Colombia’s army killings

The Colombian army are under investigation for a series of historical unlawful killings

Photo by Daniel Munoz for AFP.

— 1 minute read — by Sam Feierabend

A special court hearing in Colombia has ruled that its own military committed at least 6,400 extrajudicial killings in the period between 2002 and 2008 and presented them as combat deaths.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court has been set up to investigate war crimes and atrocities committed in armed conflict over the last half-century between government forces and Marxist rebels in the South American country. The Marxist rebels laid down weapons in 2016 allowing investigations to begin. The JEP is yet to convict anyone of any war-related crime.

Previously, there had been 2,249 recorded civilian executions in Colombia between 1988 and 2014. The additional unlawful killings have been described as “illegitimate deaths presented as combat fatalities” which are also known as “false positives”.

With neighbouring socialist-led country Venezuela inspiring left-wing rebels in Colombia, the government have been accused of falsely using the killings to add to statistics of left-wing activist deaths in order to bolster their own perceived success.

Former army commander Mario Montoya has been the highest ranking officer to testify in court. He strenuously denies any involvement in unlawful killings, with his lawyer’s defence stating that only 1% of the total military troops operating at the time are under investigation.

The JEP has also been investigating the actions of former left-wing rebel commanders during conflict. They accepted charges of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes . This means that potential 20 year jail sentences have been avoided.

Whilst no charges have yet been presented against the Colombian military, the investigation is a 10 year process. Many undiscovered war crimes still go unpunished globally and, if found guilty, the uncovering of Colombia’s atrocities may spark further investigations worldwide.