False positives in Colombia | In deep

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In Colombia, a historic moment is being experienced with the recognition hearings for extrajudicial executions, also known as false positives, which occurred in the Catatumbo region, in the department of Norte de Santander (northeast).

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Hearing continues on false positives in Catatumbo, Colombia

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) held, at the Francisco de Paula Santander University in Ocaña, public hearings in which ten retired soldiers and one civilian accepted responsibility for the disappearance and murder of some 120 young people, who were made to appear as supposed guerrillas fallen in combat.

The retired soldiers not only acknowledged their responsibility in the murders, recorded between 2007 and 2008 during the government of former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, but also apologized to the victims and relatives who attended the hearings.

The JEP established that these hearings be held between April 26 and 27.



indictment for the crimes

According to the JEP’s Chamber for the Acknowledgment of Truth, Responsibility and Determination of Facts and Conduct, regarding Case 03 “Murders and forced disappearances presented as casualties in combat by State agents”, the homicides occurred without there being actual combat and the victims were defenseless.

In 2021, when the JEP reported progress on the case, Judge Catalina Díaz announced that ten members of the Colombian Army and one civilian were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.



“The JEP charges war crimes and crimes against humanity against a general, six officers and three non-commissioned officers of the Army, and a third civilian, for ‘false positives’ in Catatumbo,” he specified at the time.

In addition, the magistrate asserted that, for the JEP, the evidence shows that the 11 defendants are “criminally responsible for the war crime of homicide of a protected person and the crimes against humanity of murder and forced disappearance.”

“The 120 murdered victims have a similar profile and the same modus operandi is repeated. The Recognition Chamber found that these were not isolated events or an accidental repetition,” said Díaz.

Acknowledgments

Retired Army noncommissioned officer Néstor Guillermo Gutiérrez Salazar, one of the defendants, declared that “I am not going to justify what I did because I committed crimes, crimes. We murdered innocent people, peasants. I want to clarify it here: what we murdered was peasants.”

“I executed, I murdered relatives of those who are here, leading them with lies, with deceit, shooting at them, murdering them cruelly, cowardly, putting a weapon to them and saying they were guerrillas. And tarnishing the name of that family,” he admitted.

According to Gutiérrez, in February 2007, when he arrived in Catatumbo, there was “pressure from high command that demanded that we deliver results.” “You had to look for the results as it were. We did not find the guerrilla groups, but we had to give the result (…) The same modus operandi of mine in El Carmen (municipality), the other patrols were doing”, he affirmed.

Another of the defendants, Second Sergeant of the National Army, Sandro Mauricio Pérez, admitted that “I planned how to bring young people to the city of Ocaña (…) I delivered weapons so that innocent young people, with dreams and who were loved by their mothers , wives and children, were killed and reported as an operational result.”



Pérez assumed that he made the false documentation to give credibility to the fact, taking the documents from them, which made it more difficult for their relatives to find them. “They were cold-blooded murders. I made false documentation to give credibility to this fact, I stole the identity of their loved ones, their children that they loved so much, ”he commented.

Similarly, the former chief of operations of the 15th Infantry Battalion, Juan Carlos Chaparro, accepted that at that time he “generated documentation with the lies that they gave me. I never verified, delved into, or went beyond what What was happening”.

“The only thing that mattered to me was that the documentation, even if it was a liar, was there. I apologize for these crimes against humanity that I committed (…), I apologize for the atrocious activities that I committed, covered up and covered up, “he said.

For his part, the former chief of staff of the Mobile Brigade, retired Colonel Rubén Castro, acknowledged that there was “a criminal gang within the Brigade of which I was aware, which I did not denounce or investigate.”



In turn, the former commander of the Mobile Brigade 15 between 2006 and 2007, ex-Colonel Santiago Herrera Fajardo, admitted that “while I held that position, a de facto criminal structure operated within the Brigade.”

“This unfortunate criminal act was established by some of the members of the Military Unit under my command, as I was pressuring my subordinates to obtain results in terms of casualties in combat at any cost,” he specified.

Victims demands

The relative of one of the victims, Eduvina Becerra, spoke at the public hearing to reiterate that, for more than 14 years, she has been seeking justice for the murder of her husband and that the names of those who were murdered be cleared. .

“We want today, before this public and before the world and our country, to say that our relatives were not combatants or guerrillas. We hope this all clears up,” he expressed.

One of the spokespersons for the Mothers of the False Positives of Colombia (Mafapo), Jacqueline Castillo, told a local media outlet that “for us, those most responsible are the senior commanders of the Armed Forces, the generals in each brigade, the minister of Defense, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez himself.”



The sister of another of the victims, María Consuelo Daza, questioned “if you are here committed to the truth, why don’t you talk about the heads, about the criminal structure, that you acted on orders from superiors?”

“From the perspective of the victims, they still have much more to say.” (…) In their opinion, not all those who should have called have been called: some soldiers were not even summoned or gave a voluntary version,” he clarified. the lawyer Fernando Rodriguez.

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