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Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia agree to truth commission

[JURIST] Colombia's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Sunday agreed to create a truth commission to investigate the deaths of thousands of people in the last five decades of the country's conflict. During negotiations in Havana, Cuba, the government and FARC agreed [Al Jazeera report] to recognize victims on both sides of the conflict, as well as address victims' rights, reparations and safety guarantees. The negotiations took place eight days ahead of a run-off election between current president Juan Manuel Santos and his right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who threatened to shut down the peace negotiation process. FARC declared a ceasefire between June 9 to 30, the period that will cover the presidential elections. The peace talks in Havana to end the 50 year conflict that has killed over 220,000 people, have been under way since November 2012.

Criminal activity by illegal armed groups has been an ongoing issue within Colombia. In March Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report [JURIST report] stating that illegal armed groups have caused hundreds of people to flee Colombia's main Pacific port of Buenaventura in the past two years. In August Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled [JURIST report] that a law providing reduced penalties for rebels who confess crimes related to their membership in illegal armed groups is constitutional. The bill, known as the "Legal Framework for Peace," was challenged by rights activists who claimed that by granting judicial pardons to rebels, it is "contrary to the State's duty to investigate and punish crimes, especially main violations of human rights" and that its measures to satisfy victim's rights are inadequate. In its reasoning, the court analyzed the bill's balance between the pursuit of peace and the rights of victims. In November 2012 a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed serious concern [JURIST report] regarding the expansion of military justice jurisdiction, claiming [press release] it would "seriously undermine previous efforts undertaken by the Colombian Government to ensure that human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the Colombian military and police forces, are duly investigated and perpetrators held to account."

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