Soldiers passed off killed civilians as rebels

Eleven Colombian ex-soldiers were giving details about extrajudicial killings carried out by the army during Colombia’s armed conflict.

They were taking part in a public hearing of the special court examining crimes committed during the conflict.

More than 6,400 civilians were killed by the military and falsely passed off as enemy combatants between 2002 and 2008, an inquiry revealed last year.

But this was the first time those involved have given detailed accounts.

“We murdered innocent people, farmers,” former soldier, Néstor Gutiérrez, told relatives of victims.

About a hundred relatives were present at Tuesday’s hearing of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court, which was set up as part of a peace deal between left-wing rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and the Colombian government signed in 2016.

“It’s not easy being here,” Mr Gutiérrez said. “I executed, I killed the relatives of those who are here.”

The former soldier recalled how he had lured civilians “through lies and deceit” to the places where he had “shot them, cruelly killing them”.

“I placed weapons on them to suggest it had happened in combat, that they were guerrilla fighters. I sullied their name and that of their family,” he said of the practice of upping the army’s “kill rate” by passing off civilians as rebels to give the impression it was winning the armed conflict against the group.

“I robbed children of their fathers and parents of their children.”

Mr Gutiérrez was among six former members of the military who gave evidence on the first day of the hearing on Tuesday. Five more were due to appear on Wednesday.

The six took responsibility for killing at least 120 civilians between 2007 and 2008 and passing them off as combat fatalities in the Catatumbo region in eastern Colombia.

Relatives of the victims also spoke at the hearing. Soraida Navarro was one of them. Her father, Jesús, was killed by soldiers 15 years ago, the whereabouts of his body remained unknown.

“I’d like to give him a Christian burial,” she told the former soldiers before asking them if they had children. “My children ask me ‘mommy, what was grandpa like?'”

Ms Navarro said that her mother had died three years after Jesús Navarro was kille, , leaving Soraida and her siblings orphaned. -BBC

Show More
Back to top button