A Colombian court sentenced 19 members of the military to between four and 27 years in prison for the murder of 15 indigenous and disabled people, newspaper El Tiempo reported Tuesday.
The 19 soldiers, from the Boyaca Battalion, were charged with kidnapping, forced disappearance, murder and the conspiracy to commit crimes, which took place between 2007 and 2008 in the department of Nariño. Although they were only charged with 15 murders, investigators believe they are responsible for the deaths of up to 30 civilians.
Aura Marina Troya, mother of one of the victims, told reporters, “Finally there has been justice for my son who suffered from mental problems. In January of 2008 he disappeared and I cannot even understand why he was assassinated in this manner.”
In a practice now known as creating “false positives,” the military men dressed up their victims as guerrillas in order to improve their success rate. This Colombian army scandal was uncovered in 2008 but incidents continue to be reported.
Two soldiers from this battalion are still on the run and prosecutors believe they are responsible for the illegal killing of an Ecuadorian street vendor named Jose Antonio Otavalo.
Some of those sentenced were also charged monetary fines which will be given to the victims’ families.
According to the latest report of Colombia‘s Prosecutor General’s Office, members of the armed forces are suspects in 8,295 cases of human rights violations, including 1,598 “false positive” cases.