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Colombia's Senate Approves Peace Tribunals for Ex-Rebels

A rebel of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, waves a white peace flag during an act to commemorate the completion of their disarmament process in Buenavista, Colombia, June 27, 2017.

Colombia's Senate has backed a law to regulate transitional justice under the country's peace deal with Marxist FARC rebels, including special tribunals that will try guerrilla leaders for war crimes.

The law, approved late on Wednesday, is considered the cornerstone of an agreement signed last year between the government and the FARC, which was known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The measure still needs approval by the lower house of Congress, which is likely to vote on it early next week.

The special courts will mete out alternative sentences like landmine removal for ex-guerrilla leaders who are convicted of war crimes. Under the peace deal, those convicted will not serve time in traditional jails.

The law can also apply to members of the military and civilians who funded illegal groups like paramilitaries.

Congress has until the end of the month to approve the law using the court-approved "fast-track" mechanism to reduce the number of required debates in an effort to implement the peace deal as quickly as possible.

In a move that invigorated previously slow debate in the Senate chamber, the nation's top court ruled this week that the majority of the law, including provisions that allow former rebels to participate in politics, is constitutional.

The FARC, now officially a political party, will have 10 guaranteed seats in Congress until 2026 under the peace deal and has announced a slate of candidates for elections next year.