most importantly, he reiterated that the bilateral cease-fire between the FARC-EP and the government will remain in effect.

Colombians went to the polls to vote on the approval or rejection of the peace agreement reached between the government of Santos and the FARC-EP guerrillas after nearly 4 years of negotiations.

The question posed to the population was: “Do you support the final accord for the end of the conflict and the construction of stable and lasting peace?”

The final text of the peace deal was signed on Sept. 26 by President Santos and FARC-EP leader Timoleon Jimenez, with numerous regional leaders and heads of state in attendance. The historic act is now clouded by the outcome of the plebiscite.

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Colombia's Santos to UN: Peace from Patagonia to Alaska

“Today, we have reason for hope, because we have one less war in the world,” President Juan Manuel Santos said to the United Nations.

On the International Day of Peace, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated at the United Nations in New York Wednesday his government’s peace deal with the FARC guerrilla army bringing to a close the longest-running civil war in the Western Hemisphere.

OPINION: Now the Hard Work of Building Lasting Peace in Colombia Begins

“After more than half a century of internal armed conflict, I returned to the United Nations today on International Day of Peace to announce … that the war in Colombia has ended,” said Santos as the hall erupted in applause.

The president summarized the recent landmark achievements in the nearly four-year peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in Havana, Cuba, and detailed the next steps that will set the country on its path toward building stable and lasting peace.

Government and FARC negotiators unveiled the groundbreaking peace deal in Havana on Aug. 24, and five days later, Santos and FARC commander Timochenko launched a definitive bilateral cease-fire. The president told the U.N. that since the start of the much-awaited cease-fire, conflict between the military and the FARC has not seen a “single shot fired” after 52 years of hostilities.

Santos and Timochenko are set to officially sign the peace deal on Monday, before Colombians head to the polls on Oct. 2 to vote in a plebiscite on whether or not to accept the 297-page agreement. Recent polls show that a majority of Colombians will vote “Yes” to peace.

Following the signing of the deal, the FARC will also begin the process of disarming and demobilizing at so-called “concentration zones” monitored by the U.N.

OPINION: ​Key Challenges for Colombia’s Peace Process

“Their weapons will be melted down and will be turned into three monuments for peace, one in New York, one in Cuba where the talks took place, and one in Colombia,” Santos explained. “These monuments will remind us that the bullets are behind us and that the construction of a new and better country has begun.”

The president highlighted a number of provisions, including the transformation of the FARC into a political party, the establishment of truth commissions to support transitional justice and the rights of victims, substitution of illicit coca production for legal crops, and joint efforts to eliminate land mines in the country.

Santos thanked the countries that have supported Colombia in its peace process, and said that the experience of ending the war should offer hope in other conflicts.

“Colombia is turning the page of war to start writing the chapter of peace,” he said. “Colombia should give hope to the world that is is possible to realize the dream of peace when there is will and when there is commitment.”

Over more than half a century of fighting between the government and the FARC rebels, Colombia’s war has claimed more than 220,000 lives and victimized some eight million people, including some 6.3 million who are internally displaced. Campesinos, Indigenous people, and Afro-Colombians have been among those hit hardest by the conflict.

“From Patagonia to Alaska, this is now a zone of peace,” said Santos. “Today, we have reason for hope, because we have one less war in the world, and that is the war in Colombia.”

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