Colombian govt, FARC rebels to create truth commission

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The Colombian government and FARC guerrillas said Thursday they have agreed at peace talks to set up a truth commission to probe crimes committed during the country’s half-century conflict.

The “extra-judicial” commission, whose creation is contingent upon reaching a final peace deal, will not have the power to punish perpetrators. And the information it uncovers cannot be used in court, the two sides said in a statement.

The agreement overcomes a major stumbling block in the peace negotiations. But it will likely meet with criticism from victims and family members who have called to bring perpetrators to justice for atrocities committed during the conflict.

“The parties pledge to contribute decisively to clarifying the truth on everything that has taken place during the conflict, including grave human rights violations and infractions of international humanitarian law,” said the statement, read at the close of the latest round of peace talks in Havana.

It said the commission “will not be judicial in nature nor be able to impose penalties on those who appear before it.”

It will be “independent and impartial,” but the information it generates “cannot be transferred to judicial authorities to be used as evidence or attribute responsibility at trial,” the statement added.

The commission will be created for a period of three years and have 11 members, to be chosen by a seven-member committee named by both parties.

The issue of justice for egregious crimes committed during the war has been a sticking point in the negotiations, which began in the Cuban capital in November 2012.

President Juan Manuel Santos had pushed a plan calling for what he described as “transitional justice,” but the FARC rejected it, saying it sought only to punish guerrillas while ignoring the army’s own atrocities.

The conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and uprooted six million since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were founded in 1964.