Military and Police Accused of Deaths in Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan
December 24, 2011
BBC World News & Al Jazeera
Fifteen Colombian soldiers have been given long jail sentences for the murder of five young men in 2006. The soldiers falsely claimed the youths were armed militants. In Mexico, more that members of a municipal police force were disbanded to root out corruption and drug-related violence. In Afghanistan, eight US soldiers have been charged over the death of infantryman Danny Chen who committed suicide after being subjected to racial insults and abuse.
Colombia Troops Jailed for 'False Positive' Murders
BBC World News
BOGOTA (December 22, 2011) -- Fifteen Colombian soldiers have been given long jail sentences for the murder of five young men in 2006. The soldiers claimed the youths were armed militants killed in a firefight. But an official investigation established they were members of a football team travelling to a match.
Colombian prosecutors are investigating more than 1,500 cases in which troops are accused of murdering civilians and passing them off as rebels killed in combat. Soldiers are accused of carrying out the killings to improve their success rate in the fight against left-wing guerrillas and criminal gangs and to win accolades and rewards, in what has become known as the "false positive" scandal.
This latest case happened in a rural district outside Ibague in the Tolima region in central Colombia. The youths were killed by members of the army's elite anti-kidnap squad. The leader of the army patrol, Major Jose Wilson Camargo, was given a 26-year jail sentence. The other 14 soldiers were each sentenced to 25 years.
"Today we can't say we are happy because it has been five years of struggle, but we are more calm because justice is being done," a relative of one of the victims who asked not to be named told El Tiempo newspaper.
Civilians have been the main victims in the decades-long conflict between the Colombian security forces, the left-wing rebels of the FARC and the ELN, and right-wing paramilitary groups.
Mexico Disbands Veracruz-Boca del Rio Police Force
BBC World News
VERACRUZ (December 22, 2011) -- An entire municipal police force in Mexico has been disbanded as part of a campaign to root out corruption and improve security in the face of drug-related violence. More than 900 officers in Veracruz-Boca del Rio are losing their jobs. The Mexican navy is taking over responsibility for law enforcement.
The move comes three months after 35 bodies were found dumped on a main road in the municipality, which includes part of the city of Veracruz. Navy troops backed by federal police officers took control of local police buildings and were patrolling the streets.
Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte said the decision to disband the force was part of a national programme to reform the police. "All those who belong to the now defunct Veracruz-Boca del Rio force can join the police again once they have passed the tests of trustworthiness demanded by the national system of public security," he said. He did not say how long the navy would be in charge of policing the municipality, which is home to around 600,000 people and includes wealthy residential districts and popular tourist areas.
Hundreds of marines had already been deployed in Veracruz-Boca del Rio after 35 bodies were dumped on busy road in the middle of the day in September. Two weeks later the navy found another 32 bodies in three different buildings. The killings are thought to be the result of a battle for control of drug-trafficking routes between two of Mexico's most powerful drugs gangs -- the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.
The armed forces and federal police have taken over security in a growing number of municipalities across Mexico because local police have been unable to cope with the power of the drugs gangs. Corruption and infiltration of the police by criminals are among the biggest challenges Mexico faces in its fight against the cartels, says the BBC's Ignacio de los Reyes in Mexico City.
As well as using troops to confront the gangs militarily, President Felipe Calderon has stressed the need to reform the police and judiciary as part of his strategy to restore public security. More than 40,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, when Mr Calderon began deploying the military to fight the gangs.
Eight US Troops Charged over Death of Private Danny Chen
BBC World News
KABUL (December 21, 2011) -- Eight US soldiers have been charged over the death of infantryman Danny Chen in Afghanistan, international security forces have said. Charges include dereliction of duty, assault and involuntary manslaughter. Five are accused of negligent homicide.
Private Chen, 19, was found in a guard tower in Kandahar after apparently shooting himself in October.
His family told a news conference in New York City they were encouraged by the development in the investigation.
Speaking through an interpreter, Chen's father, Yen Tao Chen, said the news "gives us some hope". The Chens have alleged that their son was subjected to physical abuse and ethnic slurs from superiors. The family also told the New York Times not long after their son's death that investigators had informed them they were not certain the shot had been self-inflicted.
New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said it was important to find out what happened to Chen, adding: "Racial discrimination and intolerance have no place in today's military."
A spokeswoman from the Organization of Chinese Americans said details from Chen's Facebook page, emails and a few pages of his journal released by the army suggested he had been bullied. Other soldiers dragged him across the floor, threw stones at the back of his head, made him keep liquid in his mouth while upside down, and called him names like "Jackie Chen" -- a reference to Jackie Chan, the actor -- Elizabeth Ou Yang said.
The accused are members of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. The US is drawing down its forces in Afghanistan ahead of a planned 2014 withdrawal of combat troops.
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