BOGOTA (Reuters) – FARC rebels who committed rape during Colombia’s more than five decades of conflict were shot as punishment, the group’s leader said on Monday, denying sexual abuse by fighters was widespread despite testimonies to the contrary.
Rodrigo Londono, who has lead the FARC’s political party since the group demobilized in 2017 following a peace deal, made the comments as the right-wing government of President Ivan Duque seeks to modify the remit of the peace tribunal charged with trying ex-combatants for war crimes.
Duque has asked congress to reexamine six parts of the law that regulates the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court, saying that rules over sentencing for war crimes, stipulations about extradition and other articles are unclear.
The court is meant to try rebels and military officials for emblematic cases of human rights abuses which occurred during the conflict.
Thousands of women, including former rebel fighters, are believed to have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of rebels and paramilitaries during the war. Former FARC fighters have also reported being forced to have abortions.
“Obviously there were rape cases,” Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, told local Blu Radio. “Of the cases that I know about, all of (the rapists) were condemned to execution by firing squad.”
“That sounds harsh but that’s how we acted.”
Sexual violence was not widespread, Londono added, and relationships were consensual.
The White Rose, a organisation of women who say they were forcibly recruited, raped and forced to have abortions by the FARC and other armed groups, said on Twitter that Londono was a “cynical criminal.”
The group decried other comments from the interview in which Londono said girls from the countryside begin sexual activity at a young age.
“That’s how he justifies that they were abused in the FARC. That’s the way these criminals justify the acts for which they shouldn’t have impunity,” the group said.
Marches are set to take place in Bogota and other cities on Monday evening, with protesters urging the government not to support Duque’s proposed changes to the JEP.
Some 13,000 fighters and collaborators of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia handed over their weapons as part of the peace deal, the majority receiving amnesty.
The group’s political party has kept its famous initials, renaming itself the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alistair Bell)