A lawyer representing victims of a notorious 1997 paramilitary massacre in central Colombia has asked the Supreme Court to investigate former general Rito Alejo del Rio for his alleged complicity in the murders, national media reported Wednesday.
One day after the Supreme Court confirmed a 37-year prison sentence for General Jaime Humberto Uscategui for his responsibility in the Mapiripan massacre, a lawyer called on the Supreme Court to investigate former general Rito Alejo del Rio for his involvement in the same incident, reported La Vanguardia Wednesday.
The criminal division of the Supreme Court found that Uscategui, then a high officer in the National Army, was the “author by omission” of the aggravated murder and kidnappings that comprised what has since become known as the Mapiripan Massacre.
Eduardo Carreno, representing the victims of Mapiripan, said that Del Rio should also be investigated for his “actions of omission in this slaughter, having worked with paramilitaries and facilitated their movements out of the Necocli and Apartado airports…. in two planes.”
Del Rio, who was then commander of the Colombian army’s 17th Brigade and in charge of the northwestern Uraba region, is currently serving a 25-year sentence for the murder and dismemberment of a village leader during a joint military-paramilitary operation in Choco in 1997.
The Mapiripan Massacre
The events now known as the Mapiripan Massacre — perhaps the most gruesome in the long, bloody history of Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict — began on July 15, 1997, when at least 140 paramilitary troops under the now-defunct AUC paramilitary umbrella group descended into the town of Mapiripan, a former stronghold of the FARC rebel group in the central state of Meta.
Over the course of the next four days, the paramilitaries slaughtered at least 49 villagers, one by one, first torturing their victims and later dismembering them using chainsaws and machetes.
Body parts were strewn along the streets, and more than 70 people were left missing following the incident. Many more corpses were hacked apart and disposed of in a nearby river, making the exact death toll impossible to determine.
Demobilized paramilitaries would go on to testify that the massacre had been planned months in advance, and had in many cases been carried out with the direct collusion of military and police forces, who escorted the paramilitaries to the town and then ignored repeated calls for aid throughout the four-day butchery.
The Supreme Court’s judgment on Tuesday ruled that Uscategui, then commander of the Seventh Army Brigade, was complicit in the crimes committed by the AUC.
To date, Uscategui is the most high-ranking official to be condemned for the massacre.
Uscategui had already been convicted of murder by lesser Colombian courts, but had repeatedly professed his ignorance to the plot carried out by his unit. The testimony of demobilized paramilitaries paints a more coordinated picture of the military’s involvement in the massacre.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Uscategui had been promptly informed of the violent takeover of Mapiripan by paramilitary forces, but in a “voluntary omission,” did nothing to protect innocent civilians in the town.
Government alliances in Colombia’s 3 sided armed conflict
AUC paramilitaries, or Self Defense Forces of Colombia, fought against left-wing FARC guerrillas for decades until the AUC officially disbanded in 2006 in an amnesty deal with the Colombian government.
Illicit ties between the AUC and members of the coalition and government of then-President Alvaro Uribe were made public in 2006, after computers seized from a demobilized paramilitary warlord showed that paramilitaries had signed pacts with politicians to “refound” the motherland.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics scandal
Former paramilitary leaders talking
On Wednesday, a former Colombian drug trafficker and paramilitary financier declared that former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe extradited him to the US to keep him from talking about high-ranking officials with paramilitary ties, according to an interview with W Radio.
Juan Carlos Sierra, alias “El Tuso,” spoke to W radio from the United States, where he currently lives in freedom.
“I was extradited to not tell the truth,” said Sierra.
Another former senior AUC commander Martin Llanos, arrested in 2012, released a statement in April saying that he is willing to testify against at least 50 Colombian military and civilian officials who were complicit in the paramilitary’s criminal activities.
Llanos, whose real name is Hector German Buitrago, claimed that he was the only paramilitary commander not permitted to demobilize his troops in 2005, as well as the only paramilitary commander who “never fought” alongside government troops during the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe.
- En firme condena contra general (r) Uscátegui por masacre de Mapiripán (El Tiempo)
- Corte Suprema confirma la condena contra el general (r) Uscátegui (Caracol Radio)
- COMUNICADO 07/14 SALA PENAL (Colombia Supreme Court website)
- Víctimas piden investigar a Rito Alejo del Río por Mapiripán (Vanguardia)
- Exclusiva: Juan Carlos Sierra, alias el Tuso Sierra, habla con La W desde EE.UU. (W Radio)