By Felipe Morales Sierra, EL ESPECTADOR, September 12, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Soldiers and police who are responsible for displacement, or takeovers of whole towns, and the use of land mines by the FARC are some of the subjects that the JEP will be investigating. It looks as if there is not yet consensus about investigating sexual violence.

This Monday it will be three weeks since Justice Eduardo Cifuentes, President of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), announced that they would be opening two new macrocases to investigate displacements and forced disappearances attributed to the Armed Forces, and the use of illegal war methods by the FARC. Up until now, the Recognition of the Truth Branch, in charge of opening these cases, has not furnished more details on this new investigation strategy. In the midst of this institutional silence, EL ESPECTADOR obtained access to the documents that will serve as the road map for the investigations. Here are the details.

Specifically, there will be two new macrocases that the JEP has called “umbrella cases”, as they will use a different method from the one used by the Recognition Branch previously. Their strategy is based on comparing reports from victims’ organizations, the Attorney General’s Office, and other entities, such as statements made by courts, to set priorities for beginning to investigate. So, for example, they found that the conduct most often attributed to the Armed Forces was forced displacement, and, of the FARC, they established that, after 1982, there started to be illegal warmaking methods like the use of land mines, taking over whole towns, and attacks on the civilian population.

Militaries and paramilitaries

The JEP’s new strategy, besides responding to a vacuum in the investigation of crucial matters in the war, is also the result of innumerable demands by the victims. Because of that, one of the largest areas that now will be covered by the JEP is the relation between the self-defense forces, the military, and other government actors. “The repertoire of violence used by the organized armed groups that worked jointly with the Armed Forces, or with their acquiescence, covers every kind of brutality that is censured by international criminal law,” says the document prepared by the Information Analysis Group (GRAI) and Justice Óscar Parra.

The document details how these illegal connections will be investigated. In the first part, the authors explain how, after comparing data from different sources, it became clear that this relation led to a hotbed of forced displacement, primarily in two regions: Greater Magdalena (Cesar, Magdalena, and La Guajira) and Montes de Maria. Because of that, those two regions will be prioritized in subcases of the “umbrella” of the military. According to GRAI data, between 1997 and 2004 there were crimes related to the conflict in every municipality of Greater Magdalena, for a total of 814,914 events. More than 500,000 were attributed to agents of the government or paramilitaries.

“The available information and the reports we have reviewed permit the inference that many of the events of massive forced displacement that occurred in the period we investigated (1997-2004) implied the participation of members of the Armed Forces, by action or omission,” states one of the documents this paper has received. The bombings in the areas where there is civilian population and the failure to intervene to impede an imminent massacre are some of the possible patterns identified by the JEP. Furthermore, in the documents, there are names of high-ranking Army commanders that could be called to answer for what happened.

Among those are: Retired General Iván Ramírez Quintero, who commanded the Army’s 1st Division, with jurisdiction in the Caribbean, between 1995 and 1997; Retired General Freddy Padilla, who was the commander of the 2d Brigade, with influence in the area, between 1988 and 2,000, and even Retired General Nicacio Martínez, who was in the region with various responsibilities between 2000 and 2004.

In Montes de María the Recognition Branch will concentrate on what happened between 1996 and 2007. The JEP has identified eleven massacres that “precipitated massive and individual displacements that illustrate a pattern and call attention to the alleged responsibility of several members of the Armed Forces,” in a number of events.

According to the JEP document, those patterns were shown in events like the massacre at Pichilín, that took place in December of 1996; going on to the one at El Salado, in February of 2000, up to the one at Chengue, In January 2001. In all of those cases, Police and military failed to do their duty, were complicit in the activities, or participated directly. Those massacres were the prelude to the paramilitary incursion into Montes de María and, according to the data collected by the GRAI of the JEP, in all of them there was evidence, such as testimony and documents, that the Armed Forces played a role in some phase of the crime.

For example, at the time of planning massacres such as the one at Chengue, there were meetings between paramilitaries and the military. Pichilín is another case where, it appears, members of the Marine Corps turned over a list of people they said were “guerrillas” in the town; and later, to cover up what had happened, they threatened and murdered judicial officials, as happened with Yolanda Paternina, the prosecutor at Chengue. The victims have mentioned in the reports a possible role in this seguidilla of massacres of the then-commander of Police in Bolívar and Sucre, Carlos Eduardo Devia (now Chief of Security for the Judicial Branch) and Rodolfo Palomino (former commander of the Police), respectively.

Even though the documents seen by EL ESPECTADOR admit that “there are not other explicit elements that highlight their responsibility,” the plan does recommend as a next step that the Justices of the Recognition Branch summon them and other military to furnish voluntary testimony.

The FARC against civilians

The use of land mines, the takeover of towns, and the attacks against civilians by the FARC will be investigated in the second “umbrella” case, which will concentrate on the use of illegal methods of warfare, which are crimes for which amnesty is not available. In order to determine what happened, the Recognition Branch will concentrate on investigating the responsibilities of organizations. “The Eastern Bloc of the FARC was identified as being responsible in 43 cases, followed by the Western Bloc (39 cases), the Northwestern Bloc (37 cases), and the Southern Bloc (36 cases),” according to the documents seen by this newspaper. And there were reasons for the shameful record of each of them.

In the case of the Eastern Bloc, actions like the takeover of Pasca in 1994, and Cabrera in 1997, both in Cundinamarca, as well as other episodes in Meta that, according to the JEP, “were part of an attempt to establish a strategic route and the territorial and roadway control from that municipality in Meta Province, to get closer to the capital of the country.”

In the case of the Western Bloc, which was based in Cauca, it became famous for its “people’s artillery”—homemade missiles and explosives–, having set off an exploding goat and other actions in which, apparently, they were trying to surround the enemy by means of indiscriminate attacks. There was a total of 1,974 victims of this kind of crime by the now-defunct FARC.

The urban war

The assassination of the conservative leader Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, the assassination of General Fernando Landazábal, the killing of the guerrilla Hernando Pizarro Leongómez and other crimes that have been admitted by leaders of the now-defunct FARC, are attributed to urban organizations of guerrillas.  “The Branch must analyze whether it is competent to study these events, by analyzing whether these were acts that, based on the evidence available, could be attributed to the FARC-EP,” says one of the documents EL ESPECTADOR has seen. It details how the insurgent militias were involved in a succession of events that could merit opening another subcase.

Congress Member Julián Gallo (who was known as Carlos Antonio Lozada), told the JEP that in 1983 the FARC already had at least thirteen urban organizations with political functions. The armed actions, allegedly, began in 1991 with the massacre at Usme, where, according to Gallos’s testimony, 30 members of the Antonio Nariño Urban Network (RUAN), which he commanded, set off explosives against a judicial commission that was investigating the murder of the leader Julio Cesar Naranjo. And, later, in 1993, the FARC agreed to strengthen the urban organizations in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and some other cities. Their actions will now pass under the scrutiny of the Recognition Branch.

Sexual violence

Justice Cifuentes announced that in these “umbrella” cases, they would investigate sexual violence, which has been an insistent plea from the victims, from women’s movements, and even the Inspector General, along with international agencies. Apparently, the Recognition Branch has not reached agreement as to how that type of violence should be investigated. There are some who ask that a separate macrocase be focused on sexual crimes, and others request that the line already announced by the President of the JEP ought to be continued. That means, as an act that was only committed along with others. That last option is the one reflected in the documents that EL ESPECTADOR has seen.

In the 151 sexual crimes attributable to the Armed Forces, the JEP has identified six patterns that could be seen in these acts of violence. One is that the sexual violence was used to punish women for being “guerrillas”. Or it was a way of showing subjection of the women’s bodies, which happened in operations, in combat, or in massacres in connivance with paramilitaries. It may have been committed because of prejudice against individuals with different sexuality, or prejudice against Afro-Colombians or indigenous people. The final pattern refers to violence in the ranks, where there has been sexual violence as a way of emphasizing authority.

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