The Organization of American States (OAS), an international union comprised of 35 states in the Americas, will investigate the Colombian State’s role in the 1998 Santo Domingo massacre that killed 17 civilians and injured 27.
The OAS’ Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) will look into the facts surrounding the Colombian Air Force‘s bombing of Santo Domingo, a village located in the northeastern department of Arauca. According to a 2011 OAS document, “a cluster device” exploded in the village, after which Colombian security agents “continued, from the air, to bomb civilians who were trying to assist the wounded and attempting to escape.”
According to the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the entire village’s population were displaced following the incident, returning over a month later to rebuild their homes. The IACHR also accused Colombian authorities of not undertaking “a serious and effective investigation to identify the intellectual and other perpetrators responsible and, if need be, to impose the corresponding punishments.”
The Colombian government appealed a decision by the IACHR in March that would force the State to compensate Santo Domingo’s victims, reiterating that the FARC was guilty of the civilian deaths, prompting the OAS investigation.
“The Court will hear the testimony of two of the alleged victims, a witness for the State and an expert proposed by the Inter-American Commission and representatives of the alleged victims. Furthermore, the Court will hear final oral arguments of the representatives and the State and the comments of the Commission,” read a statement from the organization. Retired Air Force General Jairo Garcia Camargo will testify at the request of the Colombian government.
An Arauca judge ruled in 2011 that it was the FARC, who were fighting Colombian troops at the time of the incident, that killed the Santo Domingo residents.
Two members of Colombia’s air force were then sentenced to 30 years in jail in 2011 for their role in the massacre following a determination by the IACHR that the army was responsible. The decision was made based on analysis conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation who declared that shrapnel from the explosive used was consistent with the devices administered by Colombian armed forces and not a FARC car bomb, as was initially suggested by Colombia’s government.
The U.S. cut off funding to the air force unit that was deemed responsible for the massacre. Following the IACHR’s conclusion, the sentence of FARC commander German Suarez Briceno, alias “Grannobles,” was overturned.