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Senior officers involved in false positive cases
Latinamerica Press
7/3/2015
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More than 3,700 civilians were executed and presented as guerrilla members killed in combat by military members.

The release of the report “On Their Watch: Evidence of Senior Army Officers Responsibility for False Positive Killings in Colombia" by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on June 24 once again evidenced the responsibility of the Colombian military commanders in the extrajudicial executions of civilians.

Between 2002 and 2008, army brigades across Colombia routinely executed civilians,” said the document. “Under pressure from superiors to show ‘positive’ results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses—such as with promises of work—killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action.”

Committed on a large scale for more than half a decade, these “false positive” killings constitute one of the worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in recent decades, says HRW. The scandal broke in 2008 when the bodies of 17 young people from the municipality of Soacha, a remote area south of Bogota, were presented as guerrilla members killed in combat. They were deceived with false promises of work on farms in the department of   Norte de Santander, executed and then dressed in combat uniforms.  
 
“Democratic Security Policy”
President Juan Manuel Santos rejected the HRW report due to a  lack of evidence, stating that “this is not the way to oversee the respect for human rights.” According to Santos, “there is not a single investigation against these officers, so they shouldn´t come and point them out and cause them enormous damage without any justification.”

Currently, the Attorney General´s Office is investigating more than 3,700 “false positive” cases attributed to soldiers. About 800 soldiers of lower ranks have been convicted for carrying out extrajudicial executions between 2002 and 2008, when former President Alvaro Uribe was in power (2002-2010). The current head of the Armed Forces, General Juan Pablo Rodriguez, and Army Commander, General Jaime Lasprilla, are among the main individuals accused for their involvement in at least 76 murders between 2007 and 2008.

The 2014 Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation of human rights in Colombia says that it “notes the efforts to investigate these cases and punish the perpetrators. However, a majority of investigations remain in an initial phase. Most prosecutions have focused on low-ranking personnel directly participating in the crimes and have not attempted to establish responsibility, by act or omission, of commanding officers, in accordance with international law standards.”

Jorge Restrepo, Director of the Conflict Analysis Resource Center (CERAC), who was consulted by the news bulletin Sputnik Mundo, said, “it is not only that some bad military members abused power,” but that there also was “a set of public policies that facilitated the commission of these crimes, and that implies state responsibility.”

In fact, President Santos was the architect of the democratic security policy to combat guerrilla groups. This policy was implemented by Uribe and was heavily criticized for violating the human rights of the civilian population. This is also the time during which the “false positive” murders were carried out.

“The high number of false positives (potentially 5,000 victims), the long period during which the phenomenon occurred (2002–2010), the number of units involved, the nature of the violation (right to life violated by extrajudicial execution of civilians), and the fact that the operations were planned, support the idea that these violations can be considered to be systematic under human rights law. This also raises serious questions regarding the responsibility of those in the line of command who either knew, or should have known, what was happening and did not take measures to address it,” adds the OHCHR report.

Colombian Senator Iván Cepeda, member of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole, highlighted the fact that “all this issue of truth, justice, and reparations for the victims is being discussed,” and it is important that these extrajudicial executions “come to light and that those involved assume their responsibility. ”
—Latinamerica Press.


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