FARC official makes contact with Colombia special court

Bogota (AFP) –


The man who negotiated FARC's peace agreement with the Colombian government emerged from hiding Wednesday to comply with a demand that former guerrilla leaders reaffirm their commitment to the 2016 peace agreement that ended decades of conflict.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) -- set up after the deal -- announced that Ivan Marquez had submitted a statement through his lawyers.

The court had asked 30 former rebel commanders to reaffirm their commitment to the agreement FARC signed with the government in November 2016.

The special peace tribunal was set up to try former combatants accused of atrocities during the five-decade war. The tribunal had set a Tuesday deadline for contact from the missing guerrilla leaders, failing which they could face removal from its list and face trial instead by ordinary courts.

The special peace tribunals provides for alternative prison sentences for those involved in the conflict -- both guerrillas and soldiers -- who admit their crimes, compensate victims and pledge to reject violence.

However, the JEP has said it was concerned by reports that several former leaders had committed crimes after the 2016 deal was signed. Only those who have not committed crimes after the deal can benefit from the special court.

Several ex-leaders, including Marquez -- who renounced his Senate seat -- have gone into hiding in recent weeks.

Colombian media reports said the former rebel commanders had either rejoined dissident FARC cadres in the mountains or fled to Socialist-led Venezuela, which FARC -- now a political party -- denied.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have criticized the Bogota government over a lack of promised resources to help reintegrate former guerillas into civilian life.

- Growing fears -

Their fears have grown after the election earlier this year of rightwing President Ivan Duque, who has vowed to fix "flaws" in the agreement negotiated by his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos.

Duque has in particular criticized the FARC deal as being too lenient in allowing former rebels accused of atrocities to serve as lawmakers.

In a letter published in Colombian newspapers earlier this month, Marquez and another ex-rebel commander Oscar Montero, wrote that changes to the agreement after the handover of FARC's weapons had "betrayed" the agreement.

In the letter -- addressed to the Senate's Peace Commission -- the two leaders said the deal's main "structural fault" was to have handed over weapons "without the prior implementation of the economic and social re-integration of the guerrillas."