Sunday, May 27, 2012

If This Isn't Kidnapping, Then What Is It?

Romeo Langlois in better times. Where is he now?
Today, French journalist Romeo Langlois completed one month in the hands of the FARC guerrillas - but finally with prospects of being released soon. Today, the guerrillas announced they'll free Langlois on Wednesday. Let's hope they're true to their word.

On April 28, Langlois was embedded with Colombian troops searching for cocaine labs, when hundreds of guerrillas dressed in civilian clothing attacked them, according to the military.

Wounded in one arm, Langlois pulled off his helmet and bulletproof vest and ran toward the guerrillas in an apparent effort to show that he was a civilian.

The FARC argue that holding Langlois didn't violent their recent promise not to kidnap civilians, because he was accompanying the military and his dress could have been mistaken for a military uniform.

That ignores that the FARC, according to the military, were dressed as civilians themselves (in violation of the rules of war and principles of human rights), and that they could have released Langlois as soon as the fighting ended.

Instead, the guerrillas have held the Frenchman incomunicado for a whole month. We don't know where he is, how badly he's injured and the FARC's assurances are the only evidence that he's even alive.

Even if one accepts the guerrillas' very dubious justification for holding Langlois initially, his prolonged captivity has unquestionably turned into a kidnapping.

Why have the guerrillas held Langlois for so long? Perhaps they want to stage a big media show for his release and portray themselves as his saviour. Or, perhaps they saw in him, like French-Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt whom they held for seven years, as a way to keep themselves relevant and in the news.

Cross your fingers that the FARC stay true to their word and release Langlois in three days. If they do, he'll undoubtedly have many stories to tell - and very likely a book about his month in the guerrillas' hands.

It's also worth observing that the FARC's violations of civilians' rights don't end with Langlois' detention. Recent bombings and bombing attempts appear likely to be the FARC's work. And the horrifying 'recruitment' of 13 schoolchildren from a rural schoolhouse was a kidnapping by another name.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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