Colombia’s war crimes tribunal keeps finding corpses in army mass grave

Colombia’s war crimes tribunal said Monday that it had found another three corpses in one of multiple mass graves dug by the army to bury executed victims who were reported as combat kills.

According to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), forensic investigators have so far found the remains of 20 people at the cemetery of Dabeiba, Antioquia.

The investigation in Dabeiba is part of a larger investigation into the executions of thousands of people who were falsely reported as killed members of guerrilla or paramilitary groups.

Additionally, the Special Unit for the Search of Disappeared Persons hopes to identify the victims of the army’s mass murder practices while searching for allegedly 120,000 people who went missing during the armed conflict.

John Doe #1: Edinson Lexander Lezcano

According to television network Caracol, authorities returned the identified victim found in the Dabeiba grave, Edison Lexander Lezcano, to his family.

The ceremony ended 18 years of searching for the farmer’s family and his ex-wife, Nohelia Rengifo, who was left with a two-year-old boy when Lezcano disappeared in 2002.

Nobody would tell me anything. They told me that he was there, but when I met some military men they asked me tons of questions about him and they told me: “No, he was not a farmer, he was not a farmer… and who are you?” they asked me and I answered them: “He is the father of my child.

Nohelia Rengifo

Eighteen years after his death, Lezcano’s family was finally allowed to give their loved one a Christian burial.

Extraordinary security measures

The digging in Dabeiba began in December last year after soldiers’ testimonies they had used the village cemetery to bury their homicide victims.

The investigation is proceeding under extraordinary security measures as several witnesses have already received death threats or survived assassination attempts.

With the exception of JEP magistrate Alejandro Ramelli, the identities of all those involved in the digging and victim identification are being kept secret.

The practice of reporting the euphemistically called “false positives” became particularly common after President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002 and escalated after retired General Mario Montoya was promoted national army chief in 2006.

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