The Colombian House of Representatives is expected to approve Wednesday the latest peace deal between the government and the FARC rebel group which will put an end to the internal armed conflict that has affected the South American nation for more than 50 years.
The changes agreed to at the negotiating table in Havana, Cuba, took into consideration hundreds of proposals from the “No” camp that rejected the original peace deal.
Teams representing the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reached compromises on several issues while leaving cornerstones intact to achieve what President Juan Manuel Santos heralded as a “better” deal for Colombians.
The first and most obvious change is that the text can now be democratically approved by both chambers of Congress. But what really sets the new peace deal apart from the original 297-page historic document? Here’s a look at some of the key revisions.
1. Peace Deal Not in the Constitution
One of the main changes in the new agreement is that the deal will not be fully incorporated into Colombia’s Constitution as initially planned in the original accords. Now, only issues related to human rights and international humanitarian law will be enshrined in this way, since they are already part of the country’s constitutional norms.
2. FARC Assets to Fund Victims
Another significant update is a specific agreement requiring the FARC to report wealth and assets during the process of demobilization and to put those funds toward financing reparations for victims. Ahead of the Oct. 2 plebiscite that narrowly voted down the peace deal, the FARC had announced plans to hand over tracts of land under its control and other assets to finance initiatives to compensate victims. The new peace agreement makes the pledge official. It clarifies that assets belonging to relatives of FARC members will not be seized, as was legal when peace-opponent Alvaro Uribe was president of Colombia.
No part of the agreement will affect the constitutional rights of Colombians to private property.
3. FARC Political Participation Remains Intact
The updated deal keeps intact the agreement that FARC members, through participation in elections as a political party after laying down arms, will be guaranteed five seats in the lower house of Congress and five seats in the Senate in the 2018 and 2022 elections.
Meanwhile, it clarifies that members of the FARC will not be able to hold the 16 transitional seats in political office set up through the deal to offer additional representation to areas most victimized by the conflict. The 16 districts will have transitional representation for two election cycles, and according to the revised deal, will be held by members of the affected communities themselves.
Colombia's Elusive Peace
The clarifications respond to right-wing critics who wrongly claimed in a smear campaign that the FARC would be handed not only the 10 guaranteed seats in Congress, but also the 16 transitional posts, which in fact are reserved for victims.
Funding for the FARC’s political participation has also been reduced to match financing for other political parties in response to criticism.
The state will also be in charge of ensuring that FARC members, after they leave the camps, can participate freely in any political act or peaceful protest, as any other citizen in Colombia.
4. Additional Guidelines on Transitional Justice
Another sticking point for the “No” camp in the peace deal was the measures related to transitional justice, and according to negotiators, some 65 percent of proposals from the “No” camp were incorporated into updates to the relevant chapter in the deal.
The revised agreement provides more details on the limits of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, designed to have jurisdiction over all crimes committed during the conflict with a focus on prioritizing truth over criminal prosecutions. The deal puts a 10-year expiry date on the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and a period of two years for submitting requests for investigations. It also provides more precise guidelines on the timeframe and areas where those guilty of crimes will serve alternative sentences after admitting fault.
The new deal creates an interface between Colombia’s regular justice system and the transitional system, stipulating that appeals of decisions made by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace will be handled in the country’s constitutional court. It stipulates that judges should consider drug trafficking on a case by case basis in accordance with Colombian law — which establishes a connection between drug trafficking and political crimes in cases of war financing — and calls for detailed disclosures in the transitional justice process.
This responds to demands from the “No” camp that drug trafficking crimes should not be eligible for amnesty. The deal also indicates that foreign judges cannot hold positions in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, but foreign experts can play an advising role to Colombian judges.
Finally, contrary to what the “No” camp’s chief proponent — far-right former President Alvaro Uribe — had pushed for, the new deal also specifies that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace can investigate not only the FARC and armed forces, but also the role of third parties in financing and otherwise backing abuses.
5. Agrarian Reform and Illicit Crops
The revised deal upholds the commitment to rural reform and addressing the inequalities in the countryside that underlie more than five decades of internal conflict. But negotiators also stressed that the agreements related to agrarian reform do not threaten the right to private property.
The updates deal clarifies that land ownership cannot be formalized through the rural reform without first being declared free of illicit crops as part of the substitution programs designed to help farmers transition away from coca production to other agricultural products. The state will support community projects to ensure efficient use of the land. The deal also creates a special commission to evaluate and monitor agrarian reform, which is a separate piece of legislation from the peace agreement.
The agreement includes a new paragraph to ensure environmental protection, respect toward nature, renewable and nonrenewable resources and biodiversity.
6. Gender Focus Still Central
Another hot-button issue in the original text of the deal was the gender focus, which sparked a homophobic reaction from conservative groups concerned with the protection of the “traditional family.” The updated deal maintains the gender focus but offers a specific definition clarifying that it is aimed at addressing gender inequalities and acknowledging the fact that women were among the most victimized by the conflict. The deal also incorporates a commitment to principles of equality and non-discrimination, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or religious belief. It specifically indicates that the implementation of the agreement will not infringe on freedom of religion, and will follow guidelines set by international agreements on human rights signed by Colombia.