This Thursday the Peace Tribunal investigating the most atrocious crimes of the internal conflict in Colombia, revealed that at least 6,400 civilians were executed by military forces and presented as killed in action between 2002 and 2008.
It was announced that the number almost triples the number of victims known so far and measures this “macrocriminal phenomenon”, as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) called it in its explosive report.
The Court that emerged from the agreements for the disarmament of the FARC found that “at least 6,402 Colombians and Colombians were victims of deaths unlawfully presented as combat casualties between 2002 and 2008”, during the government of Álvaro Uribe (2002-10) .
Known in military jargon as “false positives,” this practice uncovered the worst scandal involving official forces in six decades of fighting against rebel groups.
Although the military high has always denied that it was a systematic practice, officers and soldiers who submitted to the jurisdiction of the peace confessed their participation in the crimes.
From their confessions, it was determined that the military orchestrated a kind of “body count”, an award-winning body count to show results in the internal war. Until last year, the prosecution had recognized 2,249 executions of civilians by troops between 1988 and 2014 and investigated 29 generals.
The professor of politics in justice and human rights at the Externado University, Jorge Cuervo, said that the report of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace “will bring us much closer (…) to the reality of what happened in the Colombian armed conflict ”.
He assured that the investigation, file by file, of the prosecution was “insufficient to account” for the scope of these crimes, added the expert, when assessing the decision of the justice of the peace to group the complaints into “macro cases” as it also did with the kidnappings of the guerrillas.
In this regard, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, determined in January that 21,000 people were taken hostage and charged eight commanders of the extinct insurgent group.
For his part, the general and commander of the army at that time, Mario Montoya, is the highest ranking military man who answers to the magistrates. Despite the testimony that incriminates him, the retired officer denies that he had instigated civilian crimes.
“There are 2,140 military personnel linked to investigations of extrajudicial executions, which is equivalent to 0.9% of the total of men who operated in the army in the mentioned period, (…) which shows that at no time was there a directive to the army for such atrocious acts, “said his lawyer Andrés Garzón in an interview with AFP in 2020.
It should be noted that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace deals with the most serious human rights violations committed by guerrillas and soldiers during the confrontation. However, those who confess their responsibility and make reparations to the victims may receive an alternative sentence to prison, but if they don’t do so they expose themselves to sentences of up to 20 years.
The Peace Tribunal, which became operational in 2018, has not yet issued its first conviction.
For her part, the mother of one of the young men murdered by the military in 2008, Blanca Monroy, applauded the progress of the investigations, pointed out that until now “we only thought” that the executions “were from 2006 to here”, but ” he sees that in all the territories “there were” many false positives, “he told AFP, adding:
“We are saddened that the army, which is the one that has to take care of us (…) has left so many mothers crying, so many orphaned children, so many sad sisters.”
According to the JEP, the highest number of executions of civilians occurred in the Antioquia department (northwest), where the army and far-right paramilitaries fought with blood and fire against the leftist rebels.
25% of the 6,400 documented cases occurred in that area. “The IV Brigade, with jurisdiction in the area, could be responsible for 73% of the deaths identified in the department between 2000 and 2013,” the court stated.
Some of the victims’ remains were located thanks to the statements of members of the public force, most of whom “had not been investigated by the ordinary justice,” according to the JEP.
In addition to Antioquia, the regions of the Caribbean Coast, Norte de Santander (northeast), Huila (center), Casanare (east) and Meta (south), were prioritized in the research.
For the lawyer of two soldiers who confess in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, Tania Parra, this Thursday’s report also reveals that there was “complicity” of authorities to “hide” these facts, according to a press release from France Press