|International Court Investigates Colombia for “False Positive” Killings|
|Written by Susana Pimiento|
|Wednesday, 05 December 2012 20:48|
On November 15, the International Criminal Court gave Colombia a clear warning that the Court expects accountability at the senior level for the serious crimes that fall under its jurisdiction, or else it may pursue a formal investigation. The warning came in the first interim examination report ever issued by the Court’s Prosecutor Office.
First, the Court took a serious look at extrajudicial killings committed by the Colombian armed forces and found that such killings of civilians, also known as “false positives,” were part of a state policy, and not just isolated “bad apples,” as the Colombian government has argued: “There is a reasonable basis to believe that the acts described above were committed pursuant to a policy adopted at least at the level of certain brigades within the armed forces, constituting the existence of a State or organizational policy to commit such crimes.”
Judicial proceedings that concluded in a conviction of 20 years were conducted against Captain Guillermo Armando Gordillo Sánchez for the killing of five peasants and three children on 21 February 2005. Captain Gordillo Sánchez confessed his participation in the killings and implicated General Fandiño who had become commander of the 17th Brigade in November 2005. General Hector Fandiño was called to make a statement in December 2010. Reportedly, investigations have subsequently been opened against General Fandiño and Colonel Néstor Duque, the previous commander, for the 2005 incident.
The level of accountability for those crimes was limited, to say the least: “With respect to commissioned officers of the armed forces, the Office has gathered information on 52 convictions rendered in regard to alleged false positives incidents with sentences between 24 months and 51 years of imprisonment. The convictions are against one colonel, three lieutenant colonels, eight majors, 16 captains and 24 lieutenants.”
Some hope can be found in the last paragraph of the report, where the Court makes it very clear that it expects much more from the Colombian state in demanding responsibility at top levels: “while numerous members of the armed forces have been investigated and disciplinary measures, criminal convictions and prison sentences issued, the proceedings have not focused on the responsibility of those at senior levels for the occurrence of such crimes.” (Emphasis added).
The report included a table listing convictions of Colombian military officers for all crimes under Court’s jurisdiction (not just the extrajudicial killings known as false positives). It didn’t include a single general, lieutenant general, major general or brigadier general (the four highest ranks in Colombian armed forces).
To learn more about extrajudicial killings in Colombian, watch Simone Bruno’s (50 minute) documentary “False Positives.”