Colombia | Former FARC chief admits responsibility for more than 20,000 kidnappings

(Bogota) “Timoshenko”, the former leader of the defunct Marxist FARC guerrillas in Colombia, on Tuesday admitted his responsibility for more than 20,000 kidnappings committed by his group during the armed conflict.

Posted at 5:46 p.m

Sitting in front of several former hostages and their families in an auditorium in Bogota, Rodrigo Londono, aka “Timoshenko”, claimed responsibility for these kidnappings, along with six other former commanders in chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

All are currently being prosecuted by the Special Peace Jurisdiction (JEP), which emerged from the peace accord that ended the conflict with the guerrillas in 2016.

On behalf of the 13,000 militants who signed the agreement, the former rebel leader acknowledged the “individual and collective responsibility for one of the most heinous crimes” committed by the Marxist organization.

They were “the result of policies that led to crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said the man who was the leader of the FARC at the time they were disarmed.

Former guerrilla commanders Pablo Catatumbo, Julian Gallo, Pastor Alape, Milton Toncel, Rodrigo Granda and Jaime Alberto Parra are taking part in the JEP’s public hearing, which runs through Thursday.

These men are accused of more than 21,000 kidnappings and other crimes committed between 1990 and 2016.

Politicians and soldiers who fell victim to these kidnappings and served as bargaining chips against imprisoned FARC fighters listened to their former executioners’ confessions, which they considered inadequate.

Conservative MP Oscar Tulio Lizcano, who was kidnapped in 2000, has demanded that his “prison guards” shed light on the fate of the missing hostages.

“You should tell us the truth. We have forgiven, but that doesn’t mean there is no justice, we want the truth,” said the 75-year-old former MP, who escaped from his kidnappers in 2008.

“These crimes were the result of a policy by the Secretariat (management) of the FARC” and “committed directly by their subordinates,” commented Judge Julieta Lemaitre, who presided over today’s hearing.

According to the peace agreement, the former guerrillas must make amends to their victims and tell the truth to avoid imprisonment.

The court will take at least three months to convict the accused. If their confessions are found insufficient, they could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

In May, some 20 retired army officers, including a general, admitted their involvement in the killing of more than 100 civilians, mostly peasants, who they then passed off as guerrillas killed in action.

The JEP estimates that there have been at least 6,400 victims of this practice, known as “hoaxes.”

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