Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) give up their weapons to the Colombian Army – RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images
The Colombian army has been accused of killing children forcibly conscripted by the FARC guerilla group in an operation beforehand hailed as a significant success.
Court paperwork leaked solely to the Telegraph conclude the navy probably dedicated battle crimes during Operation Berlin, an assault focusing on the insurgent group in November 2000.
The children had been in determined situation, with one begging: “Kill me, but give me some food first.”
The paperwork from Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, created to research the atrocities of the nation’s civil battle, present proof of extrajudicial killings and allege that troopers murdered unarmed children and youngsters in chilly blood.
The army’s goal was the Arturo Ruíz cell column of the guerrilla, which was made up of greater than 100 younger fighters. The insurgents had marched for 5 months and 5 hundred miles earlier than they had been intercepted by the Colombian Army.
According to Colombia’s Forensic Medicine service 78 rebels had been killed during Operation Berlin, 28 of them children. The navy marketing campaign ran from 19 November 2000 to five January 2001 and revealed the extent to which children had been being recruited by the FARC insurgents.
Several army generals had been awarded honours by the president for their work within the operation and greater than 2,000 troopers had been adorned.
The younger insurgents, a lot of whom had been forcibly recruited from their properties simply months earlier, had been ravenous and had no alternative. Their inexperience in battle was no match for the may of the armed forces.
One survivor remembers within the paperwork how he heard the command “to not leave any of the sons of bitches alive.” Another survivor advised The Sunday Telegraph that she witnessed the army capturing her pals.
“I remember how they killed at least four minors, who were helpless,” she stated. “When they were going to kill me, the officer arrived and chastised his soldiers for having killed the others.”
One woman was shot within the leg during the offensive. Her testimony recounts a terrifying ordeal.
“The pain was so bad I wanted to find a stone I could bash my head with and kill myself,” it reads.
When the troopers approached, she lined herself in blood and performed lifeless. They threw her in a pile of corpses.
“I could see the bodies of my friends around me. All with their heads blown off.”
Post-mortem reviews, additionally seen by the Sunday Telegraph, present proof of shut-vary gunshot wounds and deadly cranial trauma. They reveal how a few of the victims had been killed from behind, whereas mendacity on the ground.
Renee Willmon is a forensic anthropologist and chilly case investigator in Toronto, Canada. She says that primarily based on the character of the accidents proven within the publish-mortem reviews, it’s unlikely that the victims died on account of fight, as claimed by the Colombian army.
“Fatal injuries sustained in battle are more likely to involve multiple areas of the body than observed in these reports,” she stated. “In cases where directionality of firearm injuries to the head can be assessed from the images, the relative position of deceased and shooter appears inconsistent with a face to face, or position with both individuals standing, based on the pattern and location of entrance and exit wounds.”
The Colombian Army has battled the insurgents for many years – REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The Arturo Ruíz cell column had been shaped just some months earlier than Operation Berlin started.
It contained 361 rebels, 141 of which had been children. In 2010, seven FARC commanders had been convicted in absentia of getting forcibly recruited children for the cell column. Twenty-seven of the victims had been under 15 years previous, in response to knowledge from FARC and handed to the Telegraph.
The court docket paperwork assert that if the armed forces knew of this earlier than they launched the assault, one thing the navy has at all times denied, then this might additionally represent a battle crime.
An army intelligence report, dated a month earlier than the offensive started and obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, states “In the Arturo Ruíz mobile column, there are approximately 150 minors between 14 and 17-years-old,” clearly contradicting the navy’s place that they solely came upon concerning the younger rebels after they engaged them in battle.
The court docket paperwork conclude the generals concerned within the offensive ought to now be referred to as to provide proof. Campaigners have welcomed this information, however are too scared to go on document for worry of reprisals by the navy and their supporters.
Additional reporting by Edinson Bolaños and Nicolás Sánchez.