Colombia’s war crimes tribunal ordered a mayor to end illegally exhuming the remains of presumed missing persons from a site locals said was a military mass grave.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) ordered the mayor of El Copey to immediately stop exhuming remains at sites locals claim a controversial army unit buried the remains of more than 100 unidentified people.
Using COVID-19 to get rid of evidence?
Mayor Francisco Meza (Liberal Party) said last week he would exhume sites just outside the town for COVID-19 fatalities, claiming the local cemetery is full and needed space.
Locals, however, have testified these 10 sites were used by the now-defunct Popa Batallion to bury civilians who were falsely claimed to be guerrillas killed in combat.
The Missing Persons Search Unit (UPBD) issued a list of recommendations on how to prevent the manipulation of sites where some of Colombia’s more than 80,000 missing persons could be buried, but was ignored by the mayor.
After locals found out that Meza had effectively begun exhuming one of the sites and reported that human remains were found lying scattered around, they warned the UPBD, which confirmed the mayor had been removing remains.
Victims of extrajudicial executions whose bodies had not been recovered or identified would have been found.
JEP mgistrate Alejandro Romelli
Bad news for the war criminal who used to be the Americas’ Best Soldier
The mayor’s apparent attempt to get rid of the remains proved allegations that the site was in fact a mass grave where a feared war criminal, retired Colonel Hernan Mejia, allegedly had been burying his victims.
Mejia had been named the Americas’ Best Soldier twice, but was dishonored after he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for his ties to paramilitary groups and a local crime family, and reporting “false positives.”
Colonel Hernan Mejia: from ‘the Americas’ Best Soldier’ to one of Colombia’s most feared war criminals
UPBD director Luz Marina Monzon said she would declare the sites in El Copey “an area of interest for the search of persons reported missing due to the armed conflict” making it more complicated to get rid of allegedly disappeared war crime victims.
JEP magistrate Alejandro Romelli ordered Meza to immediately end his apparent attempts to get rid the remains of missing persons.