BOGOTA – Colombia’s former militia groups have acknowledged killing 21,000 people in the past 22 years, an Attorney General’s Office report obtained Monday by Efe shows.
The report was compiled by the AG’s office’s Justice and Peace Unit, which is responsible for gathering the statements of the 31,000 militiamen who demobilized in the 2003-2007 peace process.
The unit’s director, Luis Gonzalez, told Efe that as of June 16, “21,000 murders have been confessed to by the paramilitaries. It’s horrific.”
What lies ahead is even more “horrendous” because many killings have still not been confessed to, Gonzalez said.
“We documented around 246,000 criminal offenses in the regions where there was a presence” of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, militia federation, the official said.
Gonzalez said authorities should investigate 140 armed forces members and 196 political leaders who were apparently involved with the demobilized AUC.
“We have received information of at least 22,000 dead and around 1,800 forced disappearances have been confessed to,” the official said.
Some 220,000 people had registered with the Justice and Peace Unit as of May as victims of the paramilitary groups, but only 55,566 have been contacted.
The report says 2,133 children, 2,081 women, 220 union members, 176 Indians, 83 members of the leftist Union Patriotica party and 30 journalists were among the AUC’s victims.
The AG’s office has exhumed 1,906 mass graves that contained 2,329 bodies, thanks to former militiamen’s confessions.
Under the terms of the 2005 Peace and Justice Law, pushed through Congress by the U.S.-backed Uribe administration to regulate the militiamen’s reinsertion into society, former AUC members face a maximum of eight years in prison if convicted of any of the scores of massacres of suspected rebel sympathizers attributed to the rightists over the years.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court upheld the law in 2006 but conditioned the sentence reductions on full disclosure and confession of crimes and reparations to victims.
On May 13, 2008, the Colombian government extradited 14 former AUC chiefs to the United States.
The former AUC commanders were wanted in the United States on drug, money laundering and other charges.
The penetration of the AUC into Colombian politics came to light in November 2006 when the so-called “para-political” scandal broke, and dozens of legislators, the overwhelming majority of them supporters of Uribe, now in his second four-year term, have been implicated.
Since then, more than 60 politicians, including some three dozen members of Congress, have been arrested for their alleged links to the AUC. EFE