BOGOTA – Four Colombian soldiers and a non-commissioned officer were sentenced to 40 years in prison each for kidnapping, torturing and murdering a woman whom they claimed was a guerrilla killed in combat, the Attorney General’s Office said.
A criminal court in the northwestern province of Antioquia convicted the five men, all members of the army’s 4th Brigade, the AG’s office said in a bulletin posted Friday on its Web site.
The incident dates back to May 28, 2005, when an army patrol forcibly removed Maria Graciela Santamaria Galeano from her home in the town of Granada, Antioquia.
The following day, the woman was reported as killed during an incursion by an illegal armed group into the nearby village of El Roblal.
The lead prosecutor in the case, however, gathered “technical and scientific evidence” that refuted that explanation and presented a forensics report that showed that Santamaria had been tortured.
The court found the five soldiers guilty of murder, torture and kidnapping – charges brought by a prosecutor from the AG’s office’s national unit for human rights and international humanitarian law.
These types of extrajudicial executions are known in Colombia as “false positives,” cases where soldiers abducted and executed civilians and then presented them to their superiors as rebels killed in combat.
With Colombian politicians and the military brass demanding results in the war against leftist guerrillas, inflating body counts became a way for troops to earn promotions, bonuses and extra leave.