Colombia’s highest administrative court, in an unprecedented decision, demands that the army publicly apologize for killing two civilians and dressing them as guerrillas.
The State Council has also ordered the military to reveal full details of the crime — in which two young men were killed by the army 18 years ago — based on a re-examination of the evidence, reported newspaper El Espectador.
Around midnight on May 21, 1994, soldiers arrived at the house of 25-year-old Alfredo Sierra Castilla in the town of Nechi, in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. Castillo answered the door wearing white shorts, his friends in the house heard the words “hands up”, and he was taken away. The friends reported the incident to the town’s police inspector and the commander of the local military base, but were told that Alfredo had not been arrested by the military.
On the same night in Nechi, soldiers arrived at the house of Jairo Antonio Calis Sajayo, who lived with his mother. According to testimony from his mother Rosario Sajayo, they took him at gunpoint, barefoot and wearing blue shorts and a yellow bag, while he begged “Do not kill me please, I have not done anything.” Over the following days, Jairo’s father and a neighbor visited the local battalion several times, each time being told his whereabouts were unknown.
Five days after the kidnappings, Lieutenant Jose Mauricio Sanabria filed a report saying the men had been killed in combat in Palomar, Antioquia. Their bodies were returned to the families wearing military uniforms over the clothes they were wearing the night of their kidnapping, with their bodies showing signs of torture.
The Administrative Tribunal of Antioquia, in the late 1990’s, concluded that the young men had not been kidnapped, and accepted the conclusions offered by the investigations of the military justice system.
However the inconsistencies between the evidence and the court’s ruling prompted a re-examination of the case by the State Council, which has overruled the previous decision, stating that the mens’ death “was the product of extrajudicial executions committed by members of the army, who wanted to conceal their criminal activity.”
State Council judges have ordered that after 18 years the army must not only pay compensation to the extended families of those they killed, but must publish an apology in a national newspaper, and in a departmental review detail the full circumstances of their deaths.
The State Council also wants to establish who was responsible for the killings. The issue of the scope of military jurisdiction remains a topic of contentious debate in Congress.