COLOMBIA TRUTH COMMISSION, August 26, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
On August 26, the Truth Commission began its route toward the dignifying of the victims of extrajudicial executions, the phenomenon known as “false positives”, and the admission of responsibility.
One of the events that demonstrate the magnitude of the degradation reached in Colombia’s armed conflict is the phenomenon of the extrajudicial executions, popularly known as “false positives”. Because of that, for the Truth Commission, creating a space to listen to the victims and promote public recognition of responsibilities, so as to give the victims some dignity, was fundamental for formulating recommendations that will be contained in its final report to the country.
The extrajudicial executions are catalogued as a crime against humanity. Even though it’s something that has taken place in Colombia even as far back as 1978, according to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH in Spanish), in 2008 it was the focus of public opinion because of the discovery of the remains of 19 young men who had disappeared, and who had been presented by the Colombian Army as guerrillas killed in combat.
The Truth Commission undertook its process of learning the truth about those events on August 20, 2019, when the National Movement of Victims of Crimes by the Government (Movice in Spanish) requested the commencement of a plan for an investigation that would approach this phenomenon. In 2020 they began the task of generating public recognition, starting with testimonies by the victims. The purpose was to provide contexts that could explain to the rest of society the dimensions and complexities of this serious violation of human rights, and also to make more visible its impact on the lives of thousands of families, the ways in which they were coping and enduring, and also the work of the organizations that had accompanied the investigations of the cases.
Along with the work being done by the Integrated System for Peace, we should mention that on February 18 of this year, in the Recognition Branch of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), that court prioritized six regions in the macro case of extrajudicial executions. That macro case was created by Order 033 in 2021, and refers to the phenomenon as “deaths of persons illegally presented by agents of the government as killed in combat”, and numbers the cases as 6,402 in the period between 2002 and 2008.
According to the JEP, during this period, the events took place in 31 of the 32 provinces in the country, but they were mostly concentrated in nine of them, with 76.2% of the cases investigated. Antioquia was the region that had the highest percentage (29.48%). However, the high number of disappeared persons associated with this crime permits the suspicion that there could be many more victims.
How will be the path toward the recognition of the extrajudicial executions work?
In the process of recognizing the extrajudicial executions, the Commission will carry forward a series of territorial gatherings. Their purpose will be to listen to the different testimonies and dignify the victims.
The first gathering will be centered in the region of Orinoquía and will take place in the city of Villavicencio in Meta Province this Thursday, August 26. The second will be centered in Antioquia and will take place in Medellín on Saturday, September 4. The territorial meeting for the middle part of the eastern region will be in Cúcuta, Norte de Santander Province, on Sunday, September 5. On Monday, September 6 there will be a meeting in the city of Valledupar, in Cesar Province, focused on the Caribbean, and finally, on September 7, there will be a meeting for the southern area and the Pacific in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca. The testimonies that are collected throughout these five meetings will allow a Gathering to Seek Truth, to be held at the national level, where the struggles of the victims’ families will be recognized, especially that of the mothers of the young men killed or disappeared. They are an example of endurance and persistence.
In a second part of the path to recognition, there will be a place for contribution to the full truth by some of those responsible that belong to the Committee for Reconciliation, made up of direct witnesses that were members of the Armed Forces.
Finally, there will be pubic admissions of responsibility in Tolú (Sucre Province), Yopal (Casanare Province), and Soacha (Cundinamarca Province). In these proceedings, there will be participation by a Major and two Colonels of the Colombian Army. The result of these gatherings will lead to the conclusion with a national Gathering to Seek Truth, centered on the admission of responsibility by members of the Armed Forces.
The Commission sees this path as an opportunity to support understanding of what took place, to dignify the victims and their families and, with the admission of responsibilities, satisfying the demands for the truth that would strengthen the endurance of those who were affected by it.