Colombia's Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) has filed charges Thursday against 15 members of the national army of “war crimes and crimes against humanity,” it was announced.
The defendants have been brought to justice for their decisive participation in the murder of 127 people in the north of the country, within the framework of what is known as false positives, a euphemism for extrajudicial crimes.
The JEP Court created as per the peace agreement with former guerrilla groups also explained that Thursday's indictments came after those weeks ago of 10 other service people, including a general and also a civilian, for 120 murders under the same modus operandi.
The crimes involving two colonels, three majors, a lieutenant, two-second lieutenants, three sergeants, a corporal and three professional soldiers occurred in the departments of Cesar and La Guajira, between 2002 and 2005. According to the JEP, the alleged perpetrators operated jointly with paramilitary forces and at the request of their superiors to produce casualties in combat .
The 15 defendants were reportedly part of a criminal organization that presented as casualties in its fights people killed in a defenceless state by members of the Army or by paramilitaries, according to JEP findings.
The perpetrators would ally with far-right organizations to kill people who had been identified as members of illegal armed groups or just common criminals. Once the paramilitaries surrendered their weapons after negotiating with then-President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), the military squads went out to hunt for new victims, including disabled people, people in vulnerable conditions. and citizens who were misled with false promises of work.
At least 12 of the 127 victims were indigenous people of the Wiwa and Kankuamo ethnic groups, including a 13-year-old girl who was pregnant at the time of the crime. Once these people were dead, the military dressed them in combat clothes and weapons to present them as alleged guerrillas killed in combat. They also prevented the removal of the corpses to avoid questions and suspicions.
The phenomenon began to respond especially to pressure for results, stimulated by a complex device of incentives and threats that were presented within the institution in various areas, said the JEP in its rationale.
The servicemen who committed these crimes were rewarded by their superiors with rest permits, travel and cash payments. The objective was to obtain results at all costs, added the JEP.
Following the charges filed Thursday, the defendants have 30 days to acknowledge the facts and their responsibility or reject the accusations. Should they plead guilty, the JEP will call public recognition hearings where they will face the relatives of their victims, who will participate in the decision-making on the penalties, which in any case will be reduced. But if they choose to deny their responsibilities in these crimes, they could lose the judicial benefits that the peace agreement offers and be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.