More than 4,000 Colombian military personnel investigated for executing civilians
A few days after Colombia´s top general was fired for recommending soldiers use the mafia to blunt prosecutions for executing civilians – commonly known as false positives – the national prosecutor´s office has fired back with news that it is investigating more than 4,000 soldiers.
The report stated some 4,173 military personnel were under investigation for participating in the false positives executions that claimed the lives of thousands of young Colombians between 1998 and 2008.
Of those, 401 are officers, 823 are junior officers and 2.908 are low-ranking soldiers. according to the report by the Unidad Nacional de Derechos Humanos of the national prosecutor´s office.
President Juan Manuel Santos fired Colombia´s highest ranking officer, General Leonardo Barrero, Tuesday after newsmagazine La Semana published audio recordings where the general said investigations into extrajudicial executions by soldiers are “a bunch of crap.”
Barrero recommended another officer charged with killing two youths, then attempting to pass them off as FARC guerrillas killed in combat, get someone in the mafia to denounce the prosecutor in an attempt to derail the investigation.
A group of mothers of young men murdered by soldiers known as the Madres de Soacha called for the resignation of Colombia´s minister of defence because of the scandal. They also demanded soldiers convicted of assassinating Colombia´s youths serve their sentences in regular prisons, not the special military prisons which have many privileges, often including the right to leave and take vacations.
The taped conversation between Barrero and Colonel Robinson Gonález del Rio, who was imprisoned while waiting trial, referred also included references to kickbacks made to high-ranking officers in return for military contracts. Taped conversations reveal González del Rio has also enjoyed vacations from prison that included the military picking up his gasoline bills.
A United Nations investigation into the false positives scandal in 2009 found no evidence that then president Álvaro Uribe or then defence minister Juan Manuel Santos (now president ) were involved nor had knowledge of the executions.
But the report by special investigator Philip Alston did not absolve high-ranking officers of responsibility.
“On the other hand, the explanation favoured by many in Government – that the killings were carried out on a small scale by a few bad apples – is equally unsustainable,” Alston said in his report.
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