The Colombian government will visit the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) next week to appeal its judgement against the state in the Mapiripan massacre case.
Colombia’s Justice Minister, Juan Carlos Esguerra, will visit the court next Tuesday to ask for a reconsideration of the case after it emerged some of those alleged to have died in the 1997 attack were still alive.
The court ordered the Colombian government in 2005 to pay $8 million to victims of the 1997 massacre, after concluding that approximately 49 people had been killed by AUC paramilitaries with the collaboration of the Army.
But following an admission by one witness that she had lied in her testimony, Colombia’s prosecutor general carried out a fresh investigation which concluded only ten people could be confirmed as dead. Some of those believed to have been killed were discovered alive, and others were found to have died in other circumstances.
Esguerra said, “The facts that determined the court’s judgement do not completely correspond to reality. Of course we won’t deny that a grave massacre took place – but a massacre with 12 deaths is one thing and a massacre with 50 false victims is another.”
He said the aim was not to reclaim victims’ compensation into Colombian state coffers, as that could be achieved through other means. The minister said, “The aim is to make sure the IACHR is aware of these types of situations and takes care to make sure they don’t happen again.”
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has called the original ruling a “mockery of the international human rights system,” while Esguerra has accused alleged false victims and their lawyers of a “shameless conspiracy to defraud the Colombian state”.
Victims’ lawyers have vigorously denied these accusations, and with the IACHR have pointed out the case was based on information originally provided by the state itself.
The IACHR and victims’ lawyers have criticized the authorities for failing to act with due diligence when it originally investigated events at Mapiripan. They also point out that establishing the exact figure number of people killed and verifying their identities is close to impossible, as many victims were chopped up and thrown in a river.
Carlos Castaño, the founder and highest commander of the paramilitary umbrella organization AUC, and his successor Salvatore Mancuso, have also publicly admitted that at least 49 people were killed.