British-trained Colombian Soldiers 'Working at the Behest' of Cocaine Traffickers

Justice For Colombia News | on: Sunday, 6 April 2008

Tribune Magazine has reported on a case in which a group of British-trained Colombian soldiers ambushed and murdered a group of elite anti-narcotics police officers. Adding insult to injury the policemen killed by the British-trained troops had themselves been trained by the US.

Jail for Colombia's army killers trained by Britain

by René Lavanchy, April 4th 2008

ACTIVISTS working for peace in Colombia have criticised the British Government over its military aid policy after troops from a British-trained Colombian unit were convicted of murdering policemen to protect a drugs baron.

Colonel Bayron Carvajal and 14 other soldiers will be sentenced next month for killing 10 anti-narcotics police in 2006. They face jail terms of up to 60 years. But the High Mountain Battalion of which they were members – and which is also accused of killing trade unionists – has received assistance from Britain since its foundation in 2003. The convictions are a blow to British policy in Colombia, which is based around suppressing the export of cocaine and improving the human rights situation.

The court case over the "Jamundi massacre" is the latest move in President Alvaro Uribe's attempt to cleanse the armed forces of groups known to collaborate with drug traffickers.

In May 2006 a team of police from an anti-drugs unit trained by the United States government were on the trail of Diego Montoya, leader of one of Colombia's most powerful drugs cartels and one of the FBI's "10 most wanted" fugitives from justice. They were shot dead near the town of Jamundi, in the west of the country, and the soldiers were arrested soon afterwards.

All the convicted troops are from the High Mountain Battalion, founded to fight guerrillas. Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, who was hit by controversy after he posed for a photo with battalion members, says they only receive "human rights training" from Britain.

Adam Isacson, of the Centre for International Policy in Washington, said the prosecution was a "good sign" but other victims had yet to receive justice: "If you start seeing [court] cases of military officers being employed in the parapolitics scandal, then you'll know there's much more effort [being made]. I think the British should be more careful with their training programmes. You could be giving lethal training to people who are not your friends. The US goes thorough a much more through process to make sure they're not training people with backgrounds of corruption."

Liam Craig-Best of Justice for Colombia said: "This is yet further evidence of how confused British policy in Colombia is. The UK is aiding units that work alongside drug traffickers and calling it counter-drug assistance."

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