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| 6/19/2009 12:00:00 AM

“False positives are systemic”: UN Rapporteur

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston visited Colombia on a mission to investigate Colombian Army’s “false positives.” His partial report reveals the extrajudicial excecutions are more than just a few isolated cases.

The fact-finding mission lasted 10 days in which UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston visited the Colombian cities of Bogotá, Medellín, Bucaramanga and Villavicencio. On the last day of his visit, Alston partially reported his findings during a press conference in which he spoke about extrajudicial excecutions made by the Army, paramilitary and guerrilla groups. According to his declarations, these excecutions are close to being systematic.

“The most prominent concern is the incidence of so-called “false positives” (falsos positivos) and the most publicized examples are the killings of young men from Soacha in 2008“, said Alston.

“The phenomenon is well known. The victim is lured under false pretenses by a “recruiter” to a remote location. There, the individual is killed soon after arrival by members of the military. The scene is then manipulated to make it appear as if the individual was legitimately killed in combat. The victim is commonly photographed wearing a guerrilla uniform, and holding a gun or grenade. Victims are often buried anonymously in communal graves, and the killers are rewarded for the results they have achieved in the fight against the guerillas”.

“The key question is who was responsible for these premeditated killings? On the one hand, I have found no evidence to suggest that these killings were carried out as a matter of official Government policy, or that they were directed by, or carried out with the knowledge of, the President or successive Defense Ministers”, assured Alston and added that the full report will be published in 4 or 5 months and presented to the UN.

On executions by paramilitary and other rebel groups, the rapppoteur said that despite the efforts made by the Colombian government to reduce the violence produced by them, the problem has not been eliminated.

“By all accounts, demobilized paramilitaries are a major part of the illegal armed groups. Post-2003 demobilization and reintegration policies have not prevented former paramilitaries from killing and engaging in other criminal acts. Although senior paramilitary leaders have been arrested, the economic and command and control structures of paramilitaries do not appear to have been fully and effectively dismantled. In addition, there is an alarming level of impunity for former paramilitaries, and the investigation and prosecution of extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations by former paramilitaries appears to lag severely”

Alston brought up the issue of intimidation and threats made upon human rights defenders and the accusations they receive by high level officials of sympathizing with rebel groups. He called for the seize of the stigmatization of these groups.

According to Alston, the law on victims rights needs to be reformed in order for it to include victims of both state and non-state actors.

Finally, he gave a list of several issues that will be included in his full report:

• Presidential directives to the military justice system to comply with the letter and the spirit of the jurisdictional competency law.
• The undertaking of an independent investigation of the procedures and outcomes of the military justice system in human rights cases.
• All forms of incentives to members of the military for killing should be removed.
• Increased coordination, especially with respect to the tracking of cases of alleged extrajudicial executions, between those institutions responsible for investigating such allegations should be promoted.
• There should be no statute of limitations in civil suits against officials in cases of extrajudicial executions.
• The Office of the Public Prosecutor should continue to be strongly supported, and be provided additional staff, funding, and training.


 
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