Seven soldiers were sentenced on Thursday to 24 years in prison for the murder of four civilians in 2006.
The sentences, which are legally mandated to be 40 years, were lowered by the judge because the convicted took full responsibility for the deaths, as reported by Terra.
Investigators in the case argued that the soldiers used recruiters to lure the civilians to a rural cotton farm under the pretense that they would be given work.
The civilians were then reported missing on March 28, 2006, in Barranquilla. A few days later, the military reported that it had killed four people in combat.
This case is part of a larger, nation-wide scandal known as “false positives,” in which hundreds of soldiers are accused of kidnapping and murdering civilians, and reporting them as members of illegally armed groups, in order to be able to report higher numbers of enemy combatants killed and thus to gain benefits.
The seven convicted soldiers, including three non-commissioned officers and four soldiers, come from a battalion based in Barranquilla.
There are currently 1,300 similar cases of “false positives” under investigation across the country.