Colombia’s State Council ordered the Defense Ministry on Wednesday to prevent human rights violations in army operations amid concerns that army orders could revive the mass killing of innocent civilians.
The high court the Ministry to “ensure that all directives and operations undertaken by the armed forces respect International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Armed Conflict rules”.
They also asked for the application of international norms allowing for relevant authorities to investigate any alleged violations “effectively, quickly, fully and impartially.”
The Counsel also inquired whether the Truth Commission, set up after the ratification of the peace deal to investigate war crimes from the armed conflict, would look into holding accountable “not only those directly responsible, but also the intellectual authors who favored or incentivised the performance of these actions.”
The statement comes in the context of an ongoing investigation into the extrajudicial killing of a rural civilian in 2004, and the recent scandal regarding orders issued by the army chief for units to double their kill counts, which many feared would incentivize unlawful killings.
The subject of the state counsel’s investigation, Hector Harvey Valencia was a civilian from the southern Caqueta province. The victim was murdered by the Armed Forces in November 2004 and presented to the press as a FARC fighter killed in combat.
In light of the investigation into his death, the State Counsel ordered the Defense Ministry to publish a statement in a “newspaper with nationwide circulation and high local circulation in the department of Caqueta” clarifying “the true identity of the victim.”
Valencia’s death was typical of the false positives era, when army policy rewarded armed forces members who achieved high kill counts. This resulted in an estimated 5000 civilian casualties as they murdered innocent civilians and passed them off as FARC guerrillas killed in combat in order to artificially inflate these figures.