UN says JEP investigation into army killings is important step for victims’ rights

The United Nations’ most senior human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, has said recent findings by Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) into the extent of state killings of civilians represent an important advance in achieving justice for victims of the armed conflict. The JEP was created in the 2016 peace agreement to investigate and prosecute major human rights violations.

On Thursday 18 February, the JEP announced that the Colombian military killed at least 6,402 civilians between 2002 and 2008, during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe. The so-called ‘False Positives’ killings targeted mainly young and poor Colombians who were presented as guerrillas and enemy combatants killed in combat.

The tally of at least 6,402 murdered civilians ‘is a number far higher than the figure of 2,000 initially received by this jurisdiction to investigate,’ said Bachelet, whose second stint as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights began in 2018. She is the former president of Chile, having served two terms in 2006-2010 and 2014-2018.

‘We take this opportunity to recognise this very important and legitimate work by victims’ groups and NGOs to fight against impunity in these cases and obtain justice. Their contribution is essential to satisfy the rights of victims to truth and reparation,’ said Bachelet.

The JEP found that the period 2002-2008 saw the highest number of army murders in decades of armed conflict, committed while the US was receiving massive military aid from the United States. The investigation is one of a number of macro cases under investigation by the JEP, which has faced intense opposition from the Democratic Centre, the political party of both former president Uribe and current president Iván Duque. A number of opposition politicians, sections of the media and human rights organisations have called for Uribe to be investigated over his government’s involvement in the False Positives.