Written by Staff Writer by Loic Woudstra
In the run-up to Colombia’s elections, “police brutality” in the country contributed to what was likely to be a mass killing, according to a UN-backed report released Monday.
The “accelerated spike in crime” and a series of “unprecedented homicides” spanned 25 of Colombia’s 32 provinces between December 2015 and February 2016, according to the report, citing more than 90 incidents of police brutality
The attacks were carried out against alleged “criminals and demobilized FARC combatants who were in the act of applying the modified pardons,” the report said.
Five of the victims were murdered in Tumaco, in the country’s southern Pacific province of Nariño, where “joint forces” comprised of police and military participated in a “major paramilitary-style operation” to arrest known criminal “Cubichaba,” alias “Nino”, and the other victim, “Elvin”, the report said.
The “particularly grisly elements of the operation” was captured on video, according to the report.
“On the order of the commanders, the police began firing against the armed and illegal combatants while dressed in civilian clothes with weapons raised, while the troops had their ranks lowered,” it said.
“All victims were killed using their weapons and the highest number of them were teenagers.”
The bodies were then allegedly burned in public places, including schools, amid a surge in violence in the city, according to the report.
“As if it were a theater, the killings were staged as if it were a play,” the report said.
The UN backed the use of more than 60 witnesses and more than 30 experts to research the cases of alleged “police brutality” and “violations of human rights by the National Police” and the National Liberation Army (ELN), a leftist rebel group.
The candidates who narrowly lost in the presidential elections earlier this month were not mentioned in the report.
Jorge Farias — winner of the second round — was ranked No. 1 on the Council’s list of most violent candidates in Colombia, followed by Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, leader of FARC’s political wing, who was the runner-up in the polls.
The investigators concluded that the “extrajudicial killings by the National Police took place at the hands of officers operating under an order from a superior officer or superior juridical authority, as well as with total impunity and collaboration with paramilitary groups.”
The perpetrators were investigated through military investigators and Colombian states, the report said.
After the investigation of those responsible, the conclusions were sent to the Colombian Attorney General’s Office for investigations and proceedings, according to the report.
The Council will be able to issue annual reports on alleged human rights violations by national police, the report said.
Colombia, a US ally, has experienced a bloody guerrilla insurgency and a right-wing paramilitary movement since the 1980s.
Violence by leftist rebels has slowed over the last decade, but the country has been hit by vicious attacks and gun battles during Colombia’s long internal conflict.