The lawyers collective defending 10 victims of the 1997 Mapiripan massacre said Thursday it will return $240,000 the Colombian State was ordered to pay to a woman who later said to have lied about being a victim of the massacre.
According to Alirio Uribe, director of the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CAJAR), the money will be transfered to a special account opened by Colombia’s Comptroller General’s Office after neither the Prosecutor General nor the Defense Minister responded to requests to refund the money.
“We have the ethical obligation to return the money that we received on behalf of this family. Because of this we officially petitioned [then-] Prosecutor General Viviane Morales. Later we sent two requests to the Defense Minister and finally, because we didn’t receive any response, we turned to the Comptroller General’s Office,” Alirio Uribe of the CAJAR told Colombia Reports.
The money the human rights defenders try to return was granted to Mapiripan native Mariela Contreras who had claimed having lost her husband and two sons in the massacre, but later said her husband was killed by the FARC, her one son was killed by the paramilitary AUC and her second son was forcibly recruited by the FARC.
Following Contreras’ statement, the Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating ten more cases of allegedly false claims to victim compensation.
There is no certainty about the actual number of victims of the five-day massacre. The prosecutor General’s Office has used numbers between 10 and 77, while paramilitary leaders have admitted to have killed between 35 and 49.
The real number is difficult to determine because the paramilitaries cut their victims into pieces and threw the remains in the river and “83% of the population of Mapiripan was displaced after the massacre,” said Uribe.
Additionally, despite the State’s obligation to identify victims, “there was no adequate investigation to verify the facts. The army wouldn’t even allow the Prosecutor General’s Office entrance to Mapiripan,” the human rights lawyer added.
The International Court for Human Rights condemned Colombia to compensate the victims after it established that a nearby army batallion failed to intervene the five-day massacre despite calls for help by displaced locals.