FARC political prisoners denounce rights violations

FARC political prisoners who remain incarcerated despite the amnesty law included in the 2016 peace agreement have denounced poor conditions and violations of their rights at La Picota prison in Bogota where they are held.

The FARC inmates say that prison authorities, under the governorship of Imelda López, have denied them objects of basic necessity such as mops, toilet paper and soap. The absence of hygiene and cleaning products has caused inmates to suffer illnesses including diarrhoea and flu. Family members have also been prohibited from bringing basic products into the prison.

Other prisoners, including officials jailed for corruption, continue to receive luxury benefits. For example, a former governor of San Andrés island, Ronald Housni Jaller, who was jailed in October, is allowed a television with cable, a fridge, a laptop, a desk and toiletries in his cell. This, say the inmates, is authorised by the prison authorities.

According to the FARC political party, at least 250 former combatants are still imprisoned.

The most high-profile FARC inmate at La Picota prison is Jesús Santrich, the peace negotiator and congress member-elect who has been detained since April despite the recent admission by Colombia’s attorney general that his office has seen no evidence of the charges. Mr Santrich, who is blind and suffers from epilepsy, has been denied access to medical aides to alleviate his condition. He has also been kept isolated from other inmates and is denied general perks which the rest of the prison population receives, such as being permitted meals from outside on Wednesdays.

In September, Britain’s national Trades Union Congress (TUC) passed an emergency resolution criticising the conditions in which Mr Santrich is being held in La Picota and calling on the Colombian authorities to respect his legal and human rights. The motion was submitted by UNISON and supported by ASLEF and the POA prison officers’ union. Representatives of the three unions visited Jesús Santrich in La Picota prison on a JFC Peace Monitor delegation in August this year and expressed high concern at the conditions of his confinement.