The retired army officer, Coronel Jaime Humberto Pinzón, handed over his “Medal For Distinguished Service” to the families of 53 young men who were executed as “false positives” while he commandeered the Tenth Infantry Battalion Atanasio Giradot.
“I do not deserve this medal,” he remarked before a peace tribunal investigating extra-judicial killings that took place between 2003 and 2006 in the department of Norte de Santander. “All I want is forgiveness.”
Within the framework of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a parallel court system established under the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla, the five magistrates are listening to testimonies from members of the armed forces in Macro Case 03, titled “Murders and forced disappearances presented as combat casualties by state agents.”
During his audience in Medellín, (ret) Coronel Pinzón recognized that the young men who were executed were not combatants, nor guerrilla leaders. “I know that by handing over this medal, I can’t bring back your loved ones. But, we have to start somewhere.”
The tribunal will sentence members of the military who committed “false positives” in six regions of the country between 2002 and 2008. The court has compiled evidence that 6,402 persons were executed during this period to increase the “body count” during the internal conflict against FARC. The majority of “false positives” took place during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and former President Juan Manuel Santos, as Minister of Defense.
Among the high-ranking members of Colombia’s armed forces who have given their account of how young men were rounded-up in mostly rural areas, before being executed and buried in mass graves, is Brigadier General Paulino Coronado, former commander of Brigade 30, Colonel Castro Gómez; Lieutenant Coronel Álvaro Diego Tamayo; Lieutenant Coronels Gabriel de Jesús Rincón Amado, Juan Carlos Chaparro, and Captain Daladier Rivera.
Criminal charges have been filed against 22 army officers of the Sixteenth Brigade for their participation in the murder of 303 persons in the department of Casanare.
According to JEP, many officers received “special meals, vacation plans, training courses abroad or transfer to the Colombia Battalion No. 3 in Sinai” in recognition of having committed violent crimes against the population.