Four years after laying down their arms, the Colombian former guerrilla Farc publicly asked for forgiveness on Tuesday, September 15, for the thousands of kidnappings perpetrated during the armed conflict. A belated recognition, but important on the road to reconciliation.
It was in a statement published Tuesday on Twitter that the leadership of the Common Revolutionary Alternative Force, a political party born out of the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, presented a request for forgiveness ” from the bottom of my heart To the victims of their past hostage-taking and their families.
→ REPORT. Colombia: former FARC combatants fear for their lives
“The rapture was a very serious mistake of which we can only repent, can we read in the press release. This burden weighs on the conscience and the heart of each of us today ”. The former Marxist guerrilla, founded in 1964 and one of the most powerful in Latin America, adds that “The kidnappings wounded to death” the “Legitimacy and credibility” of its armed uprising against the state.
This request for forgiveness is not the first since the former rebels engaged in a dialogue which led, in 2016, to the signing of a peace agreement. But it is the first concerning specifically the practice of kidnappings, which traumatized Colombia, in particular in the years 1990-2000.
According to the National Center for Historical Memory, the country experienced more than 37,000 kidnappings during the armed conflict (1958-2016). This practice was also that of other guerrillas, such as the ELN, still in activity and which is said to still hold dozens of hostages, or, more rarely, of far-right paramilitary forces.
The Truth Commission
This declaration by the ex-guerrillas comes within the framework of one of the central aspects of the peace process, in Colombia as elsewhere before (South Africa, etc.): the search for the truth about the crimes committed.
In November 2018, a Truth Commission was established in Bogota, whose mission is to shed light on the conflict, with a three-year term. One of the tasks of this commission is to give voice to victims, whose poignant testimonies are generally available through digital platforms.
→ READ. Jesuit Francisco de Roux appointed head of Colombian Truth Commission
Composed of eleven people, this commission is chaired by Father Francisco de Roux, long committed to peace and dialogue in Colombia, who welcomed Tuesday the request for public forgiveness of the ex-Farc: ” They took a step we expected, towards peace based on truth ».
In the eyes of Francisco de Roux, Ingrid Betancourt’s testimony before the Commission last Monday would have weighed in the approach of the former guerrillas, because “ they realized that the kidnapping had in fact been the murder of the woman who was speaking ». « A kidnapping has no end date and does not end on the day of release, said the former presidential candidate, who was a prisoner of the Farc for more than six years. It is assassination because the person who suffers from it, even if they are lucky enough to be released, is another person when they come out of captivity ».
The persistent ambiguity of the ex-Farc
Since the signing of the peace agreement in 2016 – an agreement which was first narrowly rejected in a referendum before being adopted, amended, by parliament – many Colombians doubt the sincerity of the former guerrillas and their will. to respect the letter, but no longer the spirit, of the compromise concluded with the State.
The beginnings of the Truth Commission did not reassure this part of the population, even if, as evidenced by the request for forgiveness concerning the kidnappings, the ex-guerrillas are anxious to send positive signals.
→ EXPLANATION. Colombia, peace agreements almost at a standstill
« There is progress, considers Frédéric Massé, consultant in Bogota and specialist in armed conflict. The ex-Farc provide information, recognize a form of collective guilt. But we have the feeling that they are doing the minimum. Because on very sensitive subjects, such as the recruitment of children or sexual violence, they are very evasive. In addition, they are not very talkative about the individual responsibilities of such or such individual. ».
However, the main leaders of the former guerrilla have committed themselves, within the framework of the peace agreements, to confess their crimes before a special justice for peace (JEP) and to compensate the victims or their families, in exchange for alternative sentences. in jail. If they do not keep their commitment, they will be brought before ordinary justice.