Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Urban False Positive

On August 19, 2011, Diego Felipe Becerra, was gunned down by Wilmer Alarcon, a police officer, reportedly while he had a paint brush in his hand.  Diego Felipe was probably killed because he was illegally painting graffiti on a wall in Bogota, Colombia.  The police turned him into a thief, alleging that the 16-year old graffiti artist, had a gun in his hand and was trying to rob a passenger on a bus.  Police General Francisco Patiño, the highest ranking Police officer involved in the case, reportedly met secretly with the bus driver to get him to falsify his testimony and implicate Diego Felipe in an alleged bus attack that he did not commit.  The Prosecutor’s office is investigating the General’s possible responsibility for the cover-up of the scenario that Diego Felipe was gunned down as an armed delinquent in an exchange of gunfire.  The Prosecution has been able to prove that the Police planted a gun on Diego Felipe and the case is now known as an “urban false positive.” A “false positive” is the term given to the practice of members of the Colombian military who murdered civilians and presented them to authorities as guerrilleros killed in battle, in an effort to inflate body counts and receive promotions or other benefits.  It is noteworthy that the Colombian Senate promoted General Francisco Patiño to Brigadier General two years after this incident.

The Lawyers’ Collective Jose Alvear Restrepo and a number of other organizations on November 24, 2015, have taken the case of Diego Felipe Becerra and four other victims to the Colombian Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of Law 1765, approved on July 23, 2015.  This law restructured Colombian military and police criminal law.  The law contains 129 articles and establishes that the President of Colombia name the Prosecutor for Military and Police Crimes for a period of four years that is not renewable.  The law also creates military and police courts with jurisdiction throughout Colombia.  Since the military criminal jurisdiction is dependent on the executive branch, not the judicial branch, the reform violates basic principles fundamental to the administration of justice, such as autonomy and impartiality. The law extends military jurisdiction to crimes that violate human rights, attacks on the civilian population and the public administration.  It also extends military jurisdiction to those who serve in positions in police and criminal military justice and to retired members of the military who carry out the same functions.   In so far as the law recognizes crimes distinct from those which are inherent in military service it violates the rights of the victims, violates the prohibition against military courts trying civilians and violates the restriction on granting the military judicial police functions.

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