Concern over delay in releasing 30 pardoned FARC prisoners

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 14 January 2016

In Colombia there is growing concern from peace activists and organisations that the Colombian government is not fulfilling their promise to release 30 guerrilla combatants currently in prison. Last November, in the context of a hunger strike by FARC prisoners and the ongoing peace talks in Havana, the government announced it would pardon 30 FARC prisoners, provide medical attention to a further 106 imprisoned guerrilla combatants with severe health issues and create special prison yards for political prisoners.

Although the prisoners have fulfilled the requirements for the pardon, the process has been inexplicably delayed. To date only three of the 30 have been notified of the approval of the pardon and two prisoners have been changed by the government, supposedly because they are being investigated for other crimes beyond being members of the FARC. None of the prisons where the FARC combatants are being held have yet received the announced health care visits, whilst the health of the prisoners continues to deteriorate, and several of those pardoned have not received any medical attention at all.

The special prison yards for FARC combatants have also not yet been allocated. This means that there is no guarantee of reviewing the current conditions of political prisoners or preparing for any possible releases. On the contrary, human rights violations, arbitrary transfers and isolation of prisoners have been reported.

The government's promise to unilaterally pardon the 30 FARC prisoners and provide urgent medical care was seen as a humanitarian act and an important move in the de-escalation of the armed conflict. However the delays have put this into question. The FARC delegation in Havana have called for the government to keep their word whilst the human rights coalition which fights for the rights of political prisoners in Colombia have denounced the government's failure to fulfil the agreements announced last year.

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