[JURIST] The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a ceasefire [materials, in Spanish], marking an end to more than 50 years of armed conflict between the two groups. Among its terms are a demobilization plan and a security guarantee for all members of FARC as it becomes a peaceful political party. This agreement [Al Jazeera report] is the final step in the peace negotiations between the two, begun in 2012, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that he hopes to have the ceasefire signed and completed in July. Despite the positive movements towards the end to violence, questions remain in regards to implementation of a peace agreement. Implementing effective disarmament and demobilization plans, and providing justice for those affected by the violence are all issues which will need to be faced in achieving lasting peace. Santos hopes to hold a public referendum signifying popular approval for the agreement, but he fears that too many voters may stay home, leaving the referendum below the required participation threshold. These issues are only furthered complicated by political opposition, including former President Alvaro Uribe, who believe that the peace agreement “damages the word ‘peace,'” and that members of FARC should be imprisoned for their war crimes.
Criminal activity by illegal armed groups has been an ongoing issue within Colombia, with progress made during peace talks last year. Last year Colombian Santos pardoned 30 former guerrilla soldiers in jail for non-violent crimes. In June 2014 the country’s government and the FARC rebels agreed to create [JURIST reports] a truth commission to investigate the deaths of thousands of people in the last five decades of the country’s conflict. In March 2014 Human Rights Watch issued a report [JURIST report] stating that illegal armed groups have caused hundreds of people [official report, PDF] to flee Colombia’s main Pacific port of Buenaventura in the previous two years. And in August 2013 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. FARC has been fighting the Colombian government since 1964, seeking to establish a communist government in the Republic of Colombia.