Bombing Children in Colombia: Did President Duque Know?

November 23rd, 2019 - by Adriaan Alsema / Colombia Reports

Did Colombia’s President Know He Was Authorizing the Bombing of Children?

Adriaan Alsema / Colombia Reports

BOGOTA (November 11, 2019) — Colombia’s government and military knew FARC dissidents were recruiting minors in the area where President Ivan Duque authorized a bombardment that killed at least eight children and minors.

The August 29 bombing already cost the head of Duque’s defense minister, but could lead to war crime charges against the president, Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez and multiple military commanders.

Former Defense Minister Guillermo Botero, Armed Forces commander general Luis Fernando Navarro and National Army chief General Nicasio Martinez all told press that they were unaware that children were present in the camp of “Gildardo Cucho” when Duque authorized the bombin

Military Warned Six Times about Child Recruitment

“We had no information there were minors present, because if we did we would’ve taken a different decision,” Martinez told public television network Canal 1.

It is unclear how Martinez was unaware of the presence of minors; the ombudsman of Puerto Rico, the municipality where the bombing took place, informed the military six times about the forced recruitment of minors in the area.

Furthermore, the interior minister and at least seven military commanders were personally informed about the local FARC dissidents’ child recruitment practices on January 16 after the Ombudsman’s Office warned Gutierrez personally about the child recruitment in an alert on January 4.

President Ivan Duque, who authorized the bombing, has avoided the press like the plague as questions and calls for criminal investigations mount.

Did Duque Know about the Children?

The big question is whether Duque knew he was committing a crime against humanity when he authorized the bombing of the camp in response to the call of former FARC leader “Ivan Marquez” to rearm.

“Last night I authorized the Joint Command of Special Operations to carry out an offensive operation against this gang of narco-terrorist criminals, who are residuals of what was known as the FARC, and who are part of the criminal structures that now seek to challenge Colombia.” — President Ivan Duque

Legally, this question is irrelevant. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), “military commanders are held criminally responsible for crimes committed by armed forces under their effective command and control.”

In other words, if Duque authorized an illegal military operation, he is criminally liable.

Opposition Senator Alexander Lopez (Democratic Pole) announced last week he would bring the case before the ICC. In an interview with Canal 1, the senator also urged Colombian authorities to open criminal investigations.

Pressure on Duque Enough to Squash an Elephant

With media and lawmakers trying to find out what happened on that fateful day in August and why Congress didn’t learn about the deaths of the children, the pressure on Duque is increasing.

The president  tried to defend his disgraced former defense minister at a military ceremony last week and said that “we all regret” the killing of child soldiers under 18 in combat.

The president’s self-proclaimed regret has nothing to do with the war crime allegedly committed by Duque.

Among the victims was a 12-year-old girl, Angela Maria Gaitan, whose mother buried her remains in September.

The 12-year-old’s mother told weekly Semana that Cucho forced her daughter to use birth control after she was forced to join his dissident guerrilla unit.

Under no circumstance may a 12-year-old victim be attacked by the military, no matter how much in a huff the president is about the rearmament of a former FARC leader.

Duque Presented Bombed Minors and Children as ‘Narco-terrorist Criminals’

Adriaan Alsema / Colombia Reports

 (November 6, 2019) — Colombia’s Senate was shocked on Tuesday when hearing that at least seven minors were killed in a bombardment that President Ivan Duque presented as an “impeccable operation” against dissident FARC rebels.

The accusation was made by influential Senator Roy Barreras during a debate over a motion of no confidence against Defense Minister Guillermo Botero.

Controversial National Army commander Nicasio Martinez reported the day after that 12 were killed in the bombardment.

A day later, Botero said that “14 criminals were killed” in the military operations in the southern Caqueta province in which FARC dissident leader “Gildardo Cucho” allegedly was killed.

‘Why Didn’t You Tell Colombia You Had Bombed Children?’

During the debate, Barreras showed documents from the medical examiner’s office that said that among the dead were seven minors, including a 12-year-old girl, who were “re-victimized because you presented them as criminals.”

The defense minister was informed about the death of the children and minors, but kept this secret, according to Barreras.

You hid from Colombia that on that day you bombed children and seven minors died. Why didn’t you tell Colombia you had bombed children in that operation?Senator Roy Barreras

According to Barreras, the number of minors killed in the bombardment could be higher; four bodies were so torn apart that the medical examiner’s office could only “estimate they were between 15 and 20 years old.”

‘Operation Was Legal’

According to Botero, the military was not aware of the presence of children and minors at the site that was bombed and insisted that “the operation was legal” and no violation of international humanitarian law.

Nevertheless, the minister accused the alleged target of the bombing, Gildardo el Cucho, of “having child soldier camps.”

The person in violation of international humanitarian law is the one who puts a protected person at risk.Defense Minister Guillermo Botero

Barreras and other senators filed the second motion of no confidence against the minister because of increased violence and mounting reports that the military is killing civilians and reporting them as combat kills.

When Duque’s political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe was president and the army was fighting the now-demobilized FARC guerrilla group, thousands of civilians were executed and presented as guerrillas killed in combat.

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