Columbian Army under investigation after 11 civilians killed during operation
April 8, 2022

On March 28, the Columbian Army conducted an operation targeting rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). During the operation that morning, 11 citizens of Puerto Leguizamo were killed.

Columbian President Ivan Duque Marquez boasted that the raid was a successful mission “in which members of our public forces achieved the neutralization of 11 members of a FARC dissident group, and the capture of four more criminals in Puerto Leguizamo”.

According to Puetro Legguizamo citizens who witnessed and survived the raid, many of the victims were not FARC rebels. Witnesses told reporters that the Columbian Army claimed that some of the innocent victims were guerrilla fighters to cover up extrajudicial killings.

Two of the alleged innocent victims killed by Columbian Soldiers was Brayan Santiago Pama, a 16 year old boy, and Pablo Panduro Coquinche, a local Indigenous leader.

The Organization of Indigenous Colombian Amazonian Peoples (OPIAC) releaseed a statement following the operation that claimed that the Columbian Soldiers involved committed murders “carried out in the style of false positives … against the Indigenous population and its authorities”.

OPIAC used the term “false positives” to draw a connection between the 11 killed on March 28th of this year, and the 6,400 civilians killed by Columbian military between 2002 and 2008 at the apex of a civil war that lasted 5o years. Last year a Columbian special court ruled that the 6,400 civilians were in fact murdered, but painted as enemies killed in action by the military.

The murky nature of the operation and the civilian death toll have kindled a public outcry from the media and human rights groups, both demanding an investigation. Human rights investigators for the United Nations in Colombia echo that demand.

Four of the accused FARC rebels were released from custody just over a week after their arrest. Prosecutors failed to obtain enough evidence to charge them or keep them in custody.

According to Human Rights Watch senior researcher, Juan Pappier, the claims that civilians were murdered on the operation have merit. He said, “We have evidence that four of the people killed appear to have been civilians. But there are open questions on how they were killed and what triggered the military operation.”

The father of the slain 16 year old boy, Rodolfo Pama, spoke with Al Jazeera: “The Colombian government knows they did something evil,” he said. “They killed a minor. You can’t imagine how it feels. I didn’t lose him to an accident or an illness; I lost him to a military operation carried out by this government.”

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