Colombia orders arrest of ex-rebel leader for dodging courts

Latin America

Colombia orders arrest of ex-rebel leader for dodging courts

Colombia’s Special Peace Tribunal has ordered the arrest of a former rebel FARC commander for the first time since the 2016 peace deal was signed.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

On Sunday, Colombia’s Defense Ministry issued a million dollar reward that would lead to the arrest of the fugitive FARC leader.

Colombia’s special war crimes tribunal has ordered the capture of FARC commander Hernan Dario Velasquez, known by his alias “El Paisa.”

Velasquez was one of the most feared commanders of the leftist guerilla group. But he laid down his weapons in 2016 after a peace deal was signed with the government to end 50 years of armed conflict.

Since then, Velasquez has failed to provide information on his war crimes to the peace tribunal as they investigate their first case into guerrilla kidnappings.

As a result, tribunal magistrates stripped him of some benefits, including jail time protection. And he was not barred from the peace process because there was no evidence he had taken up arms again.

Last year, Velasquez went underground to protest the arrest of another FARC leader who was accused of drug trafficking by the U.S. He said the charges are false and accuses the government of undermining the peace deal.

Meantime, Velasquez’s court-appointed defense attorney said he hasn’t heard from him and said that his life is in jeopardy after a number of leftist leader slayings across the country.

Demobilized FARC members like El Paisa argue they are concerned for their safety. Colombia is in the midst of investigating the death and possible torture of a demobilized guerilla member by the military just last week. One analyst said these acts build tensions as the country strives to build peace after years of conflict.

“Not only el Paisa, but any ex-combatant may also be asking themselves what is going to happen to us, what are the guarantees of security?” Laura Ligarreto an expert on transitional justice said.

FARC top political commander known popularly by his alias Timochenko said that while Velasquez and many other FARC members fear for their lives, he will continue with the peace process even if it means a threat to his life.