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Can the Government Police Itself? Colombia’s False Positives Scandal and its Lessons for Atrocity Prevention

Introduction

In April of 2022, a Colombian general and ten other servicemembers admitted that they had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.[1] It was the first time that senior Colombian military officials admitted to wrongdoing since the systemic killing of innocents began almost two decades prior in what became known as the “false positives” scandal.[2] In 2001, Colombia established a system to monitor and prevent such human rights abuses during war, the Sistema de Alertas Tempranas (SAT).[3] However, the SAT was not set up to raise the alarm on government abuses, which caused it to overlook the atrocity carried out by the largest actor in the Colombian conflict—the Colombian military. For over a decade, the SAT’s pro-government bias allowed federal forces to illegally execute thousands of innocents.[4]

The false positives scandal highlights the pitfalls of the SAT and similar early warning/action systems (EWAS) that are not designed to detect and prevent government abuses. Early warning/action systems should be set up with a focus on the nature of atrocity committed by governments. Governments can mobilize far more resources and power than non-state actors to either perpetrate and cover up, or detect and mitigate, abuse. Therefore, the SAT’s position within the government presents both unique challenges and opportunities. The SAT’s relationship with the executive branch is problematic, as the system has become entirely reliant on executive branch officials to prevent abuse. A new relationship with the judiciary may bolster the SAT’s ability to monitor and prevent abuse perpetrated by the government.

The focus on early warning also poses issues for preventing government atrocity. Such a focus lends itself to systems that may be able to issue a call for action before an atrocity is committed, but which cannot force the government to prevent abuse. Rather, early action systems that detect crimes more quickly, trigger investigations, and have a say in the policymaking process, provide a better framework for stopping government-perpetrated atrocity. Early action systems that are nested within government organizations would be especially poised to investigate and oversee the armed forces, because their staff could be afforded security clearances and access to sensitive documents that might reveal trends in killings, arrests, and other actions of interest.

Beyond the SAT’s institutional issues, it also needs access to new resources and a more comprehensive mechanism for detecting abuse. Such a mechanism would benefit from advances in artificial intelligence and big data analysis. Emerging technologies might be applied to documents produced by the military, media reports, and citizen complaints to detect trends that human rights professionals are interested in and spur investigations. Recent confessions from military officials, coupled with evidence of mass atrocity brought to light throughout the Colombian peace process, underscore the urgent need for reform.

The SAT

The SAT was set up under the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office in 2001 in response to decades of civil conflict that left hundreds of thousands of Colombians dead or displaced.[5] The project, which was supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), began with the identification of human rights experts that designed the SAT’s original incarnation. Its stated purpose is to:

“Monitor and assess the dynamics of the armed conflict to identify and warn of possible massive violations of human rights and infractions of International Humanitarian Law, to demand a comprehensive and timely response for prevention and protection of the State, in compliance with the mission, goals, policies and objectives of the Entity.”[6]

The SAT is composed of interdisciplinary human rights experts and professionals stationed in regions across the country. It has grown since its inception, from three regional analysts in 2001 to over sixty in 2017.[7] Analysts imbed themselves in the community, contact local civic society organizations, and create warning documents that get passed on to the Intersectional Commission of Early Warnings (CIAT). The CIAT reviews documents and makes recommendations to the ombudsman, who relies on state actors to deescalate conflicts and preempt the human rights violations that SAT warns about. These state actors are most often members of the military, the police, or the executive branch bureaucracy. The system has had a positive material impact for some. José Santos Caicedo, a member of the Process for Black Communities, an umbrella organization of more than 100 Black Colombian grassroots organizations, affirmed that the SAT has prevented some human rights abuses against marginalized communities.[8] Nevertheless, a system run by the state, and which relies on state actors to prevent atrocity, faces unique issues in adequately preventing, stopping, or policing atrocity committed by the government.

Los Falsos Positivos

The facts of one such atrocity are still being brought to light. In 2002, the Colombian government enacted a policy that rewarded soldiers and officers for higher combat kill counts.[9] The army then perpetrated the illegal disappearance and murder of thousands of innocent poor and mentally ill Colombians so they could report them as enemy combatants to bolster their kill counts.[10] Documents retrieved from army units establish a system of monetary compensation in exchange for kills: 500,000 pesos for an enemy killed holding a pistol, 2,000,000 if they had a rifle, and 30,000,000 if six or more were killed at once.[11] Promotions and commands were contingent on high kill counts; a document from the Seventh Division of the Colombian Army evidences the pressure put on commands to produce kills. “If a commander doesn’t report kills, there are 250 lieutenant colonels waiting in line.” In other words, commanders had to produce kills or lose their jobs.[12] Inflated kill counts were then used to justify US military aid packages to Colombia.[13] Large incentives and the immense pressure to produce kills led to the mass murder of innocents.

Phillip Alston, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, went to Colombia in 2008 to investigate the false positives scandal. In his report to the UN, he wrote that illegal executions occurred because military units were offered incentives to show success in combat through kill counts.[14] The Colombian armed forces, and the army especially, were overcome with a ‘kill-count mentality’ that grew out of the policy of measuring success in terms of deaths.[15] In his report to the UN, Alston argues that killings were influenced by state policy that instigated soldiers to commit crimes, but also found “no evidence to suggest that these killings were committed as part of an official policy or that they were ordered by senior Government officials.”[16] The Colombian state may not have directly ordered crimes to be committed, but it did enact policy that predisposed agents of the state to commit crimes. In a 2008 statement to the press, Alston wrote: “The sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion.”[17] The state has been further implicated as new evidence comes to light. In the intervening years since Alston’s report, human rights scholars and organizations have sought to piece together the role of the state and the facts of the crimes committed.

A 2014 report by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Colombia‐Europe‐US Human Rights Observatory lists thirty-six commanders from territorial brigades, mobile brigades, and battalions from across the country who had the largest number of executions by soldiers under their command.[18] The list includes dozens of units that perpetrated hundreds of executions over a span of eight years. In 2012, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court found that murders were “committed pursuant to a policy adopted at least at the level of certain brigades within the armed forces, constituting the existence of a state or organizational policy to commit such crimes.”[19] The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a court established by Colombia’s 2016 peace accords, estimated that at least 2,248 innocents had been killed between 1984 and 2014.[20] Omar Bolaños, from the University of Santo Tomás, and Fabián Silva, from the National University of Colombia, estimate the real death toll to be closer to 10,000.[21] Though the number of people killed is in dispute, even the JEP report that records 2,248 victims paints a picture of systemic abuse that occurred in at least twenty-nine of the country’s thirty-two departments. The government’s abuse was coordinated, widespread, and brutal. Yet, the SAT, which was tasked with detecting such abuse, failed to notice.

The SAT’s Failure to Prevent Illegal Killings

Considering the broad scope of this atrocity, in terms of time, geography, and victimization, it is surprising that the SAT failed to detect and mitigate it. Rather, it was nongovernmental institutions and multilateral organizations that uncovered and publicized the systematic killing of innocents.[22] Why did the SAT fail to uncover and prevent these government killings? There are two major issues: (1) the SAT suffers from underfunding and the lack of tools and access that would enable it to induce political action, and (2) the SAT was not set up to prevent state atrocity but to focus on non-state and paramilitary atrocity.

Can Early Warnings Induce Political Action?

The position of early warning/action systems within the state, as well as the level and type of political support they have, are vital to their success. An Organization of American States (OAS) guide stresses that EWAS “must have strong political support, [be] sufficiently stable to be efficient and sufficiently flexible to adapt to changes in the context.”[23] The report continues, “The place occupied by the [EWAS] in the state apparatus will be indicative of its political weight, institutional significance, and possibilities of becoming established in the field.”[24] If the EWAS does not have political support, or if its institutional position cannot compel a response, the system will be unable to do anything other than document abuse. Unfortunately, the SAT and CIAT suffer from a lack of political support, institutional access, and independence.

Philip Alston argues that the SAT is still one of Colombia’s best tools for preventing killings, but that it has issues that need to be addressed. In his 2010 report to the United Nations, Alston wrote that “it is critically important that the Government provide SAT with more staff and resources.”[25] When Alston visited Colombia, the SAT had only six national analysts and twenty-two regional analysts, which he argued was not enough to cover the entire country and its complex civil conflict.[26] Accurate reports are dependent on analysts’ level of local access, “Yet, because of its limited budget, SAT analysts are sometimes unable to travel to the areas they are responsible for covering.”[27] However, under-resourcing does not fully explain the SAT’s inability to stop government killings. Equally significant is the system’s inability to induce action due to its position within the Colombian state.

The SAT may issue warnings of the potential for abuse, but if members of the executive branch do not act on them, these warnings are of little use. In 2007, the SAT issued a warning that rebel groups had moved into indigenous Awa territory and again warned in January 2009 that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was likely to kill civilians they thought to be associated with the government.[28] Both warnings were largely ignored by the military, and twenty-seven members of the Awa community were massacred in February of 2009. Had the government acted upon the SAT’s early risk reports, they could have avoided the conditions that led to the massacre.[29]

Part of the SAT’s stated mission is to “demand a comprehensive and timely response for prevention and protection.”[30] Given Alston’s analysis, even if the SAT overcomes the hurdles of under-resourcing and narrow mission focus to pick up on the government’s killings, it would face the political hurdle of inducing action from a military with an interest in covering up its atrocity, and from politicians with an interest in maintaining plausible deniability and the façade of peace. Alston reported that CIAT officials feel political pressure to not issue early warnings.[31] Executive branch officials must consider business interests, foreign aid, public sentiment, and re-election bids. Military and civil service officials are generally concerned with promotions, demotions, prosecutions, and being awarded commands. The SAT’s findings—even when they concern the FARC or other extralegal groups—will not make human rights a priority for these officials.

The SAT faces a similar issue as a tool to spur preventative action. Raising the alarm before an atrocity is committed will often not induce a government response. Consequently, many early warning systems only raise the alarm after atrocity have begun. The best that many systems can do is catch conflict in the ‘escalation phase,’ because responses require political buy-in.[32] In the false positives case, this means that even if the SAT and CIAT had picked up on the atrocity via the mechanisms available to them, it likely would only have been detected and stopped after people had already been illegally executed. If they truly want to prevent atrocity, policymakers and activists will have to look for solutions beyond early warning and develop a focus on action.

Can the Government Police Itself?

The SAT and the CIAT have a blind spot. The SAT was set up by experts selected by the Colombian government to report on conditions in the ongoing conflict with the FARC. Regional analysts, members of the CIAT, and the institutions that the SAT relies on to respond to warnings work for the executive branch. They are not predisposed to meaningfully police themselves. This is evidenced by the Ombudsman Office’s report for the SAT’s fifteenth anniversary, which only mentions the national army once.[33] If the SAT did not have a bias toward the national army, and if it were fulfilling its mission to “monitor and assess the dynamics of the armed conflict to identify and warn of possible massive violations of human rights,” then it would have covered the thousands of illegal executions perpetrated by the army in the time covered by this report.[34] The SAT was rendered incapable of picking up on massive government atrocity by the nature of its reporting mechanism, the biases inherent in its workforce, and the lack of incentives for state workers to report on government abuse.

The SAT’s mechanism for detecting crime is also biased in favor of the government. There are several reasons why this may be the case. Individuals and families who have been victimized by the government are unlikely to report abuses to other government officials. Victims are also often members of socially and economically marginalized communities that might face issues accessing avenues of reporting and recourse. As the SAT relies on a network of regional analysts to contact victims, marginalized groups victimized by the government may be difficult to reach.

It is also possible that government employees are less likely to report on government abuses for a variety of reasons. These might include fear of reprisal, fear that their warnings will not be taken seriously by the government, or more basic biases that cause government officials to ignore or minimize the government’s propensity for abuse. Analysts and CIAT officials are aware of the institutions they operate in and rely on. Consequently, they are aware of the reservations that elected officials have about issuing early warnings, and the tendency of the armed forces to disregard warnings. It is likely that a mix of these factors predispose the SAT and CIAT to focus on non-state actors and underreport on state abuse.

Policing the government is especially important for a group that seeks to monitor the Colombian conflict and induce action in the interest of human rights. The government is the largest actor in the Colombian conflict. There are approximately 295,000 members of the Colombian armed forces,[35] compared to about 10,000 fighters for the FARC, which is the next largest belligerent group.[36] The military bureaucracy is far more powerful, and better able to mobilize far more resources, than any other actor in the conflict. Though the propensity for crime on the part of a military does not map linearly with the number of fighters, or with the capacity for power projection, it is a serious oversight to ignore the most powerful group in the conflict. To effectively police the government, the SAT should be able to detect government abuses in their earliest stages, report on them, and incite action that stops them before they grow.

The SAT’s Shortcomings: Solutions

The SAT’s shortcomings are twofold. It is not set up to police the government, and it lacks the ability to induce political action that prioritizes human rights. These issues require several solutions. One set of solutions should focus on how new tools can better enable the SAT to detect and report government-perpetrated atrocity. The next set of solutions should focus on how the SAT can be set up and situated within the Colombian government—and society—to drive the type of change necessary to prevent, or at least mitigate and stop, atrocity and abuse. These solutions will require institutional reorganization and the development of new tools that can refocus the SAT and enable it to monitor and report on government crime.

Data Collection and Analysis System

A new generation of tools are becoming available in the fight against atrocity. The OAS describes four generations of EWAS.[37] The SAT’s mechanism, which uses qualitative methods of reporting and analysis from experts imbedded in communities, exists somewhere between the second and third generations of early warning/action. Fourth generation systems, which have been developed in recent years, are not being utilized by the SAT. Fourth generation systems collect data from conflict areas where field representatives are not present by crowdsourcing information from the public, and via automated analysis of open sources on the internet.[38] The incorporation of fourth generation tools into the ombudsman’s mechanism for monitoring and analysis could more quickly identify worrying trends, better connect marginalized communities to regional analysts, and pick up on entirely overlooked developments in the conflict. With proper data sources and analysis, such systems could also better identify problematic trends in government action.

Data sources matter. Any computerized system that only receives partial or biased data will only produce partial or biased results. Fortunately, the government bureaucracy produces many documents. Troop and equipment movements, military policy at every level, the results of military and police action, and the like, are thoroughly documented. Further, human rights officials working within the government—in this case, the Ombudsman’s office—occupy uniquely empowered positions. Unlike their counterparts at NGOs or universities, they can be granted security clearances and the authority to receive sensitive documents from the military, police, and intelligence services. In this respect, government-run systems present unique opportunities for monitoring and analysis—they can be granted access to data sources that no one else can. Military movement, reporting, and justice documents should be delivered to the Ombudsman’s Office for analysis. Compiling and codifying each instance of a killing (or a detainment, for example) should illuminate trends. Any new trends in the way killings, arrests, or military actions that human rights officials discover should be further investigated. For instance, if there is a sudden upward trend in the number of reported kills or a change in the way kills are being recorded, data analysis programs can be designed to detect it, and human researchers can then ask why, and probe documents for any other related changes.

In addition to military documents, fourth generation systems can also access media coverage and citizen reports of killings, arrests, and similar actions. Admittedly, big data in conflict warning and resolution are relatively new. A 2013 joint publication by USAID, the United Nations Development Program, and the International Peace Institute put it succinctly: “as a field of practice in the making…Big Data for conflict prevention is best characterized by its potential rather than by its track record.”[39] Yet, big data systems have been used to detect digital patterns by scraping social media, traditional media, and citizen reports across a variety of countries with reassuring results. For example, Kenya used such a system in anticipation of violence before its 2010 and 2013 elections, and now uses a system called “Una Hakiki?,” which means “are you sure?” in Swahili, to monitor disinformation and mitigate the escalation of inter-ethnic conflict.[40] Though the Kenyan system primarily uses citizen reports, other systems in conflict prevention and resolution that primarily scrape data from media, hospitals, and other sources have also been used in Nigeria, Tanzania, Indonesia, and in global projects.[41]

A Judicial Body

A judicial review or referral body could bypass many of the issues that the SAT, the CIAT, and the ombudsman experience in their relationship with the executive branch. Judicial bodies carry special powers that the ombudsman does not. In functioning democracies, courts are designed to check the executive branch. The Colombian High Courts, and especially the Constitutional Court, are generally independent and extremely powerful bodies. Some comparative legal experts argue that the Colombian High Courts have taken on a pseudo-legislative role, which would make them more powerful in some ways than the US Supreme Court.[42] In 2020, the Constitutional Court demonstrated its independence from executive branch pressure by ordering former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, whose administration engaged in “a broad pattern of intimidation and attacks” against the judiciary, to be placed under house arrest for suspected illegal dealings with paramilitary groups.[43] In recent months, the JEP has prosecuted top Colombian military officials for crimes against humanity.[44] Simply put, officials in the judiciary are not subject to as many competing demands as executive branch officials are. Colombian judges need not worry about reelection, aid packages, or political retribution.

Courts are more likely to listen to human rights officials backed by the stamp of the Ombudsman’s Office than are the military or police. The CIAT or ombudsman should be able to send the SAT’s findings to a court that can order action, the release of documents, and investigations. A court order will be better able to spur a “comprehensive and timely response for prevention and protection” than the SAT’s warning documents alone.[45]

A Doctrinal Review System

The crimes committed by the Colombian Army were based in a policy of measuring success in terms of blood. The policies and mentality that led to the killings were present as early as the 1990s. The US National Security Archive contains records from Colombian colonels, CIA intelligence reports, and embassy communications “decrying ‘body count mentalities’ among Colombian Army officers seeking to advance through the ranks.”[46] The vast majority of (known) false positives cases occurred after 2002, when Álvaro Uribe became president and pursued a more aggressive policy in the fight against the guerillas.[47] Regardless, certain officials knew to be skeptical of the ‘body count mentality’ in the 1990s because similar policies enacted by the United States had previously led to illegal killings in Vietnam and Korea. Oxford’s estimates from as early as the 1970s state that up to forty-six percent of those killed in the Vietnam War were civilians.[48] The soldiers who committed the My Lai and Son Thang massacres reported civilians—many of whom were children—as combat kills.[49] There was ample evidence that the Colombian Army’s doctrine would lead to inflated kill counts and the murder of innocents.

Changes in military doctrine should be reviewed by the Ombudsman’s Office and human rights officials, who would ideally be empowered to veto policy changes, refer complaints to a court, or make them public. Human rights and military scholars would likely have been able to flag the Colombian policy because of the legacy of similar policies employed by the United States in Vietnam and Korea.

Stepping in at the policymaking stage might be an effective way to stop atrocity before it occurs. This suggestion can most effectively stop conflict before the escalation phase, before anyone is illegally killed, detained, or abused. Human rights professionals that have a say in the setting of security policy can directly influence policies that help deescalate conflict and avoid abuse. In practice, military doctrine is an expansive corpus of statute, regulation, and quasi-legalistic standards that are subject to rapid change. Requiring approval of all changes to doctrine from human rights professionals would likely overburden the Ombudsman’s Office, especially during times of conflict. It may be that major policy changes can be subject to pre-approval, and that all others be subject to post-implementation review at the discretion of the Ombudsman’s Office.

A Role for the Public

Increased transparency and public accountability were among the first demands that human rights activists had in the process of uncovering the false positives scandal. Alston’s 2010 report to the UN argued that the Colombian government should make SAT reports public after the CIAT renders a decision, stating that “to reduce such illegitimate pressures and to fulfil its obligation to prevent and protect, the Government must ensure that the independence of CIAT and SAT is maintained.”[50] Alston also argues that the Attorney General’s office should publish statistics on the number of cases moving through the court system broken down by their region, theme, and stages of investigation and prosecution.[51] The Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Colombia‐Europe‐US Human Rights Observatory have further highlighted the role of public outcry in uncovering and stopping the state’s abuse.[52]

Politicians and bureaucrats are aware of the public’s role in holding the state accountable for its crimes. In a 2009 letter, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote of then-President Uribe’s verbal attacks on human rights activists and organizations that were working on the false positives scandal that “such statements create an environment of intimidation that can chill public debate and criticism of the government’s policies.”[53] Roth makes clear that in the Colombian political context, “where human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists and judges have often been killed for their work, accusations of this sort coming from the president can put the person against whom they are directed at risk.”[54] We now know that Uribe feared not only public backlash from the truth coming out, but also the potential prosecutorial implications of his involvement with paramilitary groups and his complacency with state abuse. He sought to preempt these problems by stifling public debate on the topic.

Measures that increase transparency and public accountability therefore have two goals. The first is to exert pressure on politicians, bureaucrats, and military officials to not commit or abide abuse for fear of the political and prosecutorial implications of public outcry. If state foreknowledge about the potential for abuse is publicized, and the state fails to act, then it will be regarded as derelict in its most fundamental duty to prevent crime and protect its citizens. This carries with it political and potentially criminal implications that state actors would generally like to avoid. The second goal is to help uncover the truth and enact justice after atrocity have been committed, as is happening with the false positives scandal now.

Conclusion

State-run early warning/action systems are an integral tool for monitoring conflict and preempting or stopping abuse. No other system could have so much direct access to government officials and documents, so much legitimacy in the eyes of the state, and so much direct influence over state policy. Unfortunately, state-run early warning/action systems have not yet fully matured. The SAT and CIAT face issues with each of the factors that give state-run systems so much promise: They do not receive planning and operations documents from the executive branch, they do not have formal access to Colombian courts, and they therefore have little ability to monitor or prevent state abuse. They are poorly situated within the state, and they lack the tools necessary to fulfill their mission. Regardless, they have potential.

If properly situated within the state, with access to courts that can compel action, access to documents and officials that can illuminate the realities behind abuse, and sufficient independence from executive branch meddling, state-run early warning/action systems might be able to police the government better than any other organization. If afforded fourth generation tools, a state EWAS could apply them to documents and information unavailable to other organizations, which would allow them to more quickly identify problematic trends in conflicts and intervene to stop them. When it was established in 2001, the Colombian system was an innovative model for the world to watch. With the right reforms, it could still become a global model for the prevention of atrocity and the protection of human rights.


[1] Julie Turkewitz and Sofía Villamil. “Colombian General and 10 Others Admit to Crimes against Humanity.” The New York Times. April 27, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/27/world/americas/colombia-war-crimes.html  

[2] Turkewitz, “Colombian General.”

[3] Conozca El Sistema De Alertas Tempranas De La Defensoría Del Pueblo. Youtube. Defensoría del Pueblo Colombia, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZdFcV8V0Ak&t=6s  

[4] Joe Daniels. “Colombian Army Killed Thousands More Civilians than Reported, Study Claims.” The Guardian, May 8, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/08/colombia-false-positives-scandal-casualties-higher-thought-study  

[5] “Sistematización De Los 15 Años Del Sistema De Alertas Tempranas De La Defensoría Del Pueblo.” Bogota: Defensoría del Pueblo, October 2017.

[6] “Sistema de Alertas.”

[7] “Sistema de Alertas.”

[8] Conozca El Sistema De Alertas Tempranas De La Defensoría Del Pueblo. Youtube. Defensoría del Pueblo Colombia, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZdFcV8V0Ak&t=6s

[9] José Vivanco. “How the Perverse Incentives behind ‘False Positives’ Worked.” Human Rights Watch, October 28, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/12/how-perverse-incentives-behind-false-positives-worked

[10] Vivanco, “How the Perverse Incentives.”

[11] Vivanco, “How the Perverse Incentives.”

[12] Vivanco, “How the Perverse Incentives.”

[13] Joe Daniels. “Colombian Army Killed Thousands More Civilians than Reported, Study Claims.” The Guardian, May 8, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/08/colombia-false-positives-scandal-casualties-higher-thought-study

[14] Philip Alston. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Geneva: United Nations, 2010.

[15] Michael Evans. “‘Body Count Mentalities’ Colombia’s ‘False Positives’ Scandal, Declassified.” George Washington University, January 2009. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB266/index.htm

[16] Evans, “Body Count Mentalities.”

[17] Philip Alston. “Statement by Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions – Mission to Colombia 8-18 June 2009.” Statement by Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur. United Nations, June 2009. https://newsarchive.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=9219&%3BLangID=E  

[18] Report. The Rise and Fall of “False Positive” Killings in Colombia: The Role of U.S. Military Assistance, 2000-2010. New York, Bogota: Fellowship of Reconciliation & Colombia‐Europe, Coordinación Colombia‐Europa‐Estados Unidos, 2014.

[19] Situation in Colombia. Washington: International Criminal Court, The Office of the Prosecutor, 2012. http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/3D3055BD-16E2-4C83-BA85-35BCFD2A7922/285102/OTPCOLOMBIAPublicInterimReportNovember2012.pdf  

[20] Sala De Reconocimiento De Verdad, De Responsabilidad Y De Determinacion De Los Hechos Y Conductas – Caso 003. Jurisdicción Especial Para La Paz, 2018.

https://www.jep.gov.co/Sala-de-Prensa/Documents/Auto%20005%20-%20Apertura%20Caso%20003%20Muertes%20ileg%C3%ADtimamente%20presentadas%20como%20baja%20en%20combate%20SRVR%20(1).pdf  

[21] Omar Eduardo Rojas Bolaños and Fabián Leonardo Benavides Silva. Ejecuciones Extrajudiciales En Colombia 2002–2010: Obediencia Ciega En Campos de Batalla Ficticios. 1st edition. Ediciones USTA, 2017. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvckq91p

[22] Rep. Colombia. La Guerra Se Mide En Litros De Sangre. Falsos Positivos, Crímenes De Lesa Humanidad: Más Altos Responsables En La Impunidad. Fellowship of Reconciliation & Colombia‐Europe, Coordinación Colombia‐Europa‐Estados Unidos, 2012. https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/colombie589e.pdf  

[23] Report. Practical Guide: Early Warning and Response Systems Design for Social Conflicts. Organization of American States, 2016. https://www.oas.org/es/sap/pubs/GuiaAlerta_e.pdf   

[24] Practical Guide.  

[25] Philip Alston. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Geneva: United Nations, 2010.

[26] Philip Alston. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Geneva: United Nations, 2010.

[27] Philip Alston. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Geneva: United Nations, 2010.

[28] Alston, Report.

[29] Alston, Report.

[30] “Sistematización De Los 15 Años Del Sistema De Alertas Tempranas De La Defensoría Del Pueblo .” Bogota: Defensoría del Pueblo, October 2017.

[31] Philip Alston. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Geneva: United Nations, 2010.

[32] Report. Practical Guide: Early Warning and Response Systems Design for Social Conflicts. Organization of American States, 2016. https://www.oas.org/es/sap/pubs/GuiaAlerta_e.pdf  

[33] “Sistematización De Los 15 Años Del Sistema De Alertas Tempranas De La Defensoría Del Pueblo.” Bogota: Defensoría del Pueblo, October 2017.

[34] “Sistematización.”

[35] “Colombia – Military and Security.” Central Intelligence Agency, May 2021. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/colombia/#military-and-security

[36] Enzo Nussio and Juan E. Ugarriza. “Why Rebels Stop Fighting: Organizational Decline and Desertion in Colombia’s Insurgency.” International Security vol. 45, no. 4 (2021): 167–203. https://doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00406  

[37] Report. Practical Guide: Early Warning and Response Systems Design for Social Conflicts. Organization of American States, 2016. https://www.oas.org/es/sap/pubs/GuiaAlerta_e.pdf  

[38] Practical Guide.

[39] Francesco Mancini, ed. Rep. New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict. United Nations Development Programme, April 2013. https://www.ipinst.org/images/pdfs/IPI_Epub-New_Technology-final.pdf

[40] Report. Data for Development: What’s next? Concepts, Trends and Recommendations for German Development Cooperation. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, November 2017. http://webfoundation.org/docs/2018/01/Final_Data-for-development_Whats-next_Studie_EN.pdf  

[41] Data for Development.

[42] Luz Estella Nagle. “Evolution of the Colombian Judiciary and the Constitutional Court.” Indiana International & Comparative Law Review 6, no. 1 (1995): 59–90. https://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/iiclr/pdf/vol6p59.pdf

[43] “Those Who Value the Rule of Law Should Back Supreme Court’s Independence in Colombia.” Human Rights Watch, October 28, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/10/those-who-value-rule-law-should-back-supreme-courts-independence-colombia

[44] Julie Turkewitz and Sofía Villamil. “Colombian General and 10 Others Admit to Crimes against Humanity.” The New York Times. The New York Times, April 27, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/27/world/americas/colombia-war-crimes.html  

[45] “Sistematización De Los 15 Años Del Sistema De Alertas Tempranas De La Defensoría Del Pueblo.” Bogota: Defensoría del Pueblo, October 2017.

[46] Michael Evans. “‘Body Count Mentalities’ Colombia’s ‘False Positives’ Scandal, Declassified.” George Washington University, January 2009. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB266/index.htm

[47] Evans, “Body Count Mentalities.”

[48] Lewy, Guenter. America in Vietnam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

[49] Lewy, America in Vietnam.

[50] Philip Alston. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Geneva: United Nations, 2010.

[51] Alston, Report.

[52] Report. The Rise and Fall of “False Positive” Killings in Colombia: The Role of U.S. Military Assistance, 2000-2010. New York, Bogota: Fellowship of Reconciliation & Colombia‐Europe, Coordinación Colombia‐Europa‐Estados Unidos, 2014.

[53] “Colombia: Obama Should Press Uribe on Rights.” Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch, October 28, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/06/26/colombia-obama-should-press-uribe-rights  

[54] “Colombia: Obama Should Press Uribe on Rights.” Human Rights Watch.

By Justin B. Perry

Justin B. Perry is a Colombian-American Professor of Ethics and Civics at the University of D.C. and a Paralegal Noncommissioned Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Jag Corps. He is also a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance center. He possesses a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor of Economics and Political Science from the University of Rhode Island.

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