Colombia’s prosecutor general is reportedly under increased pressure from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to show results in the investigation of top military commanders accused of murdering civilians.
According to newspaper El Espectador, representatives of the international court arrived in Bogota this week to inquire about the prosecution’s progress in the investigation of the mass killing of civilians carried out by the military.
This visit comes less than six months after a visit of the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who demanded “concrete and specific information on investigative steps taken with respect to” the investigations against 23 generals and six colonels.
According to the ICC, the military commanders could be responsible for the deaths of dozens of an estimated 4,200 civilians who were executed by the military to inflate statistics.
The gruesome practice became so common under former President Alvaro Uribe that in 2007 more than 1,000 civilians were executed and presented as guerrillas killed in combat, according to prosecution statistics.
Extrajudicial executions in Colombia
The mass killing of civilians became known as “false positives” in Colombia and has resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of soldiers. With the exception of one general, no implicated military commander has been charged.
According to the ICC prosecutor, a peace deal between the government and Marxist FARC guerrillas failed to adhere to international law in regards to the responsibility of military commanders in crimes committed by subordinates.
Bensouda stressed “my Office’s disposition to act” if Colombia’s prosecutor general Nestor Humberto Martinez and the transitional justice system fail to call the military commanders to trial.
Anonymous diplomatic sources reportedly told newspaper El Espectador that the ICC intends to open formal criminal investigations, meaning it could ask the former military commanders to be transferred to The Hague in the Netherlands.
According to one of El Espectador’s sources, “the government was naive” in believing it could receive Bensouda without preparing any criminal investigations.
The ICC has been investigating Colombia’s armed conflict since 2004, but has so far refrained from filing criminal charges.
The international court has the authority to prosecute alleged Colombian war criminals if the country’s justice system fails to do so in violation of international humanitarian law.