Colombia’s Supreme Court struck down a man’s land restitution claim after determining it to be false, local media reported Friday.
The court’s criminal chamber refused to return the property of a man who said he had been robbed of his land by the right-wing paramilitary group, the AUC, responsible for displacement, kidnapping, and drug trafficking until they were fully demobilized in 2006.
Though the plaintiff claimed armed soldiers led by AUC higher-ups Emilio Hazbun, alias “Pedro Bonito,” and Fredy Rendon, alias “El Aleman,” had pressured him sell his two lots in the department of Antioquia, his relatives said the man had simply gotten a bad deal. The property sale was completely above board, they told the court, unrelated to any theft or threats.
Colombia’s Victims and Land Restitution Law, which went into effect this January, seeks to compensate Colombians who have lost their land since 1985 because of the country’s longstanding internal conflict. The government announced Thursday that its first rulings to determine the legitimacy of at least 16,000 land claims will begin in September. Land claimants are required to prove that they were victims of armed conflict and that they will use the land efficiently, for agricultural purposes, for example.
Colombia has one of the highest levels of internally displaced peoples in the world. The government estimates the current level at around 3.9 million people, while the Observatory on Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES) places the number at around 5.3 million.