Colombia’s State Council has ruled that members of the armed forces, including the military and police, can also be deemed victims of the armed conflict, according to El Tiempo newspaper.
In a ruling on a 1997 attack by the FARC on a military base in which three soldiers were killed, the State Council claimed that soldiers and police officers can be victims, setting a legal precedent which could affect their eligibility for reparations.
The legal reasoning behind the decision says that soldiers fulfilling their obligatory military obligation do not forfeit their rights as citizens during their service.
“Although a person may be rendering their obligatory military service, at no moment does he/she cease to be a citizen subject to human rights protections, for which it is the duty of the state to guarantee,” the council determined.
Included in the term “victim,” according to the council, are the family members and dependents of the direct victim of the conflict.
State also responsible for soldier deaths
Included in the State Council’s ruling was the determination that the Colombian state was partially responsible for the three soldiers deaths at the military base in the southern state of Nariño. It ordered the government to apologize, recognize its responsibility, and pay the families of the victims nearly half a million dollars in reparations.
This aspect of the decision was based on the fact that residents of the town had warned the military base of a possible attack by the FARC guerrillas.
In addition, testimonies from members of the military established that conditions were inadequate – “inhumane” – and that some soldiers had even died of hypothermia at the base.
“The State was called to avoid the risks, weakness, and faults that were committed at the [military base], which permitted the guerrilla attack, with fatal and unfortunate results for all those who were victims. It was a large, ostensible, serious, and inconceivable omission of the state for which its responsibility is clear,” the council determined.
The Prosecutor General’s office was ordered to investigate the possible human rights violations in the case and the Ombudsman was called to report on the progress of said investigation.
The inclusion of General Luis Mendieta, a military commander who was held hostage for more than 11 years after being captured in combat in 1998, caused discontent with the FARC earlier this month. The FARC has refused to recognize Mendieta as victim, claiming that if army combatants are deemed victims, guerrilla fighters should too.