Colombian state guilty in ‘false positives’ case

In a Dec. 21 ruling that was formally announced last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) found the Colombian state responsible for several extrajudicial executions carried out under the practice of "false positives"—random civilians claimed as guerillas killed in action. The six cases examined took place in the departments of Arauca, Santander and Casanare between 1992 and 1997. Although individual soldiers had been sentenced by the Colombian courts in some of these cases, the Costa Rica-based IACHR ordered the Colombian government to carry out further investigations and prosecutions, provide reparations to the families of the victims, and commit to a "public act of acknowledgement" of responsibility. The Colectivo José Alvear Restrepo, which brought the case, hailed the ruling as a "very important precedent" to bring accountability in thousands of cases of "false positives." (Proclama del Cauca, Jan. 19; El Heraldo, Barranquilla, Jan. 17; Contagio Radio, Jan. 16)

But human rights groups are meanwhile protesting the assignment of an army general linked to "false positives" to head a new taskforce to combat "criminal bands" in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia department. Gen. Edgar Alberto Rodríguez Sánchez, newly named to head the Eagles Taskforce in the region, was investigated in 22 "false positive" cases when he was commander of the Magdalena Battalion of the army's Ninth Brigade  between 2006 and 2007. (Blu Radio, Jan. 3)

Survivors who are seeking justice for victims of "false positive" killings continue to themselves be targeted. On Jan. 11, Alfamir Castillo Bermúdez, the mother of a young man summarily executed by the army, was shot at while driving on a road near her home in the rural village of Pradera, Valle del Cauca department. She was accompanied by an escort from the government's National Protection Unit, and all escaped unhurt. Her son, Darbey Mosquera, was assassinated in February 2008 by members of the Martyrs of Puerres Battalion, a counterinsurgency unit attached to the army's 13th Brigade. (Semana, Jan. 12)

Photo: Contagio Radio