By Hernando Gómez Buendía, EL ESPECTADOR, February 27, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
There weren’t 2,248 false positives between 1988 and 2014. There were 6,402 between 2002 and 2008. This is the reason for the scandal.
That is also the principal contribution that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace has made to the justice system. But the contribution is grotesquely insufficient, and besides, it shows how up to now, the most fundamental things have been distorted in Colombia. To say it in one line: the JEP has done us the favor of applying its understated justice to an atrocity that otherwise would remain in complete impunity, and nevertheless is so horrible that it ought not even be under the JEP’s radar.
The reason is simple: the false positives were not war crimes, nor were they committed “on the occasion of or in the context of an internal armed conflict”. Its victim was not a guerrilla, not a member of an urban network, not a clandestine accomplice, not a sympathizer, not a campesino who collaborated with the insurgency out of fear of reprisal, and not even a suspect, substantiated or unsubstantiated, of any of these things. The motives for these atrocious crimes were not part of the war, where you kill to defend yourself, to force the enemy to surrender, to obtain information or other benefit, to send a message of terror, or to satisfy a visceral hatred.
The victim of a false positive was any nonentity whose corpse would serve to inflate the kill statistics of the Armed Forces, and to gain a bonus, a promotion, or a few days off. Because of that, it’s a crime that can’t be compared to or treated in the same manner as the forced disappearances, the tortures, the massacres, the pipettes of gas, the chainsaws, the hit men on motorcycles, the kidnappings, the rapes, the pipeline explosions, or the fires.
Filth never justifies another filth, but the false positives were a great contribution by Colombia to the world’s history of filth. I for one don’t know of another country where so many people have been murdered just to be able to say that they were dead.
This crime is worse than those of the guerrillas or of the paramilitaries because those two were designated outlaws, whereas we entrust weapons to soldiers on the absolute condition that they will not violate the law. And it’s worse because 2,248 or 6,402 deaths cannot be isolated cases; nor can they happen without a large number of accomplices, nor without the knowledge of the commanders, nor without the government noticing that something strange is taking place.
But in 24 years, not one of the seven Presidents and their Defense Ministers has taken responsibility. In every case they did not do what it would take to put an end to this monstrosity. The President that won the war, he who went down in history for his obsessive attention to every detail of military action, the one that was in charge when the 6,402 nonentities died, and defended it by saying that it was just a little more than 4000 and that the JEP should not be believed because the Justices had been “appointed by the FARC.”
President Duque, for his part, limited himself to saying that these cases ought to be “investigated one by one”, that “we are waiting for the JEP to make progress on recruitment of children and kidnapping”, that the Court “should not be using microphones to do its work.” The Democratic Center Party in unison, and the many Colombians who supported the administration between 2002 and 2010 say, and tell us, that it’s not that serious because the guerrillas were awful criminals: “These examples were mistakes, but the killings by the guerrillas were horrors.” That’s the slogan they use as solace and as a dodge.
That pathetic moral asymmetry, that capacity for covering up the filth, claiming that there’s other filth, is the greatest disgrace to Colombia; and the reason, that neither the ordinary justice system nor the JEP will be able to achieve the celebrated and lied-about “reconciliation” among Colombians.