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Former Colombia FARC demobilized rebel commanders apologize for kidnappings

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – Eight former Colombian commanders demobilized FARC guerrillas on Monday apologizing for kidnappings by the rebel group during the country’s armed conflict and saying they regretted the grave mistake.

It is the first time since the November 2016 peace deal between the government and the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that a group of former commanders, including former leader Rodrigo Londono, known as nom de guerre Timochenko, have demanded sorry and admitted they had made mistakes.

We are here to apologize publicly to all our victims and their families from our hearts, members of the FARC political party said in a statement. The party retained its Spanish initials after changing its name to the Joint Alternative Revolutionary Force.

The kidnappings were a serious mistake for which we can only apologize, they said.

The Colombian government and human rights groups accuse the demobilized guerrillas of abducting thousands of civilians and members of the armed forces during the rebels in a more than 50-year conflict that has left 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

Members of the FARC political party acknowledged that the abductions had deeply injured those affected and damaged their legitimacy and credibility without being repaired by depriving their victims of their dignity and freedom.

FARC leaders reiterated their commitment and willingness to testify about what happened during the conflict in court and to give explanations to Colombian society.

The former rebel leaders are in the process of testifying in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a court that can impose sentences that limit freedom between five and eight years for those who accept responsibility and admit their crimes.

However, those who do not take responsibility for their crimes will receive prison sentences of between 15 and 20 years.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Written by Oliver Griffin; Edited by Michael Perry

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