Colombia’s authorities have lied for decades about their intent to rescue hostages in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege that killed almost 100 people, according to a Supreme Court ruling.
In a devastating verdict, the court confirmed the 35-year prison sentence of retired General Jesus Armando Arias and revealed how the Colombian public has been lied to for decades.
Since the traumatic operation, late former President Belisario Betancur and the military have always claimed that the siege sought to rescue the people who were held hostage by M-19 guerrillas.
This was false, according to the Supreme Court.
The four hostages who survived the siege were never meant to be rescued, but taken in for interrogation. They were executed like the one surviving guerrilla, according to plan.
The military strategy that was approved by Betancur, the so-called Plan Tricolor 83, was the general strategy in the case of a revolution or an international armed conflict at the time.
Consequently, the military launched an attack “with the unsavory pretext of ‘defending democracy’, without making the slightest distinction between combatants and non-combatants, in clear violation of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 1948.”
The military’s “only concern associated with launching rockets against the enemy was not to cause harm to the troops, regardless of the injuries or death they might cause to the hostages,” according to the court.
Armed Forces commander General Rafael Samudio ordered Arias to execute the operation quickly “due to the concern that, from one moment to the next, the president may think of giving the order to suspend operations in an act of common sense,” the court said.
More than 90 people, including half the Supreme Court, died in the siege.
The military operation was one of the bloodiest and traumatic events in the history of Colombia’s armed conflict. The shock verdict of the court requires a rewriting of history as the deaths were always believed to be the consequence of a failed rescue operation, not a successful operation to annihilate a non-existent foreign enemy.