News You Really Need To See: “Report: Colombian Military Killed More Civilians than Was Thought”

“Report: Colombian Military Killed More Civilians than Was Thought”

The Washington Post, June 24, 2015, p.A10

In a twisted attempt to show battlefield success against FARC rebels, the Colombian military killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilians between 2002 and 2008, falsely depicting them as slain combatants, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.  The killings, known as ‘false positives,’ were the source of a huge scandal in 2008, but the new report alleges that the practice was far more extensive and systematic than previously known.  Many of Colombia’s highest-ranking military officials either condoned the practice or did nothing to stop it, according to the rights group.  ‘Under pressure from superiors to show ‘positive’ results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses — such as with promises of work — killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action,’ the report states. … False-positive killings allegedly peaked during the period described in the report, when then-President Álvaro Uribe escalated the fight against FARC and took back large swaths of rebel-held territory. …During that time, commanding officers placed heavy emphasis on ‘combat kills’ as a measure of military success, the report says, in some cases rewarding troops with cash payments and vacation time.  Soldiers abducted rural peasants, drug addicts, the homeless and petty criminals, killing them and dressing them in combat fatigues, then filling out bogus battlefield reports to pad fatality numbers. … Colombian prosecutors are investigating more than 3,000 allegations of false-positive killings, the report said.  Although about 800 soldiers have been charged, most of them are lower-ranking.”

Quickie analysis: Horrifying.  This is another reason not to use body counts as a measure of success in fighting an insurgency.

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