El Espectador, Bogotá, March 5, 2019
Translated by CSN Volunteer Eunice Gibson
Editor’s note: As this article explains, the Mothers of Soacha (Madres de Soacha) is an organization of women in the low-income Bogotá neighborhood of the same name whose children, young men who were not involved in the armed conflict, were systematically targeted, murdered, and presented subsequently as insurgents killed-in-action by the Colombian Army in 2008.
Today at a public hearing, the women are arguing to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace that these crimes, where young men were murdered by members of the Armed Forces and later reported as killed in combat, were motivated by desire for personal benefit.
Carmenza Gómez, Idalí Garcerá, Luz Edilia Palacios, Edilma Vargas and Mélida Bermúdez, are mothers of five young men from Soacha who were murdered and presented as guerrillas killed in combat by members of the Colombian Army’s 15th Mobile Brigade. They will appear before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP in Spanish) beginning at 9:00 a.m. Also present will be Col. Gabriel de Jesús Rincón Armado, Chief of Operations of the Brigade’s José Joaquín Vargas Battalion. He submitted to the JEP after being sentenced to 47 years in prison for permitting the operations in which these young men were murdered.
This public hearing will be the first one in which only the testimony of the victims (https://colombia2020.elespectador.com/jep/jep-escuchara-las-victimas-de-falsos-positivos) will be heard. They and their attorneys will present their argument to the effect that the so-called “false positives” were not related to or because of the armed conflict. Carmenza Gómez, the mother of Víctor Fernando Gómez Romero, insists that they are crimes committed by the government because they were motivated by desire for personal benefits, such as time off or promotions, that the soldiers could obtain by presenting the most “kills” in combat.
Carolina Daza, the attorney for the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, which represents Idalí Garcerá, states that what they are seeking in this hearing is the guarantee that, in the JEP, there will be a truth that it not only legal but also complete: “These women have now spent ten years in legal proceedings. They already know what happened. What they ask for is that, using their own names, soldiers such as Rincón Amado, explain in detail why they committed these crimes.”
The Colombia Commission of Jurists (CCJ in Spanish), which also represents the victims, maintains that there are two truths in this case: what really happened, and what the Armed Forces says happened. “Based on what the military says, a person could think that the extrajudicial executions were within the armed conflict. They say that these were armed men wearing clothing that identified them as guerrillas. But the truth is that they were just citizens that they seized, dressed in camouflage, murdered, and buried. You cannot find any relation to the conflict there. The conflict would not include actions like that,” says Juan Carlos Ospina, attorney for the CCJ.
This hearing will be conducted in compliance with a decision by the JEP’s Appellate Section, which decided to hear the arguments offered by the victims of Col. Rincón Armado. That decision responded to a motion filed by Attorney Daza, which requested that the victims be notified of all the legal proceedings and of the freeing of the 21 soldiers who had been convicted in the regular legal system. (https://colombia2020.elespectador.com/jep/piden-avances-en-casos-de-generales-cuestionados-por-ejecuciones-extrajudiciales).
“What we hope is not that the extrajudicial executions leave the JEP, but that they are evaluated by other criteria. For example, [we hope] that the fact that these young men were exercising some leadership in their community [will] be considered [along with the fact] that, under international humanitarian law, they were not taking any part in the armed confrontation,” explained Attorney Daza.
Another argument employed by the CCJ to demonstrate that the false positives were not part of the context of the war is that the deaths of these young men provided no military advantage to the Army. “Far from seeking an advantage in the war against their armed adversary, the soldiers were neglecting their duty in the war. Instead of fighting they were searching in the cities for innocent people to seize them and present them falsely as if they had been killed in combat.”
The false positives are Case 003, opened by the JEP in July 2018 (https://colombia2020.elespectador.com/jep/queremos-una-verdad-profunda-sobre-los-falsos-positivos-madres-de-soacha). Fifty-five soldiers involved in these investigations have already given their voluntary statements on this crime. On two occasions already, Col. Rincón Amado has related his version of what happened before the JEP Branch for Truth, Responsibility, and Determination of the Facts and the Conducts.