Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday apologized for the extrajudicial killings of thousands of people by the country’s armed forces during his tenure as defense minister.
Santos, who in 2016 peace deal With the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) set up by the commission, he testified to the Colombian Truth Commission about a so-called “false positive” scandal in which soldiers killed civilians and registered them as fighters killed in battle for rewards.
This was announced by the country’s transitional justice court at least 6,402 people were assassinated and falsely presented as rebels from 2002 to 2008 under former President Alvaro Uribe. Some victim groups claim that the rate may be higher.
From 2006 to 2009, Santos served as Secretary of Defense under Uribe, a position he held when the killings were uncovered.
“The head of the false statements is one of the most horrible moments in my life; it is an indelible stain on the honor of the army,” Santos said, adding that he regretted that mothers had lost their children during their time as ministers.
According to him, the pressure was to blame for the large number of murders with the support of Uribe, he said that the army should apologize.
“It should never have happened,” Santos said. “I realize this, I apologize to all the mothers who fell victim to this horror, to their families, from the bottom of my soul.”
Santos said that when he first heard the news of the killings, he did not believe them.
When the news turned out to be true, Santos said he was ordering demobilization, capturing the killings, changing protocols for military deaths, and awarding medals.
The results of the internal investigation astonished him, Santos said.
“I have never felt such a combination of anger and strong pain, with such deep sadness.”
Dozens of military officials have been fired, he said, adding that changes to the protocol have led to a sharp decline in military killings.
The False Positive Mothers of: Colombia had earlier urged Santos to apologize.
“We have little hope for you today. [Santos] tell the truth. Apologize to every mother whose children Uribe took away. [Former Colombian National Army General Mario Montoya] ձեզ yourself. You can change the story today. “Let the memory of our children tell the truth,” the group tweeted.
We are waiting for you a little today. @JuanManSantos Tell the truth. Apologize to every mother whose children took you from Uribe, Montoya և you. It can really change history today. Because the memory of our children tells the truth. https://t.co/dhyZH6ZNc8:
– False positive mothers in Colombia (@MAFAPOCOLOMBIA) June 11, 2021
Dozens of army officials have been arrested and convicted of involvement in the killings.
The 2016 peace deal FARC fighters won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize, saw the demobilization of some 13,000 FARC members.
FARC leaders too Adopted in April the kidnapping policy, which they called “unfounded.” About 21,396 people were abducted or taken hostage by the FARC between 1990 and 2015, according to the Special Jurisdiction Court of Peace (JEP), which oversees the FARC-Colombian peace process.
JEP has indicted former FARC commanders war crimes In January.
The conflict between the Colombian government and the rebel armed forces, including the FARC, lasted 50 years, resulting in 260,000 casualties and millions of displaced people.
Santos is the third former president to contribute to the commission, whose term expires this year.
It is unclear whether Uribe, who was strongly opposed to the peace deal, will eventually testify.
The deal was also opposed by right-wing President Ivan Duke, who took office in 2018. Some FARC fighters continued to fight the government, causing clashes and deaths, undermining the peace treaty.
Former FARC Commander ղեկավար Head of Commune, first name The group accepted after becoming a political party, sent an open letter In March, he asked the US Congress for support in rescuing the peace plan.