4 more soldiers convicted for 2005 massacre on peace community

Four former soldiers have been convicted for the 2005 massacre of five adults and three children in the northern Colombian peace community of San Jose de Apartado, local media reported Tuesday.

The regional court partially revoked the initial acquittal of ten former soldiers by a local court in 2010 and sentenced the four retired members of the military to 34 years in prison and a $5.7 million fine.

The San Jose de Apartado massacre was carried out by members of the Heroes de Tolova Block of paramilitary organization AUC and members of the National Army’s 17th Brigade during a large counter-insurgent operation called “Operation Phoenix.”

For years, the Colombian army insisted guerrilla group FARC was guilty of the massacre.

So far, more than 20 members of the army and seven former paramilitaries have been convicted for the massacre.

The defense of the victims’ families demand the investigation of former Heroes de Tolova Block commander Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna” and former National Army Commander Mario Montoya, who commanded the Army’s First Division.

Montoya has been accused by lower-ranked officials of having planned the counter-insurgency offensive and traveled to Uraba to coordinate the operations that led to the massacre.

The killing caused great consternation internationally as members of the peace community were declared protected persons by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights after they declared themselves neutral in Colombia’s 48-year conflict in 1997.

More than 20 members of the peace community have been killed after the massacre.

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