In a new report issued after a a 10-day fact-finding trip to Colombia, a UN investigator accuses the country’s military of killing hundreds of civilians over the past six years and falsely identifying the dead as guerilla fighters. Philip Alston, UN rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said June 19 that the killings, which mostly took place since 2002, were part of a widespread systematic practice (known in Colombia as “false positives“).
Alston said he found nothing to indicate that the killings were carried out as official state policy or with the knowledge of President Alvaro Uribe. But Alston said it was “unsustainable” for officials in Uribe’s government to argue that the killings by troops seeking bonuses were carried out on a small scale. He told AlJazeera that the killings seemed to be “reasonably entrenched at least within the lower ranks of the Colombian military”.
The envoy said the practice of “cold-blooded, premeditated murder of innocent civilians for profit” involved “a significant number of military units” in nearly half of Colombia’s departments. “The sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military,” he said.
The Colombian Prosecutor General’s office is investigating the deaths of 1,708 people who were executed and presented as guerillas killed in combat over the past six years. Nonetheless, the official directive that offers monetary rewards to soldiers who killed guerillas in combat remains in place. (AlJazeera, June 19)
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