No jail time for rebels: Colombia's FARC

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Handout picture released by the FARC-EP delegation shows FARC commander Walter Mendoza during peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana on June 3, 2015

Handout picture released by the FARC-EP delegation shows FARC commander Walter Mendoza during peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana on June 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/)

Havana (AFP) - Colombian leftist rebels holding peace talks with the government insisted Wednesday that none of their people should end up in jail for fighting in the five-decade-old war.

That issue -- justice for egregious crimes committed during the war -- has proved to be a key stumbling block in the negotiations that began here in the Cuban capital in 2012.

The conflict stems from Latin America's oldest and last rebel insurgency, waged by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The war dating back to the 1960s has left some 220,000 people dead and forced six million to leave their homes.

The statement Wednesday by a rebel delegate to the talks appeared to contain some of the strongest language yet demanding amnesty for guerrilla fighters.

The talks cannot turn into a "judicial process" in which the government acts as judge, said the statement read out by FARC delegate Walter Mendoza.

"In Havana there will be no exchange of impunities, because state terrorism is not comparable to exercising the right to rebellion. No guerrilla is willing to do prison time for having exercised that right," Mendoza said.

The talks have been hampered by disagreement over what to do about crimes against humanity committed during the war.

They have also been hindered by a recent flare-up in hostilities back in Colombia itself. In the past two weeks around 45 rebel fighters and around 15 government soldiers have died in combat.

But both sides have said they want to keep talking peace.

President Juan Manuel Santos is pushing a plan calling for he what describes as "transitional justice."

But the FARC reject it, saying it seeks only to punish the guerrillas while contending the government is mainly to blame for war-related violence.

Wednesday's statement seemed to step back from a comment Sunday by a FARC negotiator to the effect that the guerrillas did not rule out some kind of jail time, under certain conditions.

The comment was made by Pastor Alape, one of five FARC negotiators here in Havana.

He was asked in an interview with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo if the guerrillas would accept prison sentences if business people, politicians and military people involved in the war also went to jail.

"We do not rule it out," Alape was quoted as saying.