BOGOTA – A Special Court in Cundinamarca province sentenced 21 Colombian army soldiers to prison terms of 37-52 years for the unlawful killings of five youths in 2008 in the town of Soacha, near Bogota, authorities said.
Among the convicted men is retired Lt. Gabriel de Jesus Rincon Amado, the operations officer for the 15th Mobile Brigade with the 96th Counterguerrilla Battalion in northeastern Norte de Santander province, who will serve a 46-year sentence.
According to evidence gathered by the court, the five young men were deceived into going with the troops to a nearby village, where they were murdered and their bodies presented to local reporters as those of guerrillas killed in combat.
“The bodies showed physical mistreatment and coup de grace wounds, which does not show evidence of combat, as the soldiers said upon presenting the (bodies of the) young men to the authorities ... placing weapons with the victims with the aim of legitimizing the illicit deed,” a statement by Legal Medicine authorities said.
The soldiers convicted of this “crime against humanity” were also accused of forced disappearance, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal acts, murder and arms trafficking, among other charges.
The judge tasked with overseeing the case said that the sentences “do not prevent” the soldiers from being tried by the Special Peace Court (JEP) in the future, although he emphasized that that will depend on other magistrates’ rulings.
The JEP, the backbone of the accord signed by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, will be the judicial body tasked with assessing the serious acts committed by participants in the internal armed conflict under the rules of the Colombian Criminal Code, International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law.
Cases in which army soldiers executed civilians and then presented them as guerrillas killed in combat, apparently driven by a desire to show results in the struggle against the rebels, are known in Colombia as “false positives.”