9 soldiers sentenced to 46 years for killing civilians

Nine military officers on Thursday were sentenced to 46 years and six months in prison for the “false positive” killing of three peasants in a rural area near Cali, southwest Colombia, in 2007.

The military officers must serve their sentences in the Villahermosa Prison in Cali. However, the defense lawyers of the military officers appealed the sentence arguing that the investigation did not take into account evidence that proved the the victims were not civilians, but military targets.

On January 14, 2007 four people were killed by the military officers and then presented as extortionists and kidnappers operating in the area, according to an investigations by the regional tribunal.

The families of the victims expressed their satisfaction with the sentence but said they feared their lives are in danger and requested special protection from the judicial authorities.

“I am very happy, because thanks to God I cleared the name of my husband. Although right now I am fearful, one doesn’t know what could happen.” said Sonia Davila, wife of one of the victims.

“These are false positives. First they kill them, then they present them as guerrilla fighters or criminals,” said Mery Burbano, mother of one of the victims.

False positives are cases of extrajudicial killings where the victims are later presented as guerrilla fighters or criminals to inflate the military’s body count of members of illegal armed groups, allowing military personnel to claim rewards. There are nearly 3,500 state agents under investigation for the allegedly illegal execution of approximately 2,000 civilians.

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