The United Nations’ Colombia office of human rights (OHCHR) on Friday criticized the sluggish pace of prosecutions regarding the thousands of extrajudicial killings of civilians by members of the armed forces. When those killings are reported as guerrilla casualties they are commonly refered to as “false positives.”
“Given the scope of the false positives crisis, too few of those responsible have been removed from service or prosecuted. High ranking officials linked to these human rights crimes remain in active service and continue to be promoted,” the OHCHR annual report claimed. The report refers to the 4,716 alleged murders “presumably perpetrated by members of the security forces” many of which are suspected to be false positive killings.
FACT SHEET: False Positives
According to the OHCHR, out of all homicide investigations, only 30% had reported any kind of procedural progress.
“Given the nature of these crimes [as they were] committed by State actors, as time passes, the capacity to establish criminal responsibility in these cases fades and impunity becomes systemic,” the report stated.
The human rights director within Colombia’s ministry of defense, however, saw a silver lining.
“There was not a single report [of a false positive] in 2012, this is very positive for Colombia,” said the director.
The report also highlighted the recent reform to Colombia’s military justice system. The expansion of “the jurisdiction of military courts violates the basic separation of powers needed for an independent judiciary,” wrote the OHCHR.
Human rights groups lambasted the reform due to the perceived increase in military impunity. A coalition of activists and congressmen recently took the case before Colombia’s constitutional court. “Our suit demonstrates that the [military’s] jurisdiction was augmented illegally, that is has large flaws and that this is sufficient for the court to declare it unconstitutional,” Congressman Ivan Cepeda told Colombia Reports.
The report did, however, indicate reasons for hope. The government’s ongoing peace talks with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, “more so than any other development…has the potential to transform Colombia in terms of its level of respect for and enjoyment of human rights.”