In a statement on Tuesday, the Colombian State Council asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to re-open an investigation against the ELN, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, for alleged human rights violations.
Colombia’s State Council claims that members of the ELN are responsible for the murder of a butcher in 1997, in the northern state of Santander.
The findings of the court reveal that the salesman allegedly received threats from the ELN for selling meat to members of the Army and the National Police force, and was relocated to a nearby village in fear of his life. Upon his return, he was brought to the town square and reportedly executed by members of the ELN in front of the community.
The court stated that not only did the guerrilla group execute a citizen, “But its actions were intended to intimidate the local civilian population and exercise control over the township of Teorama.”
The State Council also ordered the Ministry of Defense to pay more than $450,000 for failing to protect the individual, arguing that the state should have protected the “rights, property, and interests of the citizens of Teorama,” to its fullest capactiy.
According to the court, the Ministry of Defense failed in its obligations to the Geneva Convention, which mandates the “protection of civilians in time of war.” Colombian security forces were aware of the unstable security situation in the area but did not establish a significant counter-presence, leaving the population “at the will of the insurgent groups operating in the region.”
“Civilians were not protected and the territory was ceded to arms insurgent groups who operated freely in it, which implicates that the security forces failed in their responsibilities,” read the statement.
The Ministry of Defense denied any responsibility in the death of the merchant.
The State Council has asked the Prosecutor General’s office to “reopen and continue the investigation against the National Liberation Army (ELN), for alleged violations of human rights and international law.”
The ELN is Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, with an estimated military force between 2,000 and 3,000 fighters.
- State Council statement (Consejo del Estado)
- Consejo de Estado pide investigar al ELN por violación a los derechos humanos (El Espectador)