Colombia’s cemeteries may hold answers for families of disappeared

By Julia Symmes Cobb

LA DORADA, Colombia (Reuters) – When her 17-year-old son Jose Andres was kidnapped by paramilitaries at the height of Colombia’s civil conflict, Gloria Ines Urueña vowed she would not leave the sweltering riverside town of La Dorada until she found him.

She has been true to her word for more than two decades – searching for her son’s body despite threats from the group that killed him.

An estimated 120,000 people have gone missing during Colombia’s nearly 60 years of conflict. A 2016 peace deal between the government and the Marxist FARC rebels brought some respite, but another left-wing insurgency and armed criminal gangs – many descended from right-wing paramilitaries – persist.

Now a national plan to identify victims buried anonymously in cemeteries has renewed the hope Urueña and thousands like her hold of finding their loved ones’ remains.

The Search Unit for Disappeared People, founded under the 2016 deal to fulfill one of its key promises, is investigating cemeteries across Colombia, hoping to untangle years of chaotic record-keeping and neglect, identify remains, and return them to families.

“Back then, I spent a month looking near the river, near the dump, farms, all that, and I was alone,” said Urueña, as a forensic team examined human remains at La Dorada’s cemetery.

“I’ve always said I don’t just want to find my son: I want to find all of the disappeared.”

Many of Colombia’s disappeared were killed by leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries or the military. Others were kidnapped, forcibly recruited, or willingly joined armed groups.

Most are likely dead, buried in clandestine graves high in the windswept Andes or deep in thick jungle, dumped in rivers or ravines.

But some ended up in graveyards. Found by the roadside or pulled from waterways, remains were buried anonymously by locals risking the wrath of armed groups, their graves marked with NN for ‘no name’.

The strategy may be unique: the recovery of potentially tens of thousands of bodies from cemeteries has likely not been tried before, especially during an ongoing conflict.

Some remains have been moved or mixed together, exhumed multiple times during efforts to identify them or saved in trash bags in storage rooms.

Some remains have been assigned multiple case numbers, while others were buried in cemeteries but never autopsied and so have no case number at all.

Other remains have case numbers, but cannot be located.

“It’s not just a recovery of bodies, but also of information,” said unit head Luz Marina Monzon. “It’s a jigsaw puzzle.”

PIECING IT TOGETHER

The unit has no estimate of how many disappeared people may be in Colombia’s cemeteries. Many graveyards have had no consistent management or resources, or are run by religious organizations with their own records and rules.

DNA from nearly 5,200 unidentified bodies is stored in a database at the government’s National Institute of Legal Medicine, along with nearly 44,400 samples from families of the disappeared to cross-check genetic material with newly-discovered remains.

The institute also holds a separate database of reports of missing people. So far, the unit has uncovered some 15,000 reports of disappeared persons that were not previously in it.

Threats to families and ex-combatants providing information to the unit can stymie its work, Monzon said.

“The persistence of the armed conflict is a huge challenge to accessing information, to accessing locations and to guaranteeing the participation of victims in the search,” Monzon said.

This scale of cemetery exhumations is unusual, largely because many people disappeared in countries like Argentina, Chile, Bosnia, Guatemala and Kosovo were buried in clandestine graves. Scattered graveyard exhumations have been conducted in some places.

But Colombia’s effort may hold particular lessons for Mexico, which is facing perhaps the world’s most active disappearance crisis and where the unidentified are sometimes buried in cemeteries but rarely exhumed.

“Mexico needs to start looking at what the Colombians are doing,” said Dr. Arely Cruz-Santiago of the University of Exeter, who researches citizen forensics in Mexico and Colombia. “Especially because they are very similar countries in the sense of the scale more or less of the conflict.”

BONES IN BAGS

Beads of sweat bloomed at the temples of forensic anthropologist Carlos Ariza as he cradled a cranium in one hand, using his finger to indicate the bullet’s likely trajectory.

This skull belonged to a man, about 40. Later during the examination in a stifling tent in La Dorada’s cemetery, Ariza discovered a second bullet hole in the cranium, hidden under caked mud.

“NN Mar. 17 2003,” read the label on the plastic trash bag which had held the remains in a dark storage room.

Over a few days, forensic staff opened the bags, delicately removing each bone, fragment of fabric or tuft of hair. They packed 27 sets of remains off to a regional lab for DNA testing.

La Dorada lies in the southernmost point of the Magdalena Medio region east of Medellin, once a hotbed of violence where hundreds of thousands of people were murdered, disappeared, raped and displaced.

Paramilitary groups were frequent perpetrators. They demobilized between 2003 and 2006 under a peace deal, though many members later formed crime gangs.

HOW MUCH LONGER?

About a month after Urueña’s son was taken in 2001, two men showed up at her house in La Dorada on a motorcycle and told her to stop looking.

“‘He was my son and I will not move from this house until I know what’s become of him. And if your boss wants to kill me that’s my answer’,” she said she responded. “I told him ‘do it now if you want and that way you’ll end my suffering too.'”

Jose used to bring his mother flowers on his way home. When his sister became pregnant as a teenager, he helped support the baby.

“If he were here it would be different, as much for the family as for me, because the family fell apart,” Urueña said.

Her older son fled town in the face of paramilitary threats, not returning for 11 years. Her older daughter left to find work, leaving Urueña to raise her grandchildren.

Her granddaughter, now 18, has promised Urueña she will continue the search for Jose even after Urueña’s death.

“We ask how much longer we have to wait,” Urueña said. “Even though the years pass, I am still full of hope.”

“And though you don’t want to cry, the tears come.”

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Nicolas Misculin in Buenos Aires, Gabriela Donoso in Santiago, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City and Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S.-bound migrants fill Colombia town as COVID-19 border closures lifted

By Steven Grattan

NECOCLI, Colombia (Reuters) – After traveling for more than a year by ship, bus and car from Africa in hope of reaching the United States, Simon Gyamfi found himself stuck in a remote tourist resort on the coast of Colombia with thousands of other migrants.

The 42-year-old carpenter, a Christian, fled his home in Ghana because of a dispute with his late wife’s Muslim family, he said, and took a month-long ocean voyage to Brazil. The closure of borders due to the coronavirus pandemic left him stranded there for months.

Now, after the frontiers finally reopened, he has made his way by road to the northern Colombian town of Necocli, a gateway for migrants heading northward into Central America.

Every year, thousands of migrants pass through the small town, looking to catch a boat across the Gulf of Uraba toward the jungles of the Darien Gap on the isthmus of Panama.

There, people smugglers guide groups across the wild, road-less region, one of the most treacherous barriers on the clandestine route to the United States.

Now borders closures have lifted, the number of migrants arriving in Necocli is soaring.

In a typical year, an estimated 30,000 migrants pass through Necocli. But by August of this year, 25,000 have already been through, according to Colombian government figures.

Panama’s Foreign Affairs ministry said it expects to receive over 70,000 migrants crossing the country en route to the U.S. by the end of 2021, an unprecedented number in the country’s history.

The town has been struggling to accommodate migrants from Latin America and beyond – many of them driven by the economic hardship worsened by the pandemic – clamoring for scarce places on boats across the Gulf. Thousands crowd hotels and the beach as they wait weeks for a spot.

Colombia and Panama vowed last week to impose order on the migrant flows as they seek support from allies, including the United States, after the number of travelers stranded in Necocli topped 10,000.

The majority of the migrants moving through Necocli are Haitian or Cuban, fleeing dire economic circumstances in their homelands. But Reuters spoke to several others from further afield, including African nations such as Ghana and Mali.

Gyamfi had been in Necocli for almost a week, paying $7 a night for a hotel room.

“The journey has been hard and full of surprises. Last month, a friend of mine died on the road,” said the widowed carpenter, who hopes to save enough to bring his young daughter to join him if he reaches the United States.

“It takes a lot of money to get here and great risks.”

Necocli became a staging area for migrants just five years ago. Though it has thrived by charging migrants in dollars, not Colombian pesos, local officials say public services and housing in the town of 20,000 are not robust enough to cope with recent numbers.

DANGEROUS CROSSING

More migrants has meant increased profits for many in Necocli: especially for the guides, called coyotes, who take people on the week-long trek through the Darien Gap.

“Everyone here is benefiting from the migrant issue,” said a local guide leader, a man in his early 40s, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of attracting the attention of the authorities.

Colombia’s government has warned of criminal dangers to migrants moving through Darien, as well as the risk of injury or disease.

The man acknowledged some groups – usually comprising 20 migrants and a guide – have been robbed and women sometimes suffer rape.

The guides have increased the size of their groups to meet recent demand, but the man denied any criminal connections.

“People look at us like the monsters of this place. They think we are rich,” he said. “Those who do this make a living day to day. The coyotes aren’t millionaires.”

At 6 a.m. the sound of adhesive tape being ripped from its rolls sounded around Necocli’s port, as migrants with spots on that day’s boat frantically sealed their possessions into plastic trash bags for the 2.5-hour, $50 boat ride across the Gulf of Uraba.

The day Reuters visited, the mayor of Acandi – which lies on the other side of the Gulf, near the Panama border – decided to let just 200 of the usual 1,000 migrants cross because of what he said were environmental and security concerns.

The decision caused chagrin among local Colombian officials and nonprofits – who feared some migrants might make a dangerous informal crossing at night. In Necocli, angry migrants who had paid days in advance for boat tickets protested in the streets.

In Capurgana, 44-year-old Haitian Lenos Dorvilien, was frustrated after he had traveled across the Gulf ahead of his wife and 12-year-old daughter, who were now stuck in Necocli.

The family had left their homeland for Chile in 2016, but found work there was badly paid. They had planned to leave sooner but were delayed by coronavirus and finally left two weeks ago by bus.

Chile – which has one of the highest levels of income per capita in Latin America – is a popular destination for Haitians, but migrants there regularly complain of experiencing xenophobia.

“I put up with living in Chile but it’s a racist country,” said Dorvilien. “I had to work hard like the devil to be able to leave.”

Dorvilien eventually took another boat back to be with his family. Their money for hotels exhausted, they slept on the beach.

(Reporting by Steven Grattan, additional reporting by Aislinn Laing in Santiago; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb, Aurora Ellis and Daniel Flynn)

Thousands stuck in Colombia’s Caribbean amid migration surge

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Some 9,000 migrants are stranded in a Caribbean municipality in Colombia amid a surge of people passing through on their way to north America following the re-opening of international borders post-lockdown, the Colombian migration agency said.

The irregular migrants – who are mostly Haitians but also include Venezuelans and Cubans, as well as a number from African countries – are stuck in Necocli, in Colombia’s Antioquia province, migration agency director Juan Francisco Espinosa said in a virtual press conference.

“This is a recurring and historical phenomenon. Colombia is not the cause or the destination of this migration,” Espinosa said.

The migrants hope to pass from Necocli and on through the dangerous Darien Gap towards Panama and then onwards to north America, principally the United States or Canada, he added.

Though the region typically sees 30,000 migrants pass through in a normal year, Espinosa said just 4,000 people transited the region last year due to the impact of measures implemented by countries to control the spread of coronavirus.

However, with borders opening up, the level of migration in the region so far in 2021 has been much greater compared to the same period last year, Espinosa added.

“This year is presenting numbers that are absolutely alarming, where right now more than 25,000 irregular migrants have passed through this part of the country,” he said.

Some 74% of the more-than 25,000 migrants recorded passing through the region in 2021 are Haitian, a migration agency spokesman told Reuters.

Colombia reopened its land and river borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Panama in May, following a 14-month closure it used to try and curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The country opened its border with Venezuela in early June.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

COVID still devastating in the Americas, health agency says

BRASILIA (Reuters) -COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

Cases have more than doubled in the United States over the past week, mainly among unvaccinated people, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a briefing.

The more transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus has been detected in 20 of the 35 countries in the Americas already, she said.

Cuba is seeing higher COVID infection and death rates than at any other point in the pandemic there, she said, adding that more than 7,000 minors and nearly 400 pregnant women have tested positive there in the last week.

Over the last week there were over 1.26 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 29,000 deaths reported in the Americas.

Infection hotspots have been reported in Argentine provinces bordering Bolivia and Chile, and in Colombia’s Amazon region.

“As COVID continues to circulate, too many places have relaxed the public health and social measures that have proven effective against this virus,” Etienne said.

So far, only 16.6% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as countries in the regions have yet to access the vaccines needed to keep their people safe, she said.

“The good news is that vaccines work against the variants, including Delta, in terms of preventing severe disease and death. The bad news is that we do not have yet enough vaccines to stop community transmission,” Etienne said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Colombia arrests 10 over bombing, shooting of president’s helicopter

By Oliver Griffin

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia arrested 10 people accused of involvement in attacks on a helicopter carrying President Ivan Duque and a military base last month that officials said on Thursday were planned by former FARC rebel leaders based in Venezuela.

The car bombing at the base in the northeastern city of Cucuta, home to the army’s 30th brigade, wounded 44 people, including two U.S. military advisers. Later in June, a helicopter approaching city with Duque and other officials aboard was strafed by bullets.

The 10 people captured in Norte de Santander province are former FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a press conference broadcast via social media, and belong to the dissidents’ 33rd front.

Three took part in the planning and execution of both attacks and have been detained and charged, while another is a retired army captain, Barbosa said.

Orders to carry out the attacks came from former FARC leaders who are operating from Venezuela, Defense Minister Diego Molano said during the conference.

He said the incidents demonstrated the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sheltered FARC dissidents, calling them “terrorists”.

“It’s clear that this attack against the president, against the 30th brigade, was planned from Venezuela,” Molano said.

The Venezuelan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colombia’s government has long accused Maduro of turning a blind eye to the presence of Colombian rebels on his country’s territory. Maduro, in turn, has said Venezuela is a victim of criminals from Colombia.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Joe Bavier)

Colombian children learn to identify landmines buried during country’s civil war

(Reuters) – A non-profit organization is teaching children in rural Colombia how to identify landmines placed near their communities by armed guerrilla groups during the country’s long civil war.

Since 2013, the HALO Trust Foundation has created programs to deactivate anti-personnel mines in the regions of Antioquia, Meta, Tolima, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Nariño and Putumayo. So far, they have been able to declare 900 free of mines. They also teach children and their communities about the risks of the mines, how to spot them, and what to do if they find one.

“Younger people do not know how to correctly identify explosive artefacts. This has always been and still is a concern,” said community leader Juliana Arango.

According to the HALO Trust Foundation, since 1990 around 12,000 people have been injured or died in Colombia because of undetonated explosives.

“We try to… create safe surroundings for the communities, to reduce the problem of the anti-personnel mines and also reduce the accidents they cause,” said Juan Jose Granada, who works for HALO Trust.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Diane Craft)

Colombia’s police advises Haiti on tackling kidnapping crisis

By Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) – Colombia, once the kidnap capital of the world, reduced kidnappings by 95% over the past two decades. Now the anti-kidnapping unit of its national police hopes to help Haiti tackle its own epidemic of abductions for ransom.

Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Eduardo Tellez Betancourt told Reuters his team of four specialists had delivered its report on Haiti’s kidnapping crisis on Tuesday after three months of on-the-ground research.

Among the report’s conclusions are the need for Haiti’s anti-kidnapping unit to receive more specialized training – for example at Colombia’s anti-kidnapping school – and better equipment for investigating crime.

That includes the tools to intercept, analyze and block communications, he said, which in turn could help root out or disincentivize alleged connivance between politicians and the gangs responsible for kidnappings.

Haiti’s kidnapping crisis is terrifying Haitians, stunting economic activity in what is already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and last month prompted a change in government.

“Kidnappings have increased because gangs have strengthened,” Tellez said by telephone, adding that before 2016, Haitian police had often been able to rescue those taken hostage. Since then, however, “the gangs have strengthened in weapons and criminal structure… preventing police from being able to carry out these rescue operations.”

NO-GO ZONES

Tellez said insufficient border controls had allowed Haitian gangs to get their hands on more weapons, turning certain areas into no-go zones for Haiti’s understaffed, underequipped police force – and perfect locations to hold victims hostage until a lucrative ransom was paid.

Four policemen died in March in a gun battle with alleged criminals after attempting to enter a slum in the capital where kidnapping victims are often held.

The nonprofit Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research in Port-au-Prince recorded at least 91 kidnappings in Haiti in April, with requested ransoms ranging from $100,000 to $1 million. Only five victims were freed without paying a ransom.

Tellez also blamed politics for the growing power of gangs in a country plagued by instability, without going into details.

Haitian human rights experts say politicians from across the political spectrum use armed groups to achieve their own ends, supplying them with weapons. They accuse President Jovenel Moise in particular of fomenting gang crime.

One notorious gang leader, who last year formed a federation of nine gangs, the “G9,” even staged a march in January in favor of Moise’s government.

Moise, who took office in 2017, denies the charges of complicity with gangs and has said tackling gang crime including kidnappings is a priority for his government.

One of the obstacles to resolving the crisis is distrust in police among many Haitians. Some kidnapping victims have reported people wearing police uniforms or driving police vehicles carrying out kidnappings.

Tellez said Haiti needed to weed out possible corruption in the police with better control mechanisms and strengthen its capacity to investigate kidnappings. For that, it needed to hire more officers to its anti-kidnapping unit and train them up.

While Colombia’s population is five times that of Haiti’s 11 million, its anti-kidnapping unit, at 1300 officers, is 60 times bigger, according to numbers supplied by Tellez.

Haiti should also invest in technological tools for investigating such as a “room for intercepting communication”.

Tellez said his team was scheduled now to return to Colombia, handing off the case to a new team of specialists that would travel to Haiti to continue advising on the kidnapping crisis in an initiative agreed by the Colombian, Haitian and U.S. governments.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Gareth Jones)

With fuel and food scarce, people in Colombia’s Cali ask for negotiation

By Luis Jaime Acosta

CALI, Colombia (Reuters) – Residents of the Colombian city of Cali, the epicenter of protests against the government of Ivan Duque, are struggling under the weight of demonstrators’ road blockades, which have tripled some foods prices and made gasoline scarce.

The city – usually known for its love of salsa dancing – has had more confirmed deaths than any other during the demonstrations, which began in late April, as well as some looting.

Residents say it is urgent agreements be reached between protesters and the government so more food and fuel shipments can enter the city and to end the protests – the longest and most violent demonstrations in Colombia’s recent history.

“We are living a critical moment,” said Andres Bolanos, 28, as he waited in a long line to fill the tank of his motorcycle.

“The two sides need to make an agreement so there’s a good humanitarian corridor.”

Some gasoline lines stretched 2 kilometers (1.25 miles), while other gas stations, not able to get in shipments, were shuttered.

Cars are limited to 4 gallons (15 liters) and motorcycles to 2, and owners can fill up only on certain days according to license plate number.

Those supermarkets that are not closed have conspicuously empty shelves, even as prices rise for remaining food products.

“The impact has been total scarcity and price rises,” said grocery store owner Diana Falla, 36. “We got what we could and brought it in ourselves because sometimes purveyors don’t arrive.”

The cost of box of 30 eggs was up to 18,000 pesos, about $4.80, from a previous price of 12,000 pesos, and a pound of potatoes has tripled in price, to the equivalent of $0.80.

Falla said she has stopped selling many vegetables and fruits because supplier prices are just too high.

“You can’t get plantain, potato, chicken,” said 72-year-old housewife Clara Grijalba, as she stood outside Falla’s shop. “Please lift (the blockades), we can’t go on like this.”

Protesters, who originally called marches against a now-canceled tax plan, have expanded demands to include a basic income, an end to police violence and education and jobs for young people, among other things.

The death toll from protests is disputed. The human rights ombudsman is investigating 41 civilian deaths, while the attorney general’s office has confirmed 14.

At Puerto Resistencia, a working class area that has become a symbol of protests, demonstrators asked residents for calm.

“They don’t have food, they have shortages, but lots of people live with daily shortages,” said Elizabeth Serna, 40, leader of a blockade manned mostly by young people.

Blockades will continue until there is a deal with the government, she said.

“They must have patience because we’ll win this fight for everyone.”

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Thousands of Venezuelans flee to Colombia amid military operations

By Jhon Freddy Hinestroza

ARAUQUITA MUNICIPALITY, Colombia (Reuters) – Thousands of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia from their homes in the border province of Apure amid military operations there, the Colombian government and some of those displaced said.

Venezuela has said its military is fighting Colombian armed groups in rural areas and has its population’s support.

“When the bombs were falling I felt so nervous,” said Niomar Diaz, 26, who arrived in Colombia by canoe. “In one house a grandfather died, an 8-year-old boy died, a 9-year-old girl and her mom. The situation was terrible.”

Diaz said the Venezuelan military was abusive and his family and several neighbors chose to flee. Reuters could not independently verify his account of the deaths or the alleged abuse.

More than 3,200 people in 780 families make up the group, which began arriving in the Colombian municipality of Arauquita on Monday because of the military operations, Colombia’s migration agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The border is currently closed due to COVID-19.

“The foreigners are in eight shelters in Arauquita municipality and the national government, the governor of Arauca and the international community are making efforts to provide them with assistance,” the agency said.

Colombia’s foreign ministry on Twitter this week expressed worry over the situation and urged the international community to contribute help for the displaced.

Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, rejected those comments in his own tweet late on Wednesday.

The operations have been conducted against illegal camps of Colombian armed groups to protect civilians, a statement shared by Arreaza said, and two Venezuelan soldiers have been killed.

“Any attempt to violate the territorial integrity of Venezuela will have a forceful reaction,” he said.

Colombia will increase military and police presence in the area, Defense Minister Diego Molano said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Colombia’s government has vehemently criticized what it characterizes as the Venezuelan government’s protection of Colombian rebels and crime gangs. Venezuela has denied protecting such groups.

Colombia said last month it would grant 10-year protected status to some 1.7 million Venezuelans.

(Reporting by Jhon Freddy Hinestroza in Arauquita, additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Sarah Kinosian; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Ex-FARC commanders accept Colombia war crimes accusations

By Oliver Griffin

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Former commanders from Colombia’s demobilized FARC guerrillas on Thursday accepted accusations by a transitional justice court that they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the group’s 50-year war with the state.

The ruling in January by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), created under the 2016 peace deal between the government and the rebels, was the first time the JEP attributed criminal responsibility for hostage-taking to former leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The former commanders were also accused of other war crimes connected with the treatment of kidnap victims, including murder and torture, among others.

“We recognize that during (the conflict) actions and conduct punishable in the eyes of international humanitarian law took place. Actions and conducts that have been individually and collectively recognized by the JEP, society in general, and in activities with victims,” a statement signed by six of the former rebel commanders and published on Twitter said.

The FARC used kidnappings for ransom to fund their war, while captured military or government personnel were used to pressure authorities into releasing jailed rebels, the JEP said last month.

By accepting the accusations, the former commanders could face restrictions on their freedoms for five to eight years.

If they had rejected them, the commanders would have faced up to 20 years in prison, per the terms of the peace deal.

The signatories were former top leader Rodrigo Londono – known best by his nom de guerre Timochenko – Jaime Alberto Parra, Pablo Catatumbo, Pastor Alape, Julian Gallo and Rodrigo Grande.

The JEP can also prosecute military leaders for allegations of war crimes, in addition to the cases it handles related to former FARC members.

Colombia’s conflict, which also includes former right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartels, has killed 260,000 people and displaced millions.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; editing by Grant McCool)