Colombia court says 5,733 people killed, missing in campaign against left-wing party

Lit candles are seen in front of coffins containing human remains during a ceremony in Medellin, Colombia February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Fredy Builes/File Photo

Some 5,733 people were killed or disappeared in Colombia as part of a campaign against the left-wing Patriotic Union (UP) party between 1984 and 2016, acts linked to paramilitaries with military backing, the country’s transitional justice tribunal said on Friday.

According to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), some 4,616 of the victims were murdered, while 1,117 were forcibly disappeared over the more than three-decade period.

Not all of those affected were connected to the UP, the JEP said, adding that 538 of those killed or disappeared in acts carried out against the group were not UP members.

The UP was the first attempt by the now demobilized guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at forming a political party.

The attacks were often carried out by right-wing paramilitary gunmen, although there was also evidence of involvement of state agents, the JEP said in a statement.

The court identified evidence of “the participation of state agents belonging to the civil and military intelligence agencies, in collusion with paramilitary groups and organized hitmen that carried out crimes against the UP,” the JEP said.

The investigation was commended by advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), which called for justice for victims.

“This large case from the JEP should help guarantee justice for the victims and make clear the links between paramilitaries and agents of the Colombian state who have enjoyed impunity for decades,” Juan Pappier, HRW’s senior investigator for the Americas, told Reuters.

The JEP was created under a 2016 peace deal between FARC rebels and the government and is meant to try former combatants, doling out alternative punishments in exchange for full disclosure.

The JEP earlier found at least 6,402 people were victims of the so-called false positive killings between 2002 and 2008, when soldiers murdered civilians and recorded them as guerrillas killed in combat in order to earn promotions and other rewards.

SOURCE: Reuters – Reporting by Oliver Griffin, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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