Authorities arrested fifteen soldiers accused of involvement in the killing of two youths in Barrancabermeja in January 2008, who were apparently executed and then falsely presented as paramilitaries killed in combat.
Fifteen members of the 14th Brigade, based in Scimitar in Santander were arrested, including Colonel Wilson Ramirez, Major Carlos Rodriguez, two other officers, one warrant officer, and ten soldiers, reports news source CMI. They were all members of ‘The Annihilators’, a battalion engaged in counter-guerrilla operations.
They stand accused of aggravated murder of protected persons, conspiracy to commit aggravated procedural fraud, and misrepresentation. They are being investigated for the deaths of Javier Leonardo Franco and Antonio Trujillo Robinson in January 2008.
At a preliminary hearing the prosecution presented evidence that the two were killed extrajudicially, and were not paramilitaries killed in combat, as was initially presented by the military. The soldiers’ defense denied the charges. Technical and scientific evidence indicated that “there was no fighting and that the scene of events was impaired.”
Authorities are investigating whether eight other soldiers were involved, and are questioning their involvement in five other lawsuits for alleged extrajudicial killings of at least a dozen people.
Judicial authorities are currently investigating the deaths of more than 2,000 Colombians, all murdered by the military and reported as guerrillas killed in combat. Recently, the case to receive the most publicity has been the Soacha case.
The UN rapporteur for extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, visited Colombia in June and in his report noted that the murders of several civilians by security forces is evidence that it has been a “systematic practice.”
Alston said that he had not found evidence that the killings are part of an official policy of the government of President Álvaro Uribe, although he found “untenable” the explanation of some sectors of the government that “the killings were carried out on a small scale, for a few bad apples.”