The August 29 bombing already cost the head of Duque’s defense minister, but could lead to war crime charges against the president, Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez and multiple military commanders.
Former Defense Minister Guillermo Botero, Armed Forces commander general Luis Fernando Navarro and National Army chief General Nicasio Martinez all told press that they were unaware that children were present in the camp of “Gildardo Cucho” when Duque authorized the bombing.
Military warned six times about child recruitment
“We had no information there were minors present, because if we did we would’ve taken a different decision,” Martinez told public television network Canal 1.
It is unclear how Martinez was unaware of the presence of minors; the ombudsman of Puerto Rico, the municipality where the bombing took place, informed the military six times about the forced recruitment of minors in the area.
Furthermore, the interior minister and at least seven military commanders were personally informed about the local FARC dissidents’ child recruitment practices on January 16 after the Ombudsman’s Office warned Gutierrez personally about the child recruitment in an alert on January 4.
President Ivan Duque, who authorized the bombing, has avoided the press like the plague as questions and calls for criminal investigations mount.
Did Duque knew about the children?
The big question is whether Duque knew he was committing a crime against humanity when he authorized the bombing of the camp in response to the call of former FARC leader “Ivan Marquez” to rearm.
Last night I authorized the Joint Command of Special Operations to carry out an offensive operation against this gang of narco-terrorist criminals, who are residuals of what was known as the FARC, and who are part of the criminal structures that now seek to challenge Colombia.
Legally, this question is irrelevant. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), “military commanders are held criminally responsible for crimes committed by armed forces under their effective command and control.”
In other words, if Duque authorized an illegal military operation, he is criminally liable.
Opposition Senator Alexander Lopez (Democratic Pole) announced last week he would bring the case before the ICC. In an interview with Canal 1, the senator also urged Colombian authorities to open criminal investigations.
Pressure on Duque enough to squash an elephant
With media and lawmakers trying to find out what happened on that fateful day in August and why Congress didn’t learn about the deaths of the children, the pressure on Duque is increasing.
The president tried to defend his disgraced former defense minister at a military ceremony last week and said that “we all regret” the killing of child soldiers under 18 in combat.
The president’s self-proclaimed regret has nothing to do with the war crime allegedly committed by Duque.
Among the victims was a 12-year-old girl, Angela Maria Gaitan, whose mother buried her remains in September.
The 12-year-old’s mother told weekly Semana that Cucho forced her daughter to use birth control after she was forced to join his dissident guerrilla unit.
Under no circumstance may a 12-year-old victim be attacked by the military, no matter how much in a huff the president is about the rearmament of a former FARC leader.