Demonstrators march on August 7, 2015, in Cali, Colombia against the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the ongoing peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas
Bogota (AFP) - Any peace deal to end Colombia's five-decade guerrilla war must include an amnesty for imprisoned FARC rebels, two of them told AFP in a rare interview from jail.
The issue is one of the most delicate at peace talks in Cuba between President Juan Manuel Santos's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The talks, which opened in November 2012, are seen as the best chance yet to end a war that has killed more than 200,000 people and uprooted six million.
But to succeed, they will have to find a way to balance the desire for justice with the need to move on from a messy conflict in which human rights groups say atrocities have been committed on all sides.
"Everyone -- first and foremost the Colombian government's forces -- has made mistakes," said Luis Marulanda, 44, who was captured in 2001 when the Marxist rebels raided a police station.
"If the armed forces aren't going to be punished, we can't be punished either, or our leaders."
Some 3,300 captured rebels are serving time at 142 prisons across Colombia, according to a government report compiled for the peace talks.
Their fate is one of the agenda items on the road map for the Havana talks.
But despite urgent appeals from FARC negotiators to begin discussing the issue, there have so far been no official statements.
Marulanda said Colombia needs the FARC's commanders to play a part in building the country's future rather than languish in jail for events in the past.
"They are leaders, they are the ones we really need in the journey that will only just begin when a peace deal is signed," said the clean-cut former fighter, who joined Front 57 of the FARC's Ivan Rios Bloc in 1994.
"They know the country and the historic problems of Colombian society," he added.
"If there is a peace process, we have to forgive and forget."
Among the agreements already reached at the peace talks, which have made halting progress in several areas but have yet to yield a final deal, is one providing for the political participation of former rebels after the conflict.
- 'Other options' -
Marulanda -- no relation to late FARC leader Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda -- spoke from La Picota prison in Bogota, which holds inmates from across the spectrum of the South American country's tangled conflict: leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, drug traffickers and politicians linked to the various armed groups.
Another FARC member held at the prison, Diego Restrepo, said peace negotiators should think outside the box to settle the question of justice in ways that will be acceptable to both sides.
"To reconcile and rebuild after these nearly 52 years of conflict, we have to look at other options besides prison bars," said the 42-year-old rebel, who fought under the nom de guerre "Mateo Ramirez" for Front 45 of the FARC's Eastern Bloc before being captured in an ambush on Good Friday in 2002.
"We would have no problem" with house arrest or being sent to work on farms, he said.
Founded in 1964 in the aftermath of a peasant uprising, the FARC today has an estimated 8,000 fighters. It is the largest rebel group still active in Colombia.