Colombia tribunal reveals at least 6,402 people were killed by army to boost body count

A special peace tribunal in Colombia has found that at least 6,402 people were murdered by the country’s army and falsely declared combat kills in order to boost statistics in the civil war with leftist rebel groups. That number is nearly three times higher than the figure previously admitted by the attorney general’s office.

The killings, referred to in Colombia as the “false positives scandal”, took place between 2002 and 2008, when the government was waging war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc), a leftist guerrilla insurgency, which ultimately made peace with the government in 2016. Soldiers were rewarded for the manipulated kill statistics with perks, including time off and promotions.

Related: The ‘false positives’ scandal that felled Colombia’s military hero

Included in the 2016 deal was the creation of a special peace tribunal – known by its Spanish initials, JEP – to investigate and try crimes committed by all sides in the conflict. On Thursday, the JEP made public the preliminary results of its investigation into the “false positives” scandal, following the exhumation of mass graves across the country over the past two years.

A statement by the JEP confirmed that the investigation will continue, and will now focus on provinces in the country not yet prioritized in its probe.

Jackeline Castaño, whose brother was abducted and murdered by the military in 2008, felt that justice was closer to being served following Thursday’s announcement. While many rank-and-file soldiers have been sent to prison and dozens of senior officers have been fired, victims say that those who gave the orders still have not faced justice.

“We are grateful for the publication of the findings of the JEP’s investigations which show how widespread extrajudicial executions were during the period of [then-president] Álvaro Uribe, from 2002 to 2008,” said Castaño, who leads a victims’ group. “We hope that the truth will continue to come out.”

Movice, a collective of victims of crimes committed by the Colombian state, also welcomed the JEP’s findings. “The high figure of these crimes is not a surprise,” read a statement by the group, adding that it demonstrates “an internal policy” within the military “without any form of control or sanctions for those responsible”. 



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