TeleSur News Posted Tues. April 04, 2017
Soldiers routinely murdered innocent Colombians and dressed them as guerrillas in order to infllate kill counts and secure U.S. aid.
A Colombian court has handed down decades-long sentences to 21 soldiers and top military officials for the extrajudicial killing of five youths in 2008 in a town south of Bogota in a case that puts the brutalities of the country’s explosive “false positives” scandal on trial years after the fact.
The 21 military men — including a retired colonel, Gabriel de Jesus Rincon Amado, who headed a brigade of a counterinsurgency battalion in the North Santander — were sentenced Monday to between 37 and 52 years in prison for the crimes of aggravated homicide and forced disappearance, among other charges, related to the killing of five victims in Soacha, a mostly working-class town on the outskirts of the capital city nearly a decade ago.
According to evidence in the case, the military officials captured the five youths in a “deceptive way” in Soacha and took them nearly 400 miles away to Ocaña, located in the North Santander department, near the border with Venezuela, where they killed them and made them look like guerrilla rebels killed in combat.
The five youths were not an isolated case. The same practice was used systematically under former far-right President Alvaro Uribe in what has become known as the “false positives.”
The shocking scandal broke in 2008, revealing a concerted military strategy of murdering civilians, including homeless and mentally ill people, and dressing them in guerrilla fatigues to boost the government’s body count in the war on rebels. More than 3,000 people were killed as “false positives” during Uribe’s two terms in office.
The case was treated as a crime against humanity.
“The bodies showed physical mistreatment and killing shots, which does not evidence a combat as the military men claimed when presenting the youths to the authorities,” medical experts stated during the trial. “They put weapons on the victims with the goal of giving legitimacy to the illegal action.”
The judge overseeing the case did not rule out the 21 accused also being brought in the future to face trial in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the body that will hear human rights and war crime cases against members of the military and FARC guerrilla forces as part of the efforts in transitional justice under the historic peace agreement reached last year with the Colombia’s largest guerrilla group.
The victims in this case — Diego Alberto Tamayo Garcera, Victor Fernando Gomez Romero, Jader Andres Palacio Bustamante, Julio Cesar Mesa Vargas and Jhonatan Orlando Soto Bermudez — were only five of dozens of youth that were reported missing in Soacha in 2008. After the scandal came to light in 2008, 27 high-ranking military officers were sacked. (Pics on tree of victims)
Uribe, who oversaw the military strategy of the “false positives,” has been the staunchest opponent of the peace deal with the FARC. As president, he also presided over record-level human rights abuses and number of people fleeing Colombia as refugees.
The “false positives” scandal has become a hallmark of systematic abuses during the civil war in Colombia and the spike in grave violations of human rights under the multi-million dollar U.S. counterinsurgency and counternarcotics military aid program, Plan Colombia, since 2001.