Colombia’s president Ivan Duque seeks action over FARC assassination confession

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque has called for two former FARC rebel commanders to be expelled from Congress over the 1995 assassination of a former presidential candidate.

The former rebels last week admitted in a letter to the Justice for Peace court – set up to investigate crimes committed during the Colombian conflict – that they were responsible for the assassination of Alvaro Gomez, a Conservative Party leader and three-time presidential candidate.

Gomez, 75, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside a university building in Bogota in 1995.

Two of the signatories to the letter, former FARC commanders Julian Gallo and Pablo Catatumbo, sit in the Congress as part of the 2016 peace agreement that ended the nearly 60-year conflict.

During an official event in Bogota, Duque said on Wednesday that given the seriousness of the crime, they “should immediately lose the connotation of being a member of Congress”.

Duque, a sharp critic of the peace agreement, said the pair should resign voluntarily so as not to “re-victimise” Gomez’s family.

Otherwise, he said, he hoped the justice system would act to strip the ex-rebels of their “parliamentary representation”.

The confession caused surprise in the South American country, where for decades it has been widely believed Gomez was targeted by political rivals allied with the military and drug traffickers.

Gomez’s family have rejected the FARC confession as an attempt to distract attention from the continuing investigation into the murder.

They claim Gomez was targeted because he opposed former liberal President Ernesto Samper, who at the time was facing a scandal over cartel financing of his election campaign.

On Tuesday, Gallo acknowledged that he had given the order to kill Gomez on instructions from his FARC superiors.

The FARC senators took up their seats in Congress as part of the deal which gave the disbanded FARC movement nine seats in the legislature.

As part of the 2016 agreement, the former Marxist movement’s main leaders pledged to confess their crimes before the Justice for Peace tribunal and to compensate the victims or their families, in exchange for alternative sentences to prison.

Those who fail to keep that commitment risk being brought before ordinary courts.

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