Colombia’s highest administrative court, the State Council, made the ruling after hearing that security forces failed to react to FARC incursions in Ituango, northern Antioquia Department, during the early and mid-1990s.
Among the evidence presented was a letter written in December 1994 by Ituango’s then-Antioquian government representative, Jairo Correa, which requested army assistance as the area faced its fourth major FARC incursion in seven years.
The letter was addressed to Colonel Lino Sanchez Prado, imprisoned for 40 years in 2005 for his role in the 1988 Mapiripan massacre, who responded by withdrawing the Army’s Fourth Brigade back to its nearby base. Six weeks later 400 guerillas seized the town, killing three people, looting two banks and damaging the town hall.
The court heard how eighteen months later paramilitaries arrived in the area and terrorized the population, accusing them of having guerrilla ties, then carrying out the 1997 massacre of El Aro in which 15 civilians were murdered.
Judge Enrique Gil Botero ruled that the security forces failed in their duties “to protect the safety [of civilians] and promote constitutional guarantees,” and awarded compensation of $7,000 to cover costs incurred restoring the town hall.
Mayor of Ituango Jaime Montoya told Colombian media that the funds would be welcomed, but would not solve the problems of providing schools and health centers in the face of guerrilla and neo-paramilitary activity, which continues today as the area sits on a drug transitting route.