The United Nations condemned Colombia’s FARC rebel group Sunday for the deaths of two policemen, urging the country’s largest rebel group to hand over the individuals responsible for kidnapping, torturing and murdering the officers.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights asked the FARC to “deliver the militants responsible to the Attorney General, to facilitate the process of investigation, prosecution and punishment,” according to Semana magazine.
The UN’s statement was echoed by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, who urged the FARC to handover the “assassins” responsible for the attack.
The incident in question involved two police officers in the southwestern state of Nariño, who were kidnapped last week during the course of duty and were apparently beaten with blunt objects before being killed and dumped in the jungle.
The officers’ bodies, later identified as Major German Mendez and patrolman Luis Felipe Muñoz, were discovered by a river in the Tumaco municipality, near where they were initially kidnapped.
For much of the week, accusations swirled that the FARC, which maintains an active presence in the region, was responsible for the killing, though no concrete evidence was presented.
FARC Commander alias “Rodrigo Granda” promised an internal investigation, and in a statement released Saturday on the FARC’s website, the guerrillas claimed responsibility for the attack, asserting that the rebels who had detained the police officers felt forced to execute their captives amid military operations tracking the victims.
“The officer and the patrolman were in the township of San Luis Robles, dressed as civilians and carrying out tasks related to the consolidation as part of the Spade of Honor II Plan,” an ongoing offensive against illegal armed groups in the southwest of Colombia, said the FARC.
“In this condition, they were apprehended by fighters of the Daniel Aldana column of the FARC-EP,” the rebel command continued.
Instead of handing the prisoners to humanitarian organizations, as had been requested, the rebel captors executed the policemen, saying that the manhunt which sent “dozens of helicopters” after the policemen caused panic within the ranks and impeded the rebels from contacting their superiors to coordinate a release.
“The fighters who were holding them felt forced to act against them,” said the FARC leadership.
According to the medical examiner’s office, the policemen were beaten to death by unidentified blunt objects.
FARC negotiators have been engaged in bilateral peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba, since November 2012. According to the FARC’s Central Command, these talks offer “the only viable, civilized and humane alternative to put an end to this lengthy confrontation.”
The attack means the rebel group has broken a good will promise made at the start of peace talks to end its longstanding practice of kidnapping throughout the country.
Presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a vocal critic of the talks, demanded the government pull out of the negotiation table, as the double execution represents an “infringement of the peace process.”
President Juan Manuel Santos, who initiated negotiations with the FARC, called the double homicide a “cowardly assassination” that “will not go unpunished.”
Despite the relative success of peace talks to date, no ceasefire agreement was ever put in place as part of the negotiations.
The FARC did not mention in its statement whether it would be submitting the rebels involved in the killings to civilian justice proceedings, or administering any internal punishments.