- BBC World News
The testimony was collected four years ago, more than a decade after the official demobilization of the paramilitaries grouped in the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, AUC.
But its publication in a recent report by the National Center for Historical Memory of Colombia on one of its structures is a powerful reminder of the horror and cruelty of the Colombian armed conflict.
The paramilitaries used to dismember many of their victims.
And the demobilized, who is contributing their memories to the Non-Judicial Mechanism for Contribution to Truth and Historical Memory on condition of anonymity, contributes gruesome details about the procedure.
“You could see that anywhere, a torture; kill someone, anywhere it was done: it was taken over there, to those mountains, and there, yes, the hole was made and they covered them, “says the former member of the Self-Defense Forces Peasants of Magdalena Medio (ACMM), the paramilitary group led by Ramón Isaza who in 1997 joined the AUC.
“Where did they learn to dismember?” Then the question comes.
“At school”, is your answer.
“That is the same, it has no science,” he adds.
Schools of death
The school to which he refers is one of the many military training centers used by the ACCM to train its recruits, many of them minors
And although the Colombian paramilitary commanders who availed themselves of the 2005 Justice and Peace Law have repeatedly denied it, for the National Center for Historical Memory there is no doubt.
“Dismemberment techniques were taught in schools training sessions where they took the victims still alive, or already dead, so that the paramilitary recruits ‘practiced’ with them and to teach them in turn that the bodies that did not disappear should serve as a warning to the other inhabitants, “it reads in the report “Isaza, the paramilitary clan. The Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Magdalena Medio “.
“I watched a lot of that,” the ACMM recruit also confirms.
“Same I had to helpWell, then, to have one already dead, and make holes and cover. That is very hard. “
“Having,” he explains, is that he took, for example, the hand of the corpse “and another cut and was throwing into the hole.”
“They were men who brought them there, already dead thieves (sic). And one would already bury them there. There were others, who were only to kill them and leave them there so they could see them; there were others that had to disappear“he adds.
The former paramilitary says he is not sure why the different treatment, but ventures an answer.
“Some were like pa ‘that he took the lesson“he suggests.
And that according to Camilo Villamizar, the coordinator of the investigation team and main rapporteur of the report, the ACMM, “these groups from Magdalena Medio, especially after their reorganization after 1994, were less sadistic (than other paramilitary blocks) “.
“But this only speaks of the barbarity to which the conflict reached,” admits Villamizar.
“In comparative terms I can say that these were less sadistic than the others, but when we read that kind of stories one I would not believe that it can be more barbarous than this“, he tells BBC Mundo.
In fact, according to the Commission, training schools were also the places where crimes were committed or planned on multiple occasions and even became sites for criminal experimentation.
“In the same course, there they said: ‘If you don’t serve to’ kill, it serves to ‘let them kill you’“, says the demobilized.
“In training, they would come and bring a pot, a rapist or whatever. And then, to you in training, they would say: ‘Come out, you kill that man’. You had to go out, kill him. And, the other: ‘You go out and itch me ‘“, reports.
According to the former paramilitary, whoever did not have a heart “for that, would either go crazy there or be killed.
But some, like “Melchor”, another demobilized from the ACMM mentioned in the report, rather came to feel proud that they were elected to “test finesse”.
“Finesse was something like you take me among the best of the men you have, and you tell me: ‘Well, daddy, take me finesse and do me a favor and go and knock that madman over there'”, Melchor explains in a testimony collected in 2017
“That’s where I tell him one does things that are not good“, he acknowledges, but then boast of having passed” finesse, and with a high degree. ”
According to the report, the most important of the ACMM instructors put Melchor as a test kill the first street dweller you meet on the highway.
“You know that in those days from Medellín to Bogotá, I kept a lot of crazy people around with little sacks on his shoulder and all that sheath. Then the man came and handed me a gun. And he said: ‘Daddy, see, give that crazy man ‘”, bill
“I didn’t even look at it. I didn’t look at it. I closed my eyes, “he laughs.
“The two of us were alone in the truck. And the man told me: ‘Dele, lay it down’. And I ‘so’. Done.”
Villamizar, however, believes that it is important to remember that the majority of young people who joined the ACMM did not do so attracted by blood but for simple economic reasons.
“So many years of paramilitary operation in the area, that people did not distinguish well their illegal nature, because they got used to seeing them, turned them into a life option like any other,” he explains to BBC Mundo.
Many of the members of the “Clan Isaza” were recruited as minors, which makes their bloodthirsty training even more monstrous.
“I had to see a number of children … no, well 10, 11 years old, with rifles that before they had to be raised, my God, because they hit them on the floor, because the rifle was bigger than them“says a demobilized woman in a testimony collected in 2017.
The practice, however, was not exclusive to the paramilitaries.
According to the Observatory of Memory and Conflict, attached to the Center, until 2018 Colombian irregular groups had already recruited 17,775 children under 18 years of age27% by paramilitary groups.
And in the case of the ACMM, the judgments issued within the Justice and Peace framework only recognize the recruitment of 127 minors, equivalent to 15.5% of their officially demobilized members.
As Villamizar explains, however, that figure does not include the dead or those who did not surrender their weapons.
“And many minors were not presented in the collective demobilization, so that the magnitude of the problem was not known“, the researcher also tells BBC Mundo.
In fact, according to Villamizar, “many demobilized persons who had told the National Reincorporation Agency that they had been recruited at the age of 20 or 22, confessed to us that they had been recruited as minors.”
And that often resulted in young people killing young, sometimes extremely bloody.
As the report explains, in the two judgments of Justice and Peace against Ramón Isaza and others, between 1991 and 2005, 410 events were registered that generated 710 direct victims and 1,069 indirect ones, for a total of 1,779 victims.
150 of these victims were under 18 years of age.
But the actual figures are surely much higher.
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Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.