Colombia’s National Police and Navy must issue a court-ordered apology for not intervening in the 1996 slaughter of 14 people by paramilitaries in northwestern Colombia, national media reported on Wednesday.
The State Council ordered that the police and navy shall conduct a ceremony in the village of Pichilin located in the northwest state of Sucre. They must then “offer a public apology to the victims and the community at large,” according to Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper.
In addition to the apology, a plaque will be installed in the central square of the village to show remorse for those killed and that such events are never to be repeated. There is also a victims unit for collective reparation programs such as a unit for land restitution.
The massacre took place December 4, 1996, but two days prior paramilitaries had met with authorities and said they were focused on the 35th Front of Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which had a camp just past the village, according to Colombia’s armed conflict news site Verdad Abierta.
The orders were clear, the authorities should move out of the way and should not under any circumstances react against the paramilitary troops.
The State Council said, “It is proved that both police captain Jorge Javier Muñoz Suarez as well as Navy Major Luis Guillermo Parra Niño, knew in advance who was going to carry out this atrocious behavior and weren’t just silent about it, and they did nothing to prevent it, but, what is more reprehensible, they agreed with it.” The two men were never convicted of this charge, according to El Espectador.
However, this incident was only one of the many acts of violence from paramilitary troops in the northwest region.
A group of paramilitaries, known as the “Bloque Heroes Montes de Maria,” launched one of bloodiest campaigns in Colombia’s history, leaving more than 20,000 families displaced by violence between 1996 and 2000. There were also a total of 75 massacres between 1999 and 2000 alone.
For the 1996 massacre, it is a bit late for apologies but investigations into some massacres by paramilitaries are only just beginning to reach the surface.
As for the Pichilin massacre, the Center for Historical Memory ordered the preservation of the sentence and is conducting an investigation into the slaughter, according to El Espectador.