Palace of Justice siege victims’ families appeal to OAS

In Washington, family members of eleven victims of the 1985 Palace of Justice siege asked the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to accept a report placing blame on the Colombian government for its handling of the event, reported El Tiempo on Monday.

According to the report, the eleven civilians who disappeared after leaving the building with security officials, never to be heard from again, were subject to torture and false imprisonment.

The report was produced by Colombia’s Truth Commission, which was created by Colombia’s Supreme Court in order to clarify details of what happened during the seizure and subsequent rescue operation of the Palace of Justice from guerrillas who had invaded it, which resulted in over 100 civilians being killed.

The report, released on December 17, concluded that the assault on the palace was conducted by M-19 guerrillas financed by drug lord Pablo Escobar, and that Colombian President Belisario Betancur’s government did not do enough to guarantee the safety of the hostages.

The commission also determined that extra-judicial executions of guerrillas and civilians took place and criticized the force employed by the army in their retaking of the palace

According to lawyers from the Center for Justice and International Law, the final report from the Truth Commission confirmed that the Colombian government knew of the attack beforehand, and did nothing to prevent it, and later kept silent in order to cover it up.

In response to the victims’ petition to the IACHR, officials from the Colombian government denied that the IACHR had any jurisdiction to intervene in the case, claiming that the Colombian justice system has already acted.

The IACHR is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, which investigates human rights abuses in member states.

On November 6, 1985, M-19 guerrillas took Bogota’s Palace of Justice and held some 300 hostages captive for several days. The army launched a violent siege to take back the building, in which more than 100 people died and eleven went missing. Those responsible for the violence have not been brought to justice.

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