Colombia Three ‘amnesty’ questions after referendum

Police officers stand in the area known as El Bronx in downtown Bogota, Colombia
Police officers stand in the area known as El Bronx in downtown Bogota, Colombia

Questions have been asked whether the so-called Colombia Three have been granted an amnesty after they were convicted of training Farc rebels in terror techniques in 2004.

The Colombian people narrowly rejected a peace deal on Sunday which would have seen leaders of the Marxist rebel group spared jail and be given 10 seats in government.

In 2001 Irish republicans Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were arrested in Colombia for training Farc in IRA terror techniques. They were sentenced to 17 years but fled to the Republic of Ireland where it is understood they are still living.

In 2005 Interpol informed its 182 member countries about a “red notice” arrest warrant issued by Colombia for the three men.

Asked this week if the warrant was still active, Interpol said it does not comment on such issues, adding that it cannot compel member states, such as the Republic of Ireland, to make arrests. The Interpol National Central Bureau for the Republic of Ireland is located in the An Garda Siochana headquarters.

The Garda referred News Letter inquiries to the Irish Department of Justice which replied that “there are no extant proceedings in this jurisdiction in relation to this matter”.

The UK’s National Crime Agency said it does not comment on arrest warrants, while the PSNI had not replied at the time of going to press.

The News Letter queried the matter with the Colombian Embassy in London in November and on Monday and Tuesday this week, but no comment has yet been offered.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, together with Sinn Fein and SDLP representatives, met Farc leaders last year to share lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process. He said he was not aware of any decision by Colombia to “withdraw charges”.

“We are opposed to any amnesty being granted to any individual or organisation that has engaged in terrorist related activities and that will continue to be our position, whether in the UK or in any other jurisdiction,” he added.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the public deserve to know what the current status of the men is.

“Are they still wanted by Interpol and the Colombian authorities? Or have they, like so many other PIRA members, received a get-out-of-jail-free pass from the UK and Republic of Ireland?”

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said that if an amnesty has been given, “the public should know by whom and on what basis”.