Colombia’s prosecutor general is investigating 150,000 murders by paramilitary groups, making the previous official figure of 30,000 killings by paramilitaries a severe underestimate, according to Father Javier Giraldo, of Colombian NGO the Center for Investigation and Popular Education.
Speaking at the Second World Congress on Psychosocial Work in Exhumation Processes, Forced Disappearance, Justice and Truth in Bogota on Friday, Giraldo said that Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office “confirms that they are investigating 400 municipalities under the influence of paramilitaries, involving 300,000 registered complaints that include 150,000 extrajudicial executions.”
Giraldo reiterated to conference attendees the scope of the problem in Colombia’s of extrajudicial killings, which was reported by Colombian media in January to be as high as 150,000 killings from paramilitaries alone.
This figure differs significantly from the “30,000 extrajudicial executions” that demobilized paramilitaries have previously admitted to, Giraldo explained.
Paramilitary fighters taking part in the demobilization program have so far confessed to the murders of 30,000 Colombians, but, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office, this leaves a further 120,000 murders of which paramilitaries are suspected still unsolved.
Recent excavations across Colombia shed some light on the scope of extrajudicial killings that have plagued the country for years.
“The prosecutor general recently confirmed that they had exhumed 2,828 cadavers from 2,316 graves, of which, 721 of the remains have been identified and delivered to family members,” Giraldo said.
The three day conference in Bogota brings together delegates from over 25 countries with an aim to “analyze the current situation of exhumation processes in different countries, the dimension and expression of the problem, the legal and institutional responses, as well as the role of victims, the State, and accompanying organizations in terms of psychosocial initiatives.”