Colombia’s war crimes tribunal has begun investigating “Operation Orion,” a 2002 attack on the west of Medellin carried out by the security forces allegedly in collusion with local crime lord “Don Berna.”
In a ceremony commemorating the 16th anniversary of the war crimes-ridden operation, magistrates of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) received a report from the community of the Comuna 13, Medellin’s most western district.
This report and others are meant to help the JEP define which crimes were committed, to who and by who.
The documentation we were given is valuable. The report will be taken into account by the Reconnaissance Chamber so that progress can be made in these cases.
JEP magistrate Reinere Jaramillo
During the JEP’s investigation, victims will have the opportunity to testify, and advocate for precautionary measures to protect a believed burial site in a quarry just outside the district.
I would not hesitate to say that the sand quarry is the largest cemetery of forcibly disappeared persons in Colombia.
Former Medellin magistrate Ruben Dario Pinilla
Both the Inter-American Court for Human Rights and Colombia’s State Council have already condemned the state for the war crimes committed during the operation to rid Colombia’s second largest city of leftist militias, but none of the people allegedly responsible for the crimes have ever been held accountable.
The violent urban military operation unleashed on the civilian population left at least one civilian dead, 28 injured and 355 arrested, many of whom later proved to be innocent.
Orion successfully removed the leftist militias from Medellin, but replaced them by Berna’s Bloque Cacique Nutibara paramilitary group, the paramilitary branch of the Oficina de Envigado crime syndicate Berna had inherited from drug lord Pablo Escobar.
According to a Medellin court, the paramilitaries disappeared 92 people in the year after the operation. However, according to testimonies from demobilized paramilitaries involved in the operation, there would be many more.