A former paramilitary who is considered a key witness in the controversial Mapiripan massacre turned himself in to authorities Wednesday.
Jorge Humberto Victoria was convicted for taking part in the massacre of Mapiripan at the Inter-American Court for Human Rights (IACHR) and described as a key witness of events by the then second-in-command of the paramilitary AUC, Salvatore Mancuso.
Victoria officially demobilized with the rest of the AUC in 2006, but never surrendered to authorities.
The number of victims of the massacre for which Victoria has been convicted was challenged this year by the Colombian government which claimed just ten people, not 49 as had originally been thought, were killed by the paramilitaries. The country’s Prosecutor General accused locals of falsely claiming to be family of victims in order to be able to claim compensation, and their lawyers of being accomplices in the swindle.
However, the IACHR recently denied the state’s request to revoke a 2009 ruling requiring the government to pay compensation to victims of the atrocity, in which paramilitaries used chainsaws and machetes to murder villagers in Mapiripan, Meta department, in collaboration with the Colombian army.
The court said evidence provided by the government regarding “false victims” – people originally thought to have died in the massacre but later discovered to have died in other circumstances or still be alive – was “incomplete” and “illegible.” It also said the state had already accepted its failure to conduct a proper investigation after the slaughter and agreed to pay compensation regardless – and it could not now go back on that.
Before being murdered by fellow-paramilitaries, AUC founder Carlos Castaño had said that 49 people were murdered and the majority of victims chopped in pieces and thrown into the nearby river. Mancuso had previously supported this version of events, but earlier this week made comments in the U.S. supporting the Prosecutor General’s, saying “no more” than ten were murdered.