Bogota, Colombia -Colombian authorities have arrested eight soldiers over the murder of a farmer earlier this year, one of thousands of such cases involving security forces under investigation in the conflict-worn South American country.
The soldiers are accused of killing the campesino and wounding a second civilian on March 8 in Arauquita, in the northeastern Arauca region, the public prosecutor’s office announced Tuesday.
The killing was “unrelated to a confrontation,” prosecutors said, but gave no details why the civilians were attacked.
The arrested men will be charged with “aggravated homicide and attempted aggravated homicide,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Colombia’s military has long been accused of indiscriminately killing civilians in remote areas and presenting them as guerrillas killed in combat — so called “false positive” killings.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the prosecutor’s office is investigating “some 3,600 alleged unlawful killings from 2002 to 2008,” with 961 security force members convicted.
“The military often abducted victims…and killed them, placed weapons on their bodies, and reported them as enemy combatants killed in action,” HRW said in its annual report.
Though there had been a decrease in such killings since 2009, “credible reports of some new cases continue to emerge.”
Former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and drug-trafficking gangs are involved in a battle for control of smuggling routes near the Venezuelan border in Arauca.
Colombia — the world’s largest producer of cocaine — is slowly emerging from five decades of conflict between the government and FARC.
Peace talks with the country’s last rebel group, the ELN, have been suspended since August.