Prison authorities in Colombia’s capital Bogota massacred 24 inmates after protests over coronavirus fears in La Modelo prison in March turned violent, forensic experts said Monday.
According to the Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEC), autopsy reports indicate prison guards intentionally murdered inmates after their participation in national prison protests escalated.
The forensic experts were asked to examine the autopsy reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and concluded that “most of the gunshot wounds described in the autopsy reports are consistent with having been produced with the objective of killing.”
“The autopsy reports do not record any signs of gunshot injuries carried out with the intention of solely injuring individuals instead of killing them,” according to IFEC.
While Colombia’s medical examiner’s office indicated that the cause of death of at least 10 inmates was “homicide,” “there is little sign of progress in the investigation into the 24 prison deaths in March,” HRW Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco said on his organization’s website.
Former Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said the riots were part of “a plan to escape,” which was rejected by Bogota’s ombudsman and never confirmed by the prosecution.
According to the IFEC, most of the autopsies on the killed prisoners were carried out adequately, but the forensic investigators failed to investigate the scenes of the crimes.
In fact, authorities have made little effort to find out what happened in La Modelo on March 21 or investigate the homicides, according to Vivanco.
Colombian authorities have the obligation to carry out prompt, impartial, and thorough investigations and to hold anyone responsible for use of excessive and unjustified lethal force accountable.
HRW Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco
In January, Cabello will become Inspector General, the official supposed to carry out disciplinary investigations against allegedly criminal government officials, after Congress appointed her in August.
HRW stressed safeguards are required to make sure the former justice minister effectively investigates the La Modelo massacre.