Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has guaranteed legal aid for members of the armed forces who are investigated for crimes they may have committed on duty, including the extrajudicial killings of civilians, reported local media Thursday.
For the first time in his two years of office, Santos has decided to directly address the controversial false positives scandal involving military forces. During his radio program “On Line with the President,” a citizen asked the government for help in the case of her brother, who was sentenced for committing a false positive.
In response, the president reinforced that proper defense would be upheld before the court, and that no prejudice should be involved during judgements.
“Rest assured that we are reinforcing everything that has to do with the defense of our military forces before courts for crimes that they may have committed, so that they will be duly prosecuted, so that there will be no kind of prejudice or pressure that they be judged one way or another” said Santos.
The woman went on to say that eight of her brothers were members of the armed forces, and that they had only been complying with orders from their superiors.
“We are going to see how we can help those that have been sentenced to have the best conditions posible, and that their rights are respected,” Santos assured the woman without guaranteeing a luxury such as house arrest for armed forces being investigated.
More than 3,500 Colombian state agents have been implicated in what has become known as the “false positives” scandal, the extrajudicial execution of civilians to present as guerrillas killed in combat. Armed forces dressed more than 2,000 Colombian civilians between the years 2007-2008 as leftist FARC members to falsely boost enemy kill counts and receive government incentive-based benefits.
While the killing of civilians had been denounced by human rights groups for years, the government did not admit the practice until 2008 when civilians registered as guerrillas killed in combat were found in a mass grave near the border of Venezuela.