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    Colombian troops in Bogota | Photo: Pixabay

Published 8 August 2019

"It has been a very long and very hard process, because it has led to threats and persecution by the soldiers of the ‘third army brigade’ as well as from paramilitary groups"

Seven members of Colombia’s armed forces were sentenced Thursday, to 34 years in prison for carrying out an extrajudicial killing. The sentence overturned a ruling last year that absolved the troops of responsibility. The killing was part of the ‘false positives’ scandal, whereby civilians were murdered and then dressed in guerilla uniforms so that soldiers could claim rewards.

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In 2006, seven soldiers killed José Orlando Giraldo Barrera, a Campesino from the Cauca Valley. It was established that the soldiers kidnapped Giraldo from his farm, then shot him numerous times and dressed him in a FARC uniform. The aim was to inflate guerilla body counts so as to claim government rewards, promotions and sometimes to justify U.S. military aid packages. Over 10,000 mostly poor Colombians have been killed in this way by Colombia’s armed forces.  

The seven soldiers were charged as “criminally responsible co-authors for the crimes of aggravated homicide...concealment, alteration and destruction of material evidence.” They were handed 34-year prison sentences, along with hefty fines and a ban from ever holding public office. 

Giraldo’s son spoke to local media following the verdict, saying "It has been a very long and very hard process, because it has led to threats and persecution by the soldiers of the ‘third army brigade’ as well as from paramilitary groups...there are also other senior officers who were the intellectual authors of my father's murder, but who have not been prosecuted or investigated."

Despite jail sentences being handed out for this killing, impunity for state crimes remains rampant. Since the signing of the peace agreements in 2016, at least 710 social activists and 138 ex-guerrilla fighters have been murdered by paramilitary forces with close ties to drug cartels and the state.

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