118 Colombian soldiers and military officials implicated in sexual abuse of minors

The Colombian military has investigated at least 118 soldiers over alleged child sexual abuse since 2016. The worryingly high figure was revealed following the firing of seven soldiers and three officers over the rape of an underage girl in the region of Risaralda. The victim was of Embera indigenous origin and has raised further concerns over the conduct of military personnel towards indigenous and other ethnic groups.

Investigations into 118 soldiers and other military officials have seen at least 45 sacked, while 73 are awaiting criminal or disciplinary processes. Another case has recently been reported of a young girl being held against her will for several days by soldiers who repeatedly abused her.

The sexual abuse cases are the latest high-profile scandal involving the Colombian military. In May, it was revealed that military intelligence had been illegally spying on at least 130 people, including opposition politicians, journalists, trade unionists and human rights defenders. In response, President Iván Duque promised a thorough investigation.

Human rights organisations in the northeast region of Catatumbo have accused the army of committing at least five extrajudicial executions of civilians in 2020, including that of 20-year-old Alejandro Carvajal in his home in March. The cases follow the conviction of a soldier, and ongoing investigation into a number of others, over the premeditated murder of FARC former guerrilla Dimar Torres in April last year.

In November, the Defence Minister, Guillermo Botero, resigned over an army raid three months earlier which killed at least eight minors. The attack was caried out on an alleged armed group even though authorities were aware that children were being forcibly recruited in the region. Reports said that survivors of the initial attack, including minors, were pursued and executed by soldiers.