What are Falsos Positivos?

Not all victims of violence in Colombia were at the hands of narco-terrorists: Around 6,500 innocent citizens were murdered by the military and passed off as rebels.

The falsos positivos (false positives) massacres are still in the news many years after the crimes were exposed, as the military officers who orchestrated the subterfuge are still being prosecuted via the JEP (Justicia Especial para la Paz) special tribunals.

Why did they do it?

The military were under pressure to get results. Mission effectiveness was measured by the number of rebels killed. Photos of rows of supposed dead terrorists were plastered across newspapers and TV screens, proclaiming the success of the war on drugs and dissidences.

Getting results could translate into decorations, higher ranks, time off and even monetary rewards. This and avoiding actual battles with rebels fueled the practice of executing innocent people and passing them off as enemy KIA combatants.

There was also at least one instance of a soldier being murdered by his commanding officer for not obeying orders to kill innocent victims.

Who were the victims?

They were victims of opportunity in isolated areas of the country where rebels were being hunted down. Most were young male peasants, others just men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, including students and the unemployed. Victims were sometimes transported from where they were captured to the point where they would be executed. They were then dressed up in uniforms obtained from previously captured or killed real rebels. Then the photo montages were set up.

When did this happen?

Incidents were recorded from 1984 to 2014, thus 40 years. The height of this phenomenon happened during the 2006 to 2009 period when Alvaro Uribe was president. The war on drugs and armed rebel groups was at its highest level during that period.

There’s different versions as to how many during which period. The most commonly cited number is the one provided by the JEP, which is 6,402 victims between 2002 and 2014. The real number may never be known, although some estimates place it at10,000. Note that public claims of illegal executions by the military started as early as 1978.

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