The Colombian House of Representatives approved the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, passing the motion with a unanimous vote to the Constitutional Court just two days before the final deadline.
"We are very satisfied, this is the most important bill of the legislative agenda for peace,” Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera said after twelve hours of debate culminated in a final count of 84 votes for and zero against.
“This is a project that guarantees the rights of the victims of the armed conflict,” said Rivera, adding that they expect both the House and Senate reconcile wording Wednesday before it goes to the Constitutional Court for final approval.
The bill presents an alternative judicial process for former guerrilla militants, effectively erasing the stain of war crimes and offering significantly lighter sentences provided they do not repeat their offenses in the future.
The initiative was first proposed during the discussions for the Colombian Peace Agreement, between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
However, since the signing of the peace accord in November 2016, the bill has seen some changes. Those guilty of sexual crimes against minors will be tried according to the normal criminal justice process.
Former FARC members will be permitted to vote and politically participate in next year’s elections, provided they have completed the time on their sentences. The lower chamber also ruled that victims testifying in JEP will be protected by the National Protection Unit.
A decision must be made before the “fast track” mechanism expires on Nov. 30. The United Nations, who helped to establish the peace agreement and monitored the demobilization of the FARC rebels, is pressuring congressional members to maintain their side of the bargain which among other things will allow restitution for victims.