The justice of the peace accuses ten members of the Colombian army of killing at least 120 civilians and falsely saying they were combatants.
A Colombian court has accused ten military and one civilian of forcibly disappearing 24 people and killing at least 120 civilians and falsely presenting them as fighters who had been killed in combat.
It is the first time that the court of the special jurisdiction for peace (JEP) of Bogota has accused members of the army of being involved in the so-called “False positive” scandal.
The JEP, which investigates crimes and atrocities committed during half a century of armed conflict in the country, ruled earlier this year that the Colombian army had committed at least 6,400 extrajudicial killings and had presented them as combat dead between 2002 and 2008.
The court said on Tuesday that the defendants played a decisive role in the killings, which were reported as combat deaths in the Catatumbo region in the northern province of Santander in Colombia between January 2007 and August 2008. .
Today from the Bogota office: The Colombian justice of the peace has accused 10 soldiers of killing 120 civilians in 2007 and 2008, the first time the court has accused the military of @ACOSTALUISJAIME https://t.co/SiQMyfxgY1
– Julia Symmes Cobb (@JSymmesCobb) July 6, 2021
The defendants, identified by the JEP as responsible for giving orders without which the crimes would not have occurred systematically, included a general, six officers, three non-commissioned officers and one civilian.
“It was a pattern of macro-crime, that is, the repetition of at least 120 murders over two years in the same region by the same group of people associated with a criminal organization and following the same modus operandi,” the magistrate said. Catalina Díaz on Tuesday.
The court was created under the 2016 peace agreement to prosecute former members of the rebel group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombian military leaders for alleged war crimes.
Dozens of army officers have been arrested and convicted by Colombia’s judicial system for their part in the killings and have testified before the JEP while seeking more lenient sentences.
If defendants on Tuesday do not accept the charges within 30 days, they could receive a sentence of up to 20 years in prison in a civil court, said JEP magistrate and president Eduardo Cifuentes.
Juan Pappier, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Colombia, described the court’s announcement as “a vindication of the victims and human rights groups who have been fighting for justice in this case for more than a decade.” reported the New York Times.
Human rights groups have argued for years that the practice of military members falsely killing and representing civilians as enemy fighters was more common than the Colombian government acknowledged.
A 2018 report, prepared with official sources and independent investigations, estimated that more than 10,000 civilians were killed during the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe.
Although the military high command has denied any a systematic policy to inflate the number of left-wing rebels killed with so-called “false positives,” soldiers and officials have told the court that superiors are pressuring them to increase the chances of success in the government’s military campaign during the civil war .