‘Finally the state has had to admit that it’s agents have perpetrated murders and disappearances’ Article by Ivan Cepeda, Coordinator of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), published in El Espectador 9.11.08
Hundreds, probably thousands, of people disappeared and later executed by the national army. Carefully selected: the majority young men and women from poor sectors of society, or people who suffered from mental illnesses.
Recruited with false promises, kidnapped, or arbitrarily detained. Transported hundreds of kilometres from their home areas to be executed. Presented as terrorists or militia members: uniformed and armed in order to make them look like deaths ‘in combat’.
And later, the announcements of the latest success of the government’s ‘democratic security’ policy, statistics which show that the numbers of enemies fallen in combat run into the thousands. After years of discussion over state criminality, finally, thanks to irrefutable evidence collected through the patient work of human rights organisations, the state has had to admit that its agents have perpetrated murders and disappearances. In making this acceptance, the government has distorted the reality. President Alvaro Uribe wants the public to believe that those responsible are individuals who have allied with criminal gangs to create a lucrative business. The ‘devious individuals’ theory is the government’s way of covering up the terrifying reality of the system’s crimes. In other words- the reality of acts committed with insititutional patterns which incrimínate high ranking military figures, the national government, and President Uribe himself as the first in command of the armed forces and strategist of the government’s ‘democratic security’ policy.
The ‘devious individuals’ theory is an insult to one’s intelligence. The industry and resources required to eliminate hundreds of civilians are huge. It requires compiling meticulous information about victims so that their disappearance doesn’t leave a trace; logistical sophistication which requires substantial resources; the co-ordinated participation of numerous military figures who will vouch for every step of every individual operation in which a ‘false positive’ is produced; and the elaboration of a discourse which convincingly covers up the extra-judicial executions and presents them as successes in the fight against armed groups.
The admission that state crimes do exist still isn’t enough. It must be extended to the recognition of the systematic nature of these crimes, and appropriate forms of justice must be developed to punish those responsable.
High ranking state officials, as much in the executive as in the military institutions, must be submitted to a special justice which guarantees that they can be quickly sanctioned for crimes against humanity. For years, human rights organisations and the movement of victims of state crimes have urged Colombian society to condemn the policies of mass human rights violations employed by the military and other institutions. The truth which is starting to emerge today has cost the lives of many human rights defenders in Colombia. The current news proves us right.