The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) has made accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity against 35 soldiers, including five generals (r), in relation to events that occurred in Huila between 2005 and 2008. These events, which cover 200 murders , 32 forced disappearances and eight attempted homicides are attributed to both retired and active members of the National Army.
Diario del Huila, Investigation
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) charged war crimes and crimes against humanity to 35 retired and active soldiers from four units of the National Army that operated in Huila for 200 murders, including 32 forced disappearances, in addition to eight attempted homicides.
These are the Infantry Battalion No. 26 ‘Cacique Pigoanza’ (BIPIG), the Infantry Battalion No. 27 ‘Magdalena’ (BIMAG), the Urban Special Forces Group No. 11 (AFEUR 11) and the IX Brigade. The four military units prioritized in the investigation reported a total of 264 deaths between 2005 and 2008. However, in reality, 192 homicides were committed against people out of combat.
Within the framework of Case 03, which investigates murders and forced disappearances presented as combat casualties, the JEP decided to accuse three former commanders of the IX Brigade as perpetrators by omission: Major General Miguel Ernesto Pérez Guarnizo, General (r) Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla Villamizar, who became commander of the National Army and Brigadier General William Fernando Pérez Laiseca.
The Chamber stressed that the accused generals had to protect the legal rights of the population, effectively control their subordinates and, despite having reasonable measures at their disposal to do so, they failed to comply with their constitutional obligations.
The actions of the three senior officers conveyed the perception that the IX Brigade allowed the irregular launching of operations to perpetrate homicides under the modality of simulated combat and, with this, that it was possible to resort to the irregular payment of rewards to finance them. The pressures occurred in a context of strict military hierarchy, lack of effective control and the imposition of combat deaths as the only indicator of military success.
In the case of the major generals (r) Édgar Alberto Rodríguez Sánchez and Marcos Evangelista Pinto Lizarazo, along with the 30 appearing parties who served as members of the platoons, platoon and company commanders of the four prioritized units, all must respond on their own behalf. of co-authors for the crimes they are accused of.
The Chamber considers that these uniformed officers followed a common agreement, with division of criminal labor and made essential contributions in the planning, execution and cover-up phases of the events.
The Chamber called on 14 former members of the Infantry Battalion No. 26 ‘Cacique Pigoanza’ to publicly acknowledge their responsibility: Colonel (r) Carlos Yair Salamanca Robles; lieutenant colonels (r) Orlando Pico Rivera, Ricardo Andrés López García, Luis Carlos Aguilera Quintero, Domingo Peña Cepeda, Jair Arias Sánchez and active colonels Alejandro León Campos and Faiver Coronado Camero; the captains (r) Jesús Mauricio Jiménez Botina and Miller Damián Forero Cruz; the vice first sergeant (r) Jhon Esteban Urueta Ballesteros and the professional soldiers (r) Luis Rodolfo Mulcué Sanza, Willinton Espinosa Baquero and Roberto Yesid Quintero Quintero.
Likewise, the Court charged, as the most responsible, 14 former members of the Infantry Battalion No. 27 ‘Magdalena’. Among them, lieutenant colonels (r) Mario Hernán Duarte Méndez and Ómar Oswaldo Ojeda Oliva; the elders (r) Francisco Adrián Álvarez Calderón and Ángel Fernando Carvajal Rojas, in addition to two active elders, Félix Juan Carlos Araque Leal and Julián Andrés Calderón Motta; Captain (r) Carlos Mahecha Bernal; Vice First Sergeant (r) Desaix de Jesús Palomino Mejía; First Sergeant (r) Fernando Riveros Sarmiento; second sergeants (r) William Andrés Capera Vargas and Carlos Rodríguez Vera; the first corporal (r) José Roldán López Cerón and the professional soldiers José Yaty Anacona Bueno and Francisco Javier Castañeda Alfaro.
In addition, they charged two members of the Urban Special Forces No. 11: Lieutenant Colonel (r) Leonardo Ayala Remolina and Major (r) Felipe Andrés Ramírez Gómez.
Beyond the individual criminal responsibility attributed to them in the Huila Subcase, the JEP Chamber observed a systemic failure of the institutions, military and civil, in charge of protecting the population in Huila. The available control mechanisms failed or were insufficient to protect the legal rights of the most vulnerable people. And measures were only adopted when the atrocities became known to the public.
Although the JEP heard the version of Lieutenant Colonel (r) Martín Orlando Galindo Páez, former commander of the BIMAG, and six officers (majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels) members of the General Staff of the IX Brigade, it did not charge any of them, since the Chamber considered that there are not sufficient bases to consider them most responsible. For this reason, all of them will be sent along with 187 other members of the public force and 453 other people mentioned in reports and versions to the Chamber for Defining Legal Situations to resolve their legal situation.
What are they responsible for?
After exhaustively analyzing the reports presented by victims’ organizations and State institutions, as well as the abundant material collected, the Recognition Chamber decided to call the 35 appearing parties to acknowledge responsibility for having committed crimes in light of the Penal Code and war crimes. and against humanity, according to the Rome Statute.
Between 2005 and 2008, the largest number of victimizing events documented by the JEP occurred in Huila. This increase coincides with the increase in cases of murders and forced disappearances perpetrated by members of the public force, as has been observed in other regions of the country.
The judicial findings indicate that there are clear communicating vessels between the six subcases prioritized in the investigation of Case 03. Although these are places very distant from each other and people who did not know each other, the evidence points to the fact that those responsible ended up committing similar crimes, for the same motivations, and with similar ways of acting (criminal modalities).
In the Huila Subcase, the JEP documented the existence of a policy (pressure due to combat casualties as the only valid tangential operational result), materialized through three macrocriminal patterns. Unlike the findings in other investigations of Case 03, here the patterns did not have substantial temporal variations, nor did the demobilization of the AUC take place in the background.
The first macrocriminal pattern identified in Huila is that of stigmatization of victims through arbitrary accusations of belonging to an armed group.
Those affected were residents of the region who suffered surveillance, collective arrests, harassment and intimidation years or months before the operations in which they were murdered.
These actions were based on intelligence activities that contradicted the procedures of military doctrine. Juan Cristóbal Alvarado, identified as a Farc-EP militiaman by a guide, was murdered in front of his 5-year-old son, this is what happened.
They implanted a short weapon in Mr. Alvarado, which had been seized and not reported. The soldiers distributed a little more than 100 thousand pesos that they found in the victim’s pockets, and they themselves carried out the removal of the body.
This crime is one of the 16 illustrative cases that show that elderly people were attacked in front of children, and civilian guides were used who were then murdered and presented as casualties.
The second pattern is that of deceiving people by taking advantage of their vulnerable conditions. The victims were not considered members or allies of the enemy, but were attracted or recruited by members of the troops or by civilians who, for economic compensation, convinced them under deception to be transferred from areas such as Garzón, Pitalito or Neiva to places where They ended up being murdered.
Most of them are vulnerable people due to economic circumstances, displacement, without a fixed address, or homeless people, with problematic substance use, which made questions and investigations about them less likely.
The places where this criminal pattern was deployed correspond to areas where military units were expected to be present and provide operational results against the FARC-EP. This is what happened with the homicides and forced disappearances of Miller Andrés Blandón Álvarez, Juan Diego Martínez and Álvaro Hernando Ramírez, in July 2008.
The three victims were contacted and transferred from Neiva to Pitalito. According to what those responsible revealed, in their versions before the JEP, the crimes were perpetrated after BIMAG soldiers posed as farmers looking for labor to pick coffee. In the case of Blandón Álvarez, the crime transcended, because the victim was known as “the human statue.” Every day he stood, painted white, in front of the Neiva Courthouse.
The third pattern is that of carrying out actions against alleged common crime and/or FARC-EP militias contrary to the guidelines of IHL, International Human Rights Law and military doctrine. These operations originated from false complaints and information about alleged activities of common crime and/or militiamen.
During the investigation, one of the public force witnesses admitted having suggested Éver Urquina Rojas as the person who could be presented as a combat casualty, since he had allegedly participated in the theft of a motorcycle he owned.
The crime, which was perpetrated in January 2008, occurred after setting up a false checkpoint where the victim was detained, forced to change his clothes for a sweatshirt, black sweatshirt and rubber boots, before being implanted with a weapon. and a bag with pentolite.
After being notified, the 35 defendants have 30 business days to acknowledge the facts and their responsibility or reject them. They can also react, providing arguments or additional evidence. For their part, accredited victims and the Public Ministry have the same period to present their observations regarding what was determined in the order.
Once the time expires, the JEP will decide whether to set a date for a Public Hearing for the Recognition of Truth, considering that there is recognition and contribution to the full truth. This hearing or hearings will be prepared and developed with the participation of the victims. If those appearing deny their responsibility, the case will be sent to the Investigation and Prosecution Unit (UIA) of the JEP.