Though it does not entail a final settlement of differences, the agreement reached by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) on the creation of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace consolidates the road toward ending the armed conflict in the country.

After more than one year debating the point on victims of the armed conflict, which is for many people the most complex in the agenda for the talks, the signing of the agreement was made in front of President Juan Manuel Santos (for the first time ever during the peace talks) and the leader of the FARC-EP Timoleón Jiménez.

The new round of Colombian Peace Talks was also attended by Cuban President Raúl Castro, with the parties announcing in a joint communiqué that the initiative is fruitful and entails a point of no return toward putting an end to the Colombian war, the oldest in Latin America.

Though it does not entail a final settlement of differences, the agreement reached by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) on the creation of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace consolidates the road toward ending the armed conflict in the country.The agreement establishes the mechanisms for accomplishing justice after the peace agreement is signed. These mechanisms include the creation of a special peace court and a truth commission.

According to the agreement, the court will have justice courtrooms and a peace court. The courtrooms will largely consist of Colombian lawmakers and a small number of foreigners who fulfill the most important requirements.

The Jurisdiction follows two types of procedures: one for those who admit the truth and their responsibility; and the other for those who failed to do so or are very late in doing it. The first would be given a sentence; the second would face a contradictory trial in court.

Among the most important aspects, the two parties have mentioned a commitment with a justice formula that meets the rights of the victims of the armed conflict: more than four million displaced people, 220,000 dead people and over 25,000 missing people.

According to the communiqué, the government and the rebels agreed to give sentences between five and eight years in prison under special conditions to those who recognize having committed very serious crimes.

Those people who do so late will be sentenced to between five and eight years under ordinary conditions.

During his address at the Cubanacán Protocol Room west of Havana, the Colombian president also made another important announcement: March 23, 2016 will be the deadline for signing the peace agreement, “which is possible and closer than ever before,” he added.

Meanwhile, Timoleón Jiménez urged Colombians to remain united to attain lasting peace and to join efforts to neutralize hatred.

“We will do anything that is in our hands. We are ready, but if the entire society joins forces on this goal, I think we could give the country that good news sooner.”

Cuban President Raúl Castro congratulated the two sides and stressed the importance of the agreement. “We are moving ever closer to attaining the peace that the Colombian people want and deserve so badly,” he noted.

A total of 41 working sessions have been held, featuring both advances and tense moments; but the main goal has prevailed: to be able to put an end to an armed conflict that has been bleeding the country for more than 50 years, mainly in the countryside, where social inequalities are easily perceived.

Since the peace talks began, the victims of the armed conflict have been the center of attention in different social forums where many of them, mostly women, have called for justice, truth, and psycho-social programs for minors affected by violence.

During the forum held last year in the Colombian cities of Cali, Villavicencio and Barrancabermeja –whose proposals were sent to the negotiation table- the people most affected by the conflict repeatedly advocated reconciliation, a dream that they now see as being closer than ever.

The historical photo in which Santos and Timoleón Jiménez are shaking hands in Havana gives them the hope that a new Colombia is being born.

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