Thursday, 02 June, 2022

Mothers of murdered sons fight for justice in Colombia

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Beatriz Méndez last observed her son and nephew alive in 2004

Beatriz Méndez sifts by heaps of yellowed newspaper clippings in her tiny home in the Colombian funds, Bogotá.

She collected them about the very last 14 several years as testomony to her struggle for justice after her son, Weimar, and her nephew, Edward, were being killed.

Ms Méndez past saw them alive on 12 June 2004. The upcoming time she observed them, they were being in a morgue.

They were being almost unrecognisable, bruised and battered from alleged torture. Each were just 19 years previous.

For three days soon after their disappearance, Ms Méndez and her family members searched regional police stations and hospitals to no avail. Then arrived a connect with from a household member.

“On the radio they’re stating they uncovered the bodies of two guerrilla fighters in Ciudad Bolívar [a poor neighbourhood of Bogotá], they say that 1 is termed Edward,” Ms Méndez recalls.

When she and her sister went to the morgue their worst nightmare came accurate.

But it did not close there. Immediately after bringing dwelling her son’s entire body, it was a shock to Ms Méndez to come across blood-stained army fatigues and boots within the bag of outfits the morgue had sent her household with.

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Steven Grattan

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Shots of her son feature prominently in her house

For four several years, Ms Méndez was in the darkish about how her son and nephew had been killed. Then she listened to a team of gals talking on a radio programme about conditions equivalent to all those of Weimar and Edward. She bought in contact with them and joined their collective, the Moms of False Positives (Mafapo).

Phony positives is the identify offered to the killings of young gentlemen – largely from weak family members in Bogotá and its environment – carried out by the Colombian military. The army’s purpose was to pass them off as remaining-wing Farc rebels to enhance its get rid of price and give the impact it was successful the armed conflict from the group.

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The fake positives scandal triggered outrage in Colombia when it 1st broke in 2008

The victims had been lured to rural pieces of Colombia with guarantees of career chances, and their bodies were being afterwards found lifeless in mass graves.

Some had been dressed in guerrilla fatigues like people utilised by the Farc, other folks had experienced weapons placed in their palms.

A 2018 study by Colombian lecturers estimates that up to 10,000 people had been killed in false positives, the greater part concerning 2002 and 2010. Govt figures put the number a lot reduced.

For above a 10 years, Mafapo has been battling to carry individuals accountable for the killings to justice.

In Oct, they offered a report before the Unique Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in Bogotá.

Conflict and peace in Colombia

The conflict with Farc guerrillas saw much more than 200,000 men and women killed, and wracked Colombia for additional than 50 several years till the signing of a peace deal in November 2016.

Victims of violence carried out by possibly facet of the armed conflict can switch to a unique tribunal that was established underneath the peace agreement with the Farc rebels.

The Distinctive Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) is a transitional courtroom procedure which has been place in spot for 10 yrs, and which was set up to consider all members in the conflict, be they Farc rebels or condition actors.

These who acknowledge to their crimes up entrance will steer clear of jail time, but will be essential to contribute in other techniques to reconciliation – such as participating in programmes to get rid of landmines, make key infrastructure or construct monuments.

In current months, the JEP has exhumed dozens of bodies from a mass grave in the Antioquia area of Colombia as aspect of its investigation into the wrong positives.

The director of the Americas division of tension group Human Legal rights Look at, José Miguel Vivanco, states that “untrue constructive killings amount of money to 1 of the worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in latest yrs”.

He claims that the excavation of mass graves may perhaps aid carry to light additional evidence of the scope and systematic mother nature of these crimes, while offering some reduction to the kinfolk who have been seeking for their beloved kinds.

“But the authentic check is regardless of whether the transitional justice technique will be able to keep to account prime brass officers who have escaped justice for above a ten years,” Mr Vivanco argues.

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Ms Méndez wished one thing to try to remember her son by

Back again at her home in Bogotá, Ms Méndez displays off a new tattoo: a portrait of her late son on her shoulder.

“I wanted a thing to hardly ever overlook him by. It hurt, but not as considerably as the agony of getting rid of him,” she states.

The mothers’ collective is included in many routines, primarily to enable them offer with the grief of losing their sons.

The hottest a person is producing woodcuts with the illustrations or photos of their son’s faces. As very well as Ms Méndez, 61-yr-previous Blanquita Monroy is at the workshop.

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Blanquita Monroy finds solace in woodcutting

“It is really what’s served the most with the suffering over all these yrs. When I begin functioning on the wood it aids with everything, all my issues go absent,” she says.

The last time Ms Monroy saw her son, Julián, was on 2 March 2008, when he still left their household in Soacha – an impoverished municipality outside the house Bogotá – to meet any individual about a occupation option.

“He informed me he wouldn’t be extended. But we never heard from him once more,” Ms Monroy claims.

She observed out six months later on that 19-12 months-old Julián was lifeless. He was uncovered in a mass grave with all around 20 other youthful adult males in Ocaña, a north-jap city much more than 600km (375 miles) from Bogotá and one of the most important hotspots for the untrue good killings.

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The mothers want to put an stop to the impunity bordering their sons’ killings

“The hope we have as Mafapo is that they [the army] convey to the fact,” she suggests of her hopes for the mothers’ scenario at the transitional justice court.

“Why did you destroy them? Who gave the order? And why did they give the buy?” she reels off the queries she would like answered.

Even though the mothers are not confident substantially will arrive of the proceedings, Ms Monroy sees it as “a minor window to the commencing of the truth”.

Ms Méndez states that whatsoever takes place, the moms in the collective will not be providing up on their quest for justice whenever soon.

“If I die in search of the truth of the matter, my battle would not have been in vain,” she states.

“I will be portion of the memory and history of Colombia, for the youthful persons of the fake good killings – primarily my son and my nephew.”

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