Colombia's ex-FARC leaders face up to eight year sentences for kidnappings

BOGOTA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Colombia's transitional justice tribunal recommended sentencing seven former FARC guerilla commanders to five to eight years for kidnappings and similar crimes during the country's decades-long armed conflict.

The tribunal gave their recommendation to a court which will decide whether to include detention outside prisons and reparations to victims, such as removing landmines, searching for missing people and environmental restoration.

The tribunal, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), was created to prosecute former FARC members and military leaders for alleged war crimes after a 2016 peace deal to end a nearly six-decade armed conflict that left at least 450,000 dead between 1985 and 2018.

Seven former commanders of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including former commander-in-chief Rodrigo Londono, have accepted responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including hostage-taking, severe deprivation of liberty and other international crimes.

"The seven participants individually and collectively assumed their responsibility as co-perpetrators," the JEP said, adding the United Nations will verify and monitor any sentencing.

The FARC kidnapped people to obtain economic resources and finance their war against the government, while they kidnapped military and government officials to demand the release of imprisoned guerrillas, the JEP said.

Kidnapping victims, some of whom spent years deprived of their freedom in the middle of the jungle, say they still experience damage to their mental health from the physical, emotional and moral suffering they were subjected to.

The JEP, which opened several cases against the FARC, documented 21,396 kidnapping victims of the former rebel group which demobilized in 2017.

The U.N. human rights office in Colombia said the JEP's findings for the FARC kidnapping cases are "a fundamental advance in the fight against impunity and victims' rights."

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Josie Kao

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