Colombian authorities are digging up a mass grave where over 50 civilians – including teenagers – allegedly killed by Army officers are believed to have been buried.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which investigates both former guerrillas and members of the Colombian Armed Forces who allegedly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Colombian armed conflict, have reported the finding of a mass grave in the cemetery of Las Mercedes, in the town of Dabeiba, in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia.
A press statement read: “It is believed that the remains of more than 50 people presented illegitimately as dead in combat could be found in the cemetery of Dabeiba.”
The organisation said that the victims lived in Medellin, the capital of the department of Antioquia, and were between 15 and 56 years old. They said it is possible that some of the victims had “disability issues”.
The case is believed to be a case of ‘false positives’, the practice of the Colombian Armed Forces killing civilians who they then presented as guerrillas soldiers or members of FARC in the hope of earning promotions and awards.
The organisation said “seven complete bodies of alleged victims” of false positives had been exhumed from the grave.
They added: “So far a lot of structures and bones of the victims have been recovered. The court has highlighted that those cases were never investigated by ordinary justice structures and that the investigation started after a former Army member said they had information about victims wrongly presented as dead in combat by members of the state.”
So far, the Colombian prosecution has investigated around 5,000 cases of “false positives” that could involve around 1,500 soldiers which were committed between 1988 and 2014.
The few people convicted in the cases have been soldiers and sub-officials, not high-ranking officers.
The area of Dabeiba was reportedly very active in the decades of the conflict as some cells of the Bloque Jose Maria Cordova from FARC were looking for control of the territory.
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