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Colombian top prosecutor suspends 191 arrest warrants for FARC negotiators

Text of report by privately-owned, right-of-centre, Colombian newspaper El Espectador website on 22 October

[Report by on 22 October; place not specified: "Prosecutor General's Office Lifts Arrest Warrants For Dutchwoman Tanja"]

Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre on 22 October announced the lifting of 191 arrest warrants issued for 19 FARC representatives who are participating in the peace process underway with the administration of Juan Manuel Santos.

In a news conference, the prosecutor general said that among the arrest warrants that were suspended are two issued for Dutch guerrilla Tanja Nijmeijer on counts of rebellion and another one that called for her extradition.

According to Montealegre, 132 warrants issued for guerilla commander 'Ivan Marquez' have been suspended. He noted that Marquez had been sentenced in 30 cases on counts of hostage taking, murder of protected individuals, rebellion, and terrorism, among others.

The prosecutor general made it clear that, although the arrest warrants for the members of the FARC negotiating team had been suspended, this does not mean that processes and investigations affecting them will be interrupted.

Montealegre said, "This is a temporary suspension that will be in force only during the installation of the tables, and the development and proceedings of the negotiating process in Havana (Cuba) and in the venue designated by the high peace commissioner."

Commenting on the situation he said that, given the fact that this measure is of a temporary nature, "if for any reason the dialogue is interrupted or no progress is made," the arrest warrants will be back in force.

The prosecutor general said that the measure has special limitations, indicating that the suspension is only designed to enable the affected individuals to leave the country to go to authorized places to engage in talks, and those places at this moment are Oslo, Norway; and Havana, Cuba.

"If any of the 29-member team of representatives went to a place not previously authorized by the government or by the high peace commissioner (Sergio Jaramillo), the arrest warrants would be in force in those places," Montealegre said.

The prosecutor general also said that these individuals will be arrested if they leave the venues designated for the dialogue without authorization, or if they return to the country ahead of time without authorization from government representatives.

"Proceedings against FARC members will continue. At present there are 2,156 ongoing cases against members of the guerrilla group on crimes including kidnapping, extortion, rebellion, and murder against protected individuals, among others.

Montealegre said that, within the framework of the peace process, the Prosecutor General's Office is preparing a contingency plan "to continue" every investigation against emblematic FARC members as well as in complex cases like those involving human rights violations. "We are going to sharpen our focus on criminal prosecution and the investigation to establish the responsibility of the top leaders," Montealegre said in the news conference held at the Prosecutor General's Office.

[Source: BBC, London, El Espectador website, Bogota, in Spanish 22Oct12]

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