The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) announced on Sunday that it would end its long-standing practice of kidnapping as a way of financing its guerrilla activities and that it would release ten military and police hostages it currently holds. If carried out, this would mark a dramatic shift for the guerrilla group and could be a very important step towards finding an end to over four decades of violent conflict that has displaced millions of people.
Nevertheless, the FARC continues to violate international humanitarian law by recruiting minors, using landmines, and indiscriminately attacking civilian populations. WOLA roundly rejects these violations, and these activities must be stopped if the FARC is serious about its commitment to build peace in Colombia.
The FARC must release all hostages as soon as possible, and the Colombian government should do its utmost to facilitate the release. Both sides need to build on this announcement to move toward renewed dialogue and the end of a conflict that has killed more than 22,500 people in combat involving government forces alone since the last time peace talks collapsed ten years ago. We hope that the release of the hostages will encourage both parties to work towards a cessation of hostilities and a politically negotiated solution to the conflict.