A Colombian judge on Wednesday ordered the release of a further seven soldiers accused of involvement in the Soacha “false positives” extrajudicial killings, due to the expiry of the legal deadlines for their trial. This ruling brings the number of suspects in the Soacha case whose release has been ordered to 31.
Two of the seven soldiers included in the ruling will be kept in custody, however, as there are separate charges of extrajudicial killings currently pending against them.
Judge Fernando Sarmiento, from Soacha, said that his decision is in accordance with the law and “does not grant impunity” to criminals.
“If at this moment there are legal assumptions which give them freedom when that term expires, we can not be stubborn in that sense,” said Judge Sarmiento, adding that the decision was an objective one, which only concerns the expiry of the legal term, and that no other type of consideration could be taken into account.
The judge was responding to heavy criticism from families of the victims, as well as from Colombia’s inspector general, who declared that “this is a scandal for our institutions’ international credibility, and implies the weakness of our institutions and of the administration of justice.”
Seventeen soldiers accused of the murder of eleven young men in Soacha were released earlier this month, a further six were released yesterday and one was released in December, all on the legal grounds that their trials had not been held within the 90-day time limit.
The soldiers are suspected of involvement in the disappearance of eleven youths from Soacha in 2008, who were kidnapped, murdered, and then reported as members of illegal armed groups killed in combat.