The Colombian government denies in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) any responsibility for an alleged 1998 aerial bombardment that left 17 people dead and 27 injured.
The state is attempting to get the IACHR to revoke a ruling last March ordering it to pay compensation to the injured and the relatives of those who died in an explosion in the village of Santo Domingo in the eastern Arauca department.
Two members of the Colombian Air Force (FAC) were sentenced to 30 years for their role in the deaths, which the IACHR ruled last year were caused by a bomb dropped from a FAC helicopter. The Colombian state maintains — backed up by a 2011 ruling by an Arauca judge — that the victims were actually killed by a FARC car bomb.
Last year’s IACHR 2011 ruling said that after dropping a “cluster device” on Santo Domingo during a confrontation with FARC rebels, the FAC “continued, from the air, to bomb civilians who were trying to assist the wounded and attempting to escape.”
The Colombian government appealed the March IACHR decision to order compensation, reiterating that the left-wing rebel group FARC was guilty of the civilian deaths, and asking the court to reexamine the case.
Colombia’s ambassador to the OAS, Rafael Nieto, denied again on Friday in front of the court that his country had any responsibility for the alleged event.
Forensic evidence “unequivocally show that those who committed the bombing were not state agents,” said Nieto according to Colombian newspaper El Pais.
Nieto said forensic investigations did not find fragments of bombs in the village, but 600 meters away, where fighting with FARC guerrillas had taken place.
“There is a distance of more than 600 meters between the place where the device was dropped and the civilian population, which is why it could not have fallen, in any way, on the village.”
The 2011 ruling by the Arauca judge stated that an analysis of shrapnel which hit the victims revealed “raw material commonly used in homemade bombs and explosives,” while there was no trace of TNT, the explosive used in military bombs.
Felipe Gonzalez, a representative of the IACHR, criticized the Colombian state for presenting a “radically different account” of the case than the court.
Gonzalez said there was “no doubt that 17 people died and that 27 more were wounded by an explosive artifact” and that there was proof the air force “carried out a military operation close to Santo Domingo and that they had knowledge of the presence of the civilian population.” He further said that “more than 20 witnesses” put the blame on the FAC.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights said that a sentence would be given “in the coming months.”