Seven soldiers have been charged for murdering civilians to fake the death in combat of a now-arrested neo-paramilitary drug lord, local media reported on Sunday.
According to the publication, Colonel Oscar Orlando Gomez Cifuentes, Captain Hair Arturo Aguilar Restropo and five others were charged in Villavicencio, capital of the department of Meta under the military crimes of murder of protected persons and falsifying a public document.
The 2007 killings were an attempt to fabricate the death of Dumar Guerrero, alias “Carecuchillo”, second in command of right wing neo-paramilitary group ERPAC.
The then-commander of the fourth division of the Colombian army, General Guillermo Quinonez, claimed that Carecuchillo had been killed in a battle with Colombia’s armed forces in Cumaribo, in the department of Vichada.
Carecuchillo however, was never killed.
Before the court, the prosecution claimed that soldiers from the fourth division falsified his death, instead murdering innocent civilians as they sought to lower the pressure built as a result of a lack of results against the ERPAC.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, two of the dead were unearthed from a cemetery while further civilians were taken in hummer type vehicles.
The extrajudicial killings of civilians by members of Colombia’s security forces is euphemistically known as false positives, where soldiers dress their victims as rebels or paramilitaries in an effort to bolster body counts.
FACT SHEET: False Positives
According to El Tiempo, Colonel Oscar Orlando Gomez Cifuentes has links with the false positive scandal that go further than Carecuchillo’s fake death.
The prosecutor for a human rights group claim that he was responsible for the murder of civilians in 2006. They contend that Cifuentes filed a report confirming the deaths of two left wing rebels, when the victims had no ties to a rebel group or criminal gang.
In total, Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has counted almost 4,000 victims of extrajudicial killings by the army. The vast majority of these killings took place after 2002. As investigators are still verifying claims of extrajudicial killings and victims have failed to report the killings out of fear for army retaliation, the real number of victims is most likely to be higher.