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Colombia high court ruling may disrupt peace process with paramilitaries

[JURIST] Leaders of right-wing anti-government paramilitaries in Colombia said Friday that Thursday's decision by the country's Constitutional Court [official backgrounder] throwing out a part of last year’s controversial Justice and Peace Law [JURIST report] giving lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who voluntarily disarm would disrupt the peace process in the country. The legislation, formally known as Law 975, had specified that paramilitary leaders would serve no more than eight years for crimes such as drug smuggling, massacre, rape and torture if they complied, but it now seems that must serve their full original terms. Paramilitary spokesman Ernesto Baez told local radio that “[t]he only benefits that the law offered and that motivated the laying down of arms have been abruptly canceled by the Constitutional Court.” The Colombian government has made some progress with right-wing paramilitary groups, but has made little progress with left-wing rebels who want to bring socialism to the country.

Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] previously criticized [JURIST report] the Justice and Peace Law, but openly welcomed Thursday’s ruling as upholding the rule of law in the face of what it said was a political "giveaway." The high court decision came just one week before elections in which President Alvaro Uribe [official website in Spanish] is widely expected to win a second term. Reuters has more.

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