By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia – Five soldiers, including an Army major and four former soldiers, were charged with murdering three farm laborers and presenting them as rebels killed in combat. The murders, which occurred in 2002, are just a few of the approximately 2,000 that investigators have uncovered and pinned on Colombian Security Forces.
The murderous scandal, which is known as the “false positives” scandal, has been blamed on a system that offered soldiers and officers the hope of promotions and extra leave time for increasing body counts in the conflict with leftist guerrillas.
According to the Colombian Attorney General’s office, the current case occurred on Dec. 11, 2002, in a rural part of the municipality of Campamento, a northwestern province of Antioquia. On that day, troops under the command of then-Lt. Juan Carlos del Rio Crespo “removed from the cane field where they were going about their daily tasks laborers Alejandro Agudelo Agudelo, Angel Ramiro Agudelo and Gonzalo Agudelo Perez.”
The soldiers later reported that “the deaths of those people as casualties in combat with members of the 26th Front of the FARC,” according to the statement by the Attorney General’s office. An investigation established that the laborers “were executed when they were totally defenseless” and that the troops planted guns next to their bodies to bolster their argument that the laborers were rebels.
Four of the charged men are currently being held in a military prison while authorities search for the fifth soldier. Since 2008, when the scandal first broke, 272 soldiers have been convicted and 58 have been absolved in similar cases.
For more information, please see:
Latin American Herald Tribune – Five Colombia Soldiers Charged with Murdering Civilians – 3 January 2011
Latin American News Dispatch – Colombian Major and Four Soldiers Accused in “False Positive” Murders – 3 January 2011
Miami Herald – Colombian Soldiers Accused of Killing 3 Civilians – 1 January 2011