Novavax Stock- Colombia ex-president asks forgiveness for army’s extrajudicial killings
By Julia Symmes Cobb
BOGOTA, June 11 (Reuters) – In public testimony to
Colombia’s truth commission on Friday, former President Juan
Manuel Santos asked for forgiveness for extrajudicial killings
of thousands of people committed by the country’s armed forces
partly during his time as defense minister.
Santos, who in 2016 signed the peace deal which created the
commission, testified about the so-called “false positives”
scandal, when soldiers murdered civilians and registered them as
guerrilla fighters killed in combat to receive benefits.
The country’s transitional justice court says at least 6,402
people were killed and falsely presented as rebels between 2002
and 2008, during the term of ex-President Alvaro Uribe. Some
victims groups allege the figure could be higher.
Santos served as defense minister under Uribe for nearly
three years between 2006 and 2009 and was in the post when the
killings were uncovered.
“The chapter of the false positives is one of the most
painful moments I’ve had in my public life and is an indelible
stain on the honor of the army,” said Santos, adding he
regretted mothers lost children to the practice during his time
Pressure to produce high kill counts, backed by Uribe, was
to blame, he said, and the army should ask forgiveness.
“This should never have happened,” Santos said. “I recognize
that and ask forgiveness from all the mothers and their
families, victims of this horror, from the depths of my soul.”
Santos said when he first heard rumors of the killings, he
did not believe them.
Once it became clear the rumors were true, Santos said he
issued orders privileging demobilizations and captures over
kills, changed protocols for handling combat deaths and modified
criteria for awarding medals.
The results of an internal investigation left him stunned,
“I had perhaps never felt with such force a combination of
anger and intense pain, with such deep sadness.”
Dozens of military officials – who broke will all accepted
doctrine – were removed from their posts, he said, and changes
to protocol led to a precipitous descent in murders committed by
Victims groups the False Positive Mothers of Colombia had
earlier urged Santos to ask forgiveness.
“For the memory of our children tell the truth,” the group
Dozens of army officials have been detained and convicted of
involvement in the killings.
The 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) guerrillas won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize and
saw some 13,000 FARC members demobilize.
Santos is the third former president to give a contribution
to the commission, whose mandate ends this year.
It is unclear whether Uribe – who vehemently opposed the
peace deal – will eventually testify.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb
Editing by Alistair Bell)
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Keywords: COLOMBIA PEACE/ (TV)
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