Thursday August 16th, 8:00 am. We are in Yopal, in Casanare, ready to live a historic and important moment for Colombia’s peacebuilding process.
Civil society organizations will present and formally submit a report to the colombian transitional justice system about 12 cases of extrajudicial executions that took place between 2005 and 2007 in the departments of Casanare and Boyaca. While the sun is already shining, little by little el Mirador del Río is filling up. No less than 125 people are expected to be part of the event, from different associations of victims, regional and national women and human rights associations, families of victims, and members of the indigenous community Nasa Kiwe Fxiw. The Social Corporation for Comunity Council and Capacitation (COSPACC) has also taken great care to invite civil and military authorities, including the one directly charged in the case of these executions, the XVI Brigade.
The False Positives
Known more commonly as the False Positives (Falsos Positivos), these extrajudicial executions implicated the killing of civilians who were later passed off as guerrilla members by the Colombian army. Uncovered in 2008, this practice was used in order to make people believe in the success of the government’s anti-guerrilla policy at the time.1 Within the peace agreement now being implemented between the FARC and the government, the False Positives are one of the issues defined as prioritary by the transitional justice system, the JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace). The magnitude of the phenomenon at the time can explain this choice: according to the report of the Attorney General, this practice was particularly used between 2002 and 2008 in 27 departments of the country, Casanare being the second of the 9 most affected departments.2
“Neither criminals, nor combatants”
Developed by the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (FCSPP), this report contains 7 conclusions showing systematicity in the 12 cases studied:
- In every case, there was a fight simulation.
- The abduction of the bodies was carried out by the same troop that carried out the operation during which the victims were killed.
- In every case, there was a favorable decision for the military in the military criminal jurisdiction.
- Although most of the cases studied in the country indicates that the victims were middle-aged, among the cases, there are four minors, a person suffering from a particular health problem, an elderly person and a pregnant woman.
- Of the 20 victims, 17 were reported by suspected informants or an intelligence document linking victims to guerrilla groups.
- In more than half of the cases, the former Administrative Department of Security, DAS, of the department Casanare, played an active role. It produced intelligence reports linking the victims to insurgent groups or was directly involved in operations with the soldiers of the XVI Brigade.
- Most of the alleged executions occurred in 2007, coinciding with the command period of Commander Henry William Torres Escalante and Commander of the then military forces, General Mario Montoya Uribe (2006-2008).3
The handing over of the report to the 3 magistrates of the Chamber of Acknoweldgement, Truth, and Responsibility of the JEP is a powerful symbol. The work done by the Committee and the Corporation and supported by the MOVICE (Movement of Victims of State Crimes) is a step towards justice for the families of victims. More than 10 years have passed since the missing sons and husbands were killed, and their emotions are still overwhelming when they speak – they were neither criminals nor combatants.
The courage and strength to fight against impunity are felt in the afternoon when families of victims have the opportunity to ask the three magistrates questions. They are all seeking clarity within this judicial system. The main query from the participants is that it reaches the regions most affected. To this end, the JEP has set up liaison offices at territorial level.4 For Casanare, the office is composed of one person working from Villavicencio (Meta). The person made the trip for the event, so the families of victims can put a face on an institution and formulate specific peticions.
Once the questions are over, it is in a collaborative spirit and with solidarity that the event closes in the Park Ramon Nonato Perez – it is already 17:00 – time for the magistrates to return to Bogotá and to start the extremely important analytical work, to ensure accountability and justice.
1-The Guardian: Colombian army killed thousands more civilians than reported, study claims, 8 May 2018 ; Colombia Reports: Extrajudicial executions, 24 July 2018
2-Fiscalía General de la Nación: Fiscalía realiza segunda entrega de informes a la Jurisdicción Especial de Paz, 16 July 2018