The Spanish judge and Organizations of American States adviser Baltasar Garzon has called for restraint amid allegations of “false victims” from the 1997 Mapiripan massacre.
Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra visited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Costa Rica Wednesday to ask it to reconsider its ruling surrounding events in Mapiripan — in light of a fresh investigation calling the number of victims into question.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has called the original ruling, which ordered the Colombian state to pay $8 million to victims of the 1997 massacre, “a mockery of the international human rights system“; while Esguerra has accused alleged “false victims” and their lawyers of a “shameless conspiracy to defraud the Colombian state”.
Garzon, who also acts as a consultant to the International Criminal Court, called for the IACHR to be left to do its job, saying “The IACHR has all the necessary elements to decide what it needs to decide. If it has to revise something it will revise it, but until then I think we need to calm down all the criticism being made regarding this matter.”
When questioned about the lawyers group Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CAJAR), which represented the alleged victims, Garzon said he would rather not comment, other than to say he “trusted their honesty.”
The court ordered the Colombian state to pay compensation to victims after concluding that approximately 49 people had been killed by AUC paramilitaries, with the collaboration of the Army. After a witness recanted her testimony earlier this year, Colombia’s prosecutor general carried out a new investigation, which concluded only ten people could be confirmed dead.
The IACHR and victims’ lawyers have criticized the authorities for failing to act with due diligence when they originally investigated events at Mapiripan. They also point out that establishing the exact number of people killed and verifying their identities is close to impossible, as many victims were chopped up and thrown in a river.
Carlos Castaño, the founder and highest commander of the paramilitary umbrella organization AUC, and his successor Salvatore Mancuso, have also publicly admitted that at least 49 people were killed.