Although it had been proven that army and paramilitary forces had patrolled together for several days, including the day when the massacre took place, the judge found that the army could not be held responsible for the killings, because there was no proof that the officers had planned the actual killings in advance with the death squads and that “they did not know nor should have known the risks of their action [of patrolling with the illegal groups]”.
More troubling, the judge found that the theory of “organized power structures,” which has been used by the Colombian Supreme Court to hold army officers accountable for crimes committed against humanity, does not apply to the Colombian Army (2), because “even though the National Army has a hierarchical structure in which command and subordination principles operate, [it] is a legitimate structure, formally regulated (—)”. This principle, which marks an advance in holding high-ranking officials and politicians accountable for crimes against humanity, has been used to convict Nazi criminals, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and the Argentine military for the atrocities men under their command committed. The Colombian Supreme Court recently ruled that high-ranking politicians convicted for colluding with paramilitary death squads need also be held accountable for the crimes committed by such squads(3). Thus, with her ruling, the Medellin judge echoes former President Uribe’s call to shield army officers from most human rights violations as a reaction to the June landmark ruling against General Plazas Vega, ret. for the disappearance of 11 people in the operation to retake the Justice Palace. (4)
sja_sign.Human rights attorney Jorge Molano, referring to the ruling, commented, “for the last few years, the San José de Apartadó Peace Community has publicly expressed its reservations regarding Colombian justice because it had been supportive of impunity in serious crimes against humanity. The ruling released today erects itself as one of the major monuments to impunity, where the testimonies of Captain Gordillo and seven paramilitary men on military and paramilitary joint actions in the operation that lead to the death of four children and four adults do not matter. Today we must say again that the [Peace] Community was right: there are no reasons, bases, evidences that allow us to believe in Colombian justice.” He announced plans to appeal the ruling.
(1) Departamento de Antioquia, Juzgado Segundo Penal del Circuito Especializado de Antioquia. Sent Oridinaria 41, 09/04/2010, Rad 2009-200015. The ruling can be downloaded athttp://www.dhcolombia.com/IMG/S2009_0005.docx