Nineteen members of the Colombian Army were convicted of killing 15 civilians and falsely presenting them as leftist guerrilla members between 2007 and 2008, reported newspaper El Tiempo Monday.
The soldiers were handed down sentences varying between 30 to 40 years at a second hearing for crimes committed in the southwestern Nariño department. Investigations began after autopsy results showed that the victims’ bodies displayed no signs of combative wounds.
As the hearing continued, the accused confessed further details. Corporal Alen Jaimes Pasuy admitted superiors recommended he, “look for victims that weren’t from the city, that were from a low social status and preferably undocumented,” according to El Tiempo. At least eight of the victims are said to be unidentified.
The convicted soldiers also lead prosecutors to their military base where they found furniture with double backing that was used to hide weapons and other items in order to make operations appear legal.
The second phase of investigations included officers who had either participated in the murders or had knowledge of the situation and took no action to prevent it.
The “false positive” scandal first came to light in 2008 after civilians registered as guerrillas killed in combat were found in a mass grave near the border of Venezuela. More than 3,500 Colombian state agents have been implicated in the scandal.