On September 23 2015, the Colombian government made a major breakthrough in its negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) to end 50 years of conflict.
After three years of talks, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño agreed on a plan for comprehensive transitional justice in Colombia.
The negotiators set a deadline of six months to finish the final peace accord. After 60 more days, the FARC will lay down its arms, setting the stage for the end to the conflict by mid-2016.
This is good news for Colombians, of course. But the peace agreement is also worthy of wider attention because it represents new thinking on how to end old conflicts….
The agreement is precedent-setting in several ways.
It will be the first negotiated end to a civil conflict in the world under the new international standards of the 2002 Rome Statutes to hold accountable armed combatants who commit grave human rights abuses such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
It will also be the first peace process to have included victims at the negotiating table.
Finally, it will be the first end to a civil war that does not rely primarily on amnesty for all sides, but instead provides new forms of restorative justice. This is a compromise effort to reach peace while also holding perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable.
Still, important questions remain.
Will the agreement be accepted by a skeptical Colombian public who routinely favors jail time and opposes future political office for FARC members?
Does it go far enough to satisfy the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged with ensuring that national governments hold accountable those who commit crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression?
In other words, is Colombia developing a new model that other countries could adopt to satisfy both the higher global demands for accountability for human rights crimes while also helping countries in conflict achieve a lasting peace?
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