Colombian court accuses soldiers of murdering 120 civilians

A Colombian court on Tuesday accused 10 members of the military and a civilian of forcibly disappearing 24 people and murdering at least 120 civilians, falsely portraying them as guerrilla fighters killed in combat.

This is the first time the Colombian Tribunal for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) has charged members of the Colombian military with the so-called false positive scandal, in which soldiers killed civilians and classified them as rebels killed in combat so that they could receive promotions or other benefits.

The defendants played a decisive role in the killings, which were presented as combat deaths between January 2007 and August 2008 in the Catatumbo region of Colombia’s Norte de Santander province, in order to increase the number of corpses, the court said.

Among the accused, identified by the JEP as those responsible for issuing orders without which the crimes would not have occurred systematically, are a general, six officers, three non-commissioned officers and a civilian.

“It was a macro-crime pattern, i.e. 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,” said magistrate Catalina Diaz. .

The victims included farmers and retailers, she said.

The JEP is a tribunal established under the 2016 peace agreement to prosecute former FARC members and military leaders for alleged war crimes.

According to the JEP, at least 6,402 people were killed by members of the Colombian military between 2002 and 2008, with some groups of victims saying the number could be higher.

Dozens of army officers detained and convicted for their part in the scandal have testified before the JEP in their push for lenient sentences.

If the accused do not accept charges within 30 days on Tuesday, they could face up to 20 years in prison in a civil court, magistrate and JEP chairman Eduardo Cifuentes said.


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