Colombia’s congress on Wednesday approved a much-awaited amnesty law that will breathe life into a peace deal signed with the nation’s largest guerrilla group in November.
Both chambers of congress approved the bill with wide majorities. The law provides blanket amnesty to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who have not committed major crimes. It also covers military officials who are being investigated for lesser crimes.
The law is seen as the key that will allow the 52-year-old guerrilla group to begin full-scale demobilization. Those accused of serious crimes, however, will have to go before a special tribunal. Even so, they will also have access to reduced sentences that will include “confinement” but not prison time.
“Thanks to Congress which, with this historic vote, approved the Amnesty Law — the first step toward consolidating peace,” President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter.
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Former President Alvaro Uribe’s Centro Democrático party abstained from voting, saying the law was too vague and opened the doors for criminals to be pardoned. Uribe has been staunchly opposed to the peace deal, because it will allow FARC leaders to avoid jail time and participate in politics.