Sunday, January 17, 2016

Human rights violations committed by the military must be tried in ordinary, not military, tribunals

Corte Suprema tumbó fallo que absolvió a dos militares por "falso positivo"

The Penal Chamber of the Colombian Supreme Court overturned the judgment of the Superior Military Tribunal of June 7, 2005 that confirmed the decision issued November 23, 2004 by the lower military court, which had acquitted the two defendants, Major Hernan Carrera Sanabria and the (volunteer) soldier Alexander Bonilla Collazos, of the charges of aggravated and attempted homicide. The case is considered one of the so-called "false positives" in which the military killed a poor or otherwise marginalized individual and claimed that the victim was a member of the FARC.

The military alleged that on April 16, 1993, Artillery Batallion No. 2 of Nueva Granada de Barrancabermeja was patrolling in the area when a man shot at them and used a woman and child as human shields.  He allegedly threw a grenade at them.  The versions of the military, however, were inconsistent and witnesses testified that in reality the patrol arrived at the home of a family that was watching TV and began to yell insults at them and to call the victim a "guerrillero."  Once inside the home they shot Leonel de Jesus Isaza Echeverry and tried to get his wife to pick up a gun and shoot. She refused and the military threw a grenade into the house which wounded the four persons who lived there, including the victim's mother and four-year-old child.  Echeverry died.

The case had been brought to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which issued its decision on April 6, 2001, finding violation of the rights to life, personal integrity, access to justice and due process and most importantly recommending that the case be investigated by ordinary and not military jurisdiction. The Colombian Supreme Court indicated that the military justice system had failed to comply with the commitment it made to the IACHR to investigate and judge members of the military implicated in the so-called "false positives."  The Supreme Court sent the case to the Attorney General (Fiscalia General) so that the ordinary criminal justice system could renew the investigation against the two members of the military.

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