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Colombia offer to defecting guerrillas prompts rights group criticism

[JURIST] Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish] has called for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CFR backgrounder] guerrillas to abandon arms and release political hostages, promising those who respond to the call a reward and freedom. Uribe Wednesday likened the offered terms to a "humanitarian exchange" [press release, in Spanish]. He specified that he was not promising amnesty or an official pardon, but he did promise that defecting guerrillas who free a hostage and who may have other serious charges against them will be entitled to a reward and freedom. This promise extends [El Tiempo report, in Spanish] even to guerrilla leadership in an effort to weaken FARC forces, according to Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo [official profile, in Spanish]. Restrepo has the responsibility of devising a legal framework to enable the president's political decision. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned Uribe's proposal, issuing a statement [press release] that perpetrators of human rights abuses such as hostage-takers "must be investigated and tried."

Uribe issued his promise on the same day that the first guerrilla member to defect and receive both a monetary reward and acceptance in France left Colombia [Guardian report]. France has pledged to give asylum to guerrillas who abandon arms under certain conditions that include clearance from the General Prosecutor of the Nation that they have no serious charges pending against them. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights in November reported [JURIST report] that the hostage situation is a large component of the systematic and widespread human rights violations in Colombia.

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