Two former colonels of Colombia’s National Army were sentenced to 19 years in prison Monday for conspiring with paramilitary commanders to assassinate civilians to inflate his unit’s apparent effectiveness.
According to a Bogota judge, the Prosecutor General’s Office proved its accusations that retired colonels Hernan Mejia and Jose Pastror Ruiz made an alliance with extradited AUC commander “Jorge 40” to join forces and jointly were responsible for the extrajudicial killing at least 18 civilians who were later presented as ELN guerrillas killed in combat.
The killing of civilians to inflate combat kill statistics became particularly widespread after 2002 when the first administration of former President Alvaro Uribe took office and fell out of grace after US newspaper The Washington Post and Colombian weekly Semana reported extensively on the so-called “false positives” scandal in 2008.
FACT SHEET: Colombia’s False Positives Scandal
Mejia was one of the first and highest-ranked army officials who were linked to the killing of civilians by lower-ranked military personnel in 2008, but wasn’t convicted until Monday.
According to the judge there was no doubt about the military official’s pact with “Jorge 40” whose Northern Bloc operated in the same Cesar department as Mejia’s La Popa battalion.
Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has counted some 4,000 civilian victims of extrajudicial killings carried out primarily by the army.