Conflicts & War

Colombian mothers of false positive victims demand “real justice”

Soacha, Colombia, May 10 (EFE).- Mothers and other relatives of young people murdered by the Colombian army as so-called “false positives” on Tuesday demanded that the names of their children be cleared, something for which they’ve been striving for 14 years, so far without success.

The call was made by the Colombian Mothers of False Positives (MAFAPO) association at a meeting of the Truth Commission held on the main square in the town of Soacha, in the Bogota metro area, where the relatives insisted that the names of the murder victims be stricken from lists of people allegedly belonging to guerrilla groups or criminal bands.

Also attending the “Encounter for the Truth: Acknowledging responsibilities for the extrajudicial executions in Bogota and Soacha” were soldiers who admitted their responsibility in the killings, including retired army General Paulino Coronado.

“With him (in command) they killed my mom, they did away with a family. With him my husband was also (killed),” said Cecilia Arenas, the sister of Mario Alexander Arenas, whose body turned up in February 2008 in Ocaña in Norte de Santander province.

“I’m asking for real justice,” Arenas told EFE, adding that she will continue fighting so that everything will be clarified and the names of all those who were deemed to be “false positives” – that is, innocent civilians the army claimed were guerrillas or criminals and which soldiers killed to beef up their enemy body counts – will be cleared.

The victims were killed in ways that made it look like they were guerrillas or criminals who died in combat with the military. By inflating the body count, the soldiers and their commanders were able to receive bonuses and/or promotions.

In most of the cases, the victims were young, low-income males who had been lured with false promises of jobs, many of them from the town of Soacha. The victims were taken to Ocaña, where they were murdered and reported to be guerrillas or criminals that the army had killed.

Because of MAFAPO’s complaints starting in 2008, along with other complaints by other groups later, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JFP) has accumulated concrete evidence of 6,402 cases of extrajudicial executions in 31 of Colombia’s 32 provinces, most of the killings taking place between 2002 and 2008.

Retired army Lt. Col. Gabriel Rincon Amado said that he and other retired military men were at the gathering to acknowledge their responsibility in the killings.

“We’re here … to dignify the good name of these young men who were murdered at the hands of the defunct 15th Mobile Brigade and the Santander Battalion,” said the retired officer, who commanded the army’s 15th Brigade in Norte del Santander.

Rincon added, giving flowers to some of the mothers, “With these flowers we want to tell you that just as this plant flourishes amid rough weather … so, too, have each one of you been in the struggle you’ve had over these 14 years to prove that your sons and relatives … never belonged to any criminal group.”

With the aim of fostering actions to acknowledge and dignify the victims and to prepare a broad-based report on the matter, the Truth Commission began working two years ago along with MAFAPO, an association created in 2010 and including mothers and relatives of 19 people murdered by agents of the state, 14 in Soacha and five in Bogota.

As a result of this process, the members of MAFAPO have spoken with the military men responsible for the crimes in three private dialogues and at least 18 preliminary meetings.

The Truth Commission, created as part of the peace agreement signed in November 2016 between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, on June 28 will present its report on the causes and origins of Colombia’s armed conflict.



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